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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

"Loss of religious freedom" is the New Party Line

By Steve Kindle, CEO Clergy United

Although the Christian Right continues to find objections to same-sex marriage, the public at large continues to see through them. With a nearly 60% approval across the polls, Americans are embracing the reality that gay love is no different in substance from straight love. Here's how Justice Kennedy put it in his majority opinion.
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. It is so ordered.
Now that their battle to stop marriage equality from becoming the law of the land (as it is in seventeen other nations) is concluded here in the USA, an old tactic is reemerging. The Christian Right is casting itself as an abused minority whose religious freedoms are being attacked and abridged. Here are some representative quotes from Republican presidential candidates.  
Mike Huckabee: "The Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature's God on marriage than it can the law of gravity. Under our Constitution, the court cannot write a law, even though some cowardly politicians will wave the white flag and accept it without realizing that they are failing their sworn duty to reject abuses from the court. If accepted by Congress and this President, this decision will be a serious blow to religious liberty, which is the heart of the First Amendment."
Rick Santorum: "It is an increasing view that if you are not with this new orthodoxy, the secularism that is now coming from the government, that these are the values that the government values. If you don't live up to those values, well then you can be persecuted and maybe even prosecuted for doing so."
Bobby Jindal: "This decision will pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision. This ruling must not be used as pretext by Washington to erode our right to religious liberty."
The essential argument is that one's religious beliefs should be protected by the government. That any infringement on my ability to act in a manner my beliefs demand is religious persecution. Therefore, my deeply held belief that gay marriage is against the will of God protects me from having anything to do with its practice.

Of course, this seems like a perfectly legitimate concern. People should be able to practice their religion as they see it. Yet, when specific situations are given, the flaws in this reasoning become apparent.

Whenever minorities are granted rights long withheld from them, the majority loses some of theirs.  Because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, hotels, restaurants and other businesses that serve the public are no longer able to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, or religion, regardless of what the owners believe that "race mixing" is a sin.  Gone are the “Whites Only” counters, “restricted clubs” (no Jews allowed), and red-lined neighborhoods.  Most of us feel that whatever losses ensued are America's gain.

The Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage means life in America will go on pretty much as usual, with the exception that LGBTs will no longer be denied equal rights with the rest of us. So, yes, those wedding cake bakers who serve the public whose religious belief would keep them from marrying someone of the same sex, does not protect them from not serving a gay couple.

The blogs on the Religious Right are warning America that churches will lose their tax-exempt status if they refuse to marry LGBTs. This is preposterous. This is generally held by constitutional scholars to be a red herring. The First Amendment of the US Constitution secures this as Justice Kennedy observed in his Majority opinion.
Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons.
So, be prepared to counter these often hysterical reactions to the so-called loss of religious liberty. People of any faith or no faith will always be able to believe whatever they choose. They just won't be able to use their faith to limit the rights of any American because of them.