SOAPBOX ALERT: Even with significant editing, this entry is longer than usual, but I’m extremely concerned. I hope you’ll find it’s worth the extra reading time.
My mother used to say that one person’s right to swing their arm ends where her face begins. In other words, the exercising of their rights should not interfere with her rights. That's always made sense to me.
Recently, both North Carolina and Mississippi passed laws which they say are designed to ensure the respect of “deeply held religious beliefs,” particularly of business owners. Other states, including my own (Texas), are also considering such action. It’s also a recurring theme in the Presidential Campaign, at least for the GOP candidates.
When we listen analytically to the current rhetoric, and look carefully at these “religious freedom” laws, they appear designed to protect and respect only one religion—Christianity. More precisely, Conservative Evangelicals/Fundamentalist Christians.
Moreover, it seems the “deeply held religious beliefs” needing protection almost exclusively involve interaction with LGBT people. (e.g., a business serving gay people, Trans people in the restroom)
Why do these Christians get to have laws protecting their beliefs, thus forcing everyone to respect what they believe?
What about the "deeply held religious beliefs" of other Christians?
Should a Christian who thinks divorce is a sin be allowed to fire someone who goes through a divorce?
Can a Jehovah Witness refuse to sell a birthday card?
Should a White Supremacists (The KKK claims to be a Christian organization) be allowed to evict a black tenant?
Can a health-conscious Christian decline to sell candy to an overweight customer?
Should a Holiness Christian who doesn’t believe in makeup or jewelry have the right to dictate the apparel of those who come into their place of business?
Can a Catholic cashier refuse to sell birth control pills to a young couple?
Why shouldn’t all “deeply held religious beliefs” be made into law?
Where do we draw the line?
I’m also a Christian.
What about MY deeply held religious beliefs?
- It’s my deeply held religious belief that poverty, hunger and homelessness are contrary to the clear concepts of the Christian faith, as taught by Jesus.
- It’s my deeply held religious belief that everyone is made in image of God, and we are all loved and valued by God, regardless of skin color, gender/gender identity, race, sexual orientation or any other individual distinctives. These factors should not be a source of shame, guilt, condemnation, rejection or judgment from family, society, community, government or in the marketplace. Discrimination is an affront to our Creator.
- It’s my deeply held religious belief that human life is sacred, even after it leaves the womb. We show how we value life in the ways we treat one another and how we provide for one another, especially the most vulnerable among us—the sick, the poor, children, senior adults, the disabled, the wounded, etc. I believe killing another person is wrong, whether it’s capital punishment, lack of food, or no access to healthcare. I believe indifference or inaction on violence (e.g., gun violence) is complicity to that violence. I believe we are called to peace, and war is immoral.
- It’s my deeply held religious belief that income inequity is a form of caste oppression, whether it’s the exorbitant salary of a CEO in comparison to the unlivable wages of employees or the opulent lifestyle of a Prosperity Preacher compared to those who are conned into sending him money, with false promises of health and wealth.
- It’s my deeply held religious belief that the Bible is an wonderful library of wisdom from multiple voices over thousands of years, recording their experiences and divine encounters, explained with their (often limited) understanding of the world around them as well as their understanding of God. It’s the Guidebook for the Christian faith, containing important and useful truths for our personal lives. However, it was never intended to be a sourcebook for scientific explanation, nor a textbook on biology, human sexuality, principles of governing, techniques of psychology or a rulebook for human relationships.
- It’s my deeply held religious belief that we were created with a brain/mind, so it’s not a “sin” to think, to reason, to question, to disagree, to learn (history, science, biology, philosophy, etc.) or to doubt, even when it involves my deeply held religious beliefs. Faith and fact may not always align, but I don’t need to live in denial of facts to be a person of faith.
- It’s my deeply held religious belief that Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our Faith. He began a good work in us, and He will bring it to completion. Therefore, it's not my role nor my right to determine the reality or validity of another person’s faith.
- It’s my deeply held religious belief that God is bigger than my deeply held religious beliefs. What I believe doesn't automatically make me right and others wrong, nor does it make me better than anyone else. I can respect and learn from the deeply held religious beliefs of others. If we disagree, it’s an opportunity for dialogue, not a sign I’m being persecuted.
- It’s my deeply held religious belief that LOVE is the greatest expression of my faith, not my ability to quote Bible verses or debate doctrine. If my beliefs don’t make me a more gracious, compassionate, embracing and caring person, I should re-examine my beliefs. If my beliefs cause me to reject another person, or treat them in a way that diminishes them, intentionally shames or embarrasses them, or purposely harms them, my beliefs should be abandoned.
When should I expect my elected representatives to insure that MY beliefs are legislated?
Author's Note: I’m attempting to illustrate the fallacy of such legislation. In reality, I don't want my beliefs to be made into law, because it's my deeply held religious belief that seeking to impose deeply held religious beliefs is not a sign of righteousness, but of arrogance.
But while we're on the subject: What about the beliefs of those who are not Christian?
I’ve heard no discussion of Religious Tolerance laws that would protect the “deeply held religious beliefs” of Buddhists, Wiccans...or Muslims.
As a Christian and long-time student of the Bible, I find nothing in the example or teachings of Jesus to justify religious-based discrimination. He invited all. He welcomed all. Jesus was inclusive! (He was even criticized for hanging out with the "wrong" crowd.) Refusing to bake a cake does not reflect Jesus.
If a church chooses to exclude LGBT people or if a preacher wants to proclaim such restrictions, I’ll disagree, but this is America, and that's their Constitutional right under Freedom of Religion. However, a business is not a church or a religious organization, and the staff are not ministers. If they can’t serve all the customers, they should suffer the penalty of a free and open marketplace, including fines for discrimination, targeted boycotts, lawsuits, bad publicity, damaged reputation, loss of customers, and perhaps failure of the business. That’s how commerce works!
Freedom of Religion was one of the founding principles of our country, and I fully support it. But that doesn’t mean one religion, or one set of religious beliefs (no matter how “deeply held”) should be favored over others, which is exactly what these laws do. And it also overrides the founding principle of equality for all citizens. When we pledge our allegiance, we commit to “liberty and justice...for all.” (emphasis mine) Laws that isolate and exclude a specific group of people seek to substitute “some” for “all.” It's not liberty and it's certainly not justice. It’s codified discrimination, based on bigotry. And it's wrong! (Did we learn nothing from our NO COLOREDS ALLOWED past?)