We Americans seem to be heading into a time when our judicial system will be asked to sort out what constitutes the exercise of religious freedom and, by contrast, what constitutes freedom from discrimination.
As this NPR piece notes, those two ideas sometimes (it seems like it is happening more and more) come into conflict:
"Under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Congress is barred from enacting 'an establishment of religion,' but neither can it prohibit 'the free exercise thereof.' The question under current debate is what it means to 'exercise' one's religion."
One of the examples the NPR piece cites imagines that "owners of a private chapel are told they "cannot refuse to accommodate a same-sex wedding." In such a case, "they might claim their religious freedom has been infringed."
I think it's helpful to think about such cases using other actors. For instance, let's say those chapel owners refuse to rent their space to a black couple wanting to be married there. Most of us, I think, would declare that not just to be blatant racial discrimination but illegal.
So a good question to ask is why would a racial minority get protection from discrimination in that case when a member of the LGBT community wouldn't. If you answer that religion should be free to declare a certain kind of minority against the will of God but not another kind of minority, I don't follow your logic. I do know that for a long time in this country religion was used as an excuse for racial discrimination and even for the defense of the practice of slavery. The Bible got dragged into this debate in various ways.
But I also know that religious leaders were at the forefront of the civil rights movement to stop that kind of nonsense. Some religious leaders also are leading the anti-gay positions taken by other people of faith today, as they should be. Religion that does not liberate but, rather, imprisons is not a religion worthy of the name.
So let's stay in touch with our religious and political leaders as these matters work their way through the courts, for even the courts are not immune to being swayed by the court of public opinion.
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Kōloa, Hawaii -- I'm here in Kauai with my bride lollygagging for a few days, and while I'm gone I won't be adding the usual second item to the blog. Things should get back to normal here on the blog on March 15, though I may have a few thoughts to share from Hawaii before then. Or not.