Thursday, January 22, 2009


Over on Coffee Bean's blog, 'An Uneducated Housewife's Guide to Politics' she's discussing a fascinating issue - so-called 'religious freedom.'

Normally, when I hear the words 'religious freedom' they make me shudder, because they're normally used in the concept of denying somebody their freedoms. Such as a Christian business demanding their 'religious freedom' to refuse service to a homosexual couple.

But as she often does, Coffee Bean's raised the stakes on the issue. I'd recommend going to have a peek at her blog.

So what is religious freedom? What does it mean, and it is just a misnomer like I've claimed?

Advocates of 'religious freedom' claim that being forced to do things that conflict with their religion violates their constitutional 'freedom of religion.' For example, a hospital forcing a Catholic doctor to perform abortions or distribute contraceptives.

Opponents of religious freedom claim it's just an excuse to get away with bigotry, citing churches who refuse to rent out their halls to same-sex couples holding commitment ceremonies.

By and large, I think the whole concept of 'religious freedom' is anything but 'free.'

I can understand Catholic doctors fighting to stop their employer (sometimes even the federal government) forcing them to perform things that conflict with their religion... to a degree.

For example, I agree that doctors shouldn't be forced to perform abortions if it conflicts with their religion...

But distributing contraceptives? That's not nearly on the same level as abortion. Hell, it's part of the job.

I think when you start getting to the point in which nurses and doctors can pick and choose what medical services they offer depending on their religious beliefs, you start to have an environment in which everybody can 'pick and choose' their work responsibilities by hiding behind claims of 'religious freedom.'

[Yes, that environment's called 'Great Britain' - Editorial Bear]

If somebody's religious convictions prevent them being able to adequately fulfill the responsibilities of their job, shouldn't the solution be simple? Fire them.

Face it, if we don't draw the line in the sand somewhere, we'll end up in an environment in which (for example) Muslim garbage men can refuse to collect the trash cans if they contain leftover pork or empty beer cans.

Religion should not dictate the practices of government!

But then there's the other side of the argument, in which private individuals defend their questionable actions by hiding behind claims of 'religious freedom.'

Coffee Bean gave a good example - a New Mexico photographer who refused to photograph a same-sex couple at their commitment ceremony was fined $6,000 for 'discrimination.'

Homosexual relationships conflict with his religion. Does that give him the 'religious freedom' to refuse to serve his homosexual customers?

Consider where a man with a similar religious background might have found himself sixty years ago, when evangelical Christianity defined interracial marriage as a sin. Would the shield of 'religious freedom' have allowed the photographer to refuse to take pictures at the marriage of a white woman to a black man?

The irony is that those two situations are largely the same, but most people's responses to them would be different. Ask many Christians and they'll say the real-life photographer who refused to photograph the same-sex couple was well within his rights and protected by his 'religious freedom.' Yet these same people will argue that the hypothetical photographer who refused to photograph an interracial couple was in the wrong and should be punished.

It's that hypocrisy and double standard which makes 'religious freedom' such a dangerous and untenable concept.

The indomitable Two Dogs explained the reality: As a private businessman, this photographer should have the right to refuse service to anybody, for whatever reason. Black or white, gay or straight, the photographer is under no obligation to provide service to anybody - and the constitution protects him from prosecution if he chooses not to.

I see the irrefutable logic behind Two Dog's assessment, but I'm not sure I like it.

As a fluffy liberal, I think the photographer shouldn't be allowed to discriminate against anybody. He can go to hell with his 'religious freedoms' (and probably will.) Although it's not in the constitution, there are enough people with enough funny ideas to make a world in which we can pick-or-choose who we want to do business with a rather unpleasant one.

It would be like legitimizing the concept of segregation all over again. I wouldn't want to live in an America in which shops can hang signs out of their windows saying "No Gays!" or "No Blacks!" depending on which version of the Bible they read.

That being said, I have to agree with Two Dog's assessment. If we were really free, we wouldn't have to have such things mandated by law in the first place.

Which is better? To live in the ugly reality of a truly 'free' society, or to live in a fantasy of freedom in which our 'liberties' are decided by the government?


Coffee Bean said...

My husband deals a lot with government regulations imposed on small businesses. It is increasingly difficult for these types of companies to stay in business. Part of being self-employed is having the freedom to choose how you run your business... type of business/industry, hours, health care, retirement,etc.

What happens to those small Christian business owners who may not be able to accept jobs at different times, for different reasons? Many small Christian businesses advertise the fact they are Christian. What if a business declines to accept a job due to any reason... they already have too much work or they've got a family day planned... and the person who is turned away knows they are Christians and they are gay, transgender, or bisexual so they decide to file a complaint. The burden of proof that they weren't turned away because of their orientation would be placed on the business owner.

In the case of the photographer she was declining to take a job photographing an event... something that would require her to leave her home and spend hours doing. This isn't about refusing services along the lines of food or restrooms... A $6,000 fine would be debilitating to a Mom and Pop operation.

Whose to say they weren't targeted in the first place? Each case like this sets precedent and the march continues forward. It is a fight for the right to think... to decide what is right or wrong... to believe in God and adhere to His word. Don't you see? The ultimate goal is to destroy the bible... to destroy belief in God.
Will the destruction of Christians be needed to accomplish this goal?

Christians have been losing ground here for a long time. Many have been fighting to keep the ground we do have. Sometimes we win some battles but there is no doubt the frontline has been pushing forward steadily. Do you not see that?

There is no legislation being pushed through to teach children homosexuality is wrong in the schools. We just want those types of issues to be dealt with at home... when our children are ready to hear it. We are pushing for schools to re-instate mandatory prayers... but for kids to have the freedom to pray if they want... to write about their faith if they want...

Back to gay marriage... you have to see the threat. This may be our last fight. Christians are not fighting for homosexuality to be a prosecutable offense. Yet, soon, the very belief that homosexuality is wrong will be.

Coffee Bean said...

I really should proof read my comments...

I meant to say Christians are NOT pushing to re-instate mandatory prayer in schools.

Roland Hulme said...

You wrote: "There is no legislation being pushed through to teach children homosexuality is wrong in the schools."

Actually, it's funny - legislation has already been put through to teach EXACTLY THAT in Mississippi (I found out while I was arguing with Two Dogs the other day.)

But I totally see your point. I've met more than a few people I dislike and would refuse to do business with. If one of them happened to be gay (which doesn't affect my decision one way or another - I just don't want to do business with them because they're a knob) can I get prosecuted for that?

You're right that it's a battle for hearts and minds, but you're wrong that Christianity is losing. Compared to where evangelicalism was pre-Reagan, Christianity's had a MAJOR resurgence. Even in the last ten years - back in 1999, The Economist wrote God's obituary. Know they're arguing that Christianity is more powerful than ever.

Coffee Bean said...

Hmmmmm... not if you look at the rulings of the courts.

Roland Hulme said...

Ah, but Jesus doesn't care about the courts. He only cares about the number of self-professed Christians - and it's on the increase. I think numbers-wise and in terms of voter clout, Christianity's in the best place it's been for decades.

Two Dogs said...

Lemme touch on the gay talk in schools first. There is a reason that I removed my son from government schools, they do not teach what I deem important anymore. Back before electricity, when I was in school, they taught Health and that told us everything that we needed to know about sex and pregnancy. Teen pregnancy was virtually unheard of. Now, not so much. Abstinence only education works 100% of the time, WHEN IT IS FOLLOWED. if you start doling out sex lessons, you might as well issue every single child a personal sex guardian because that is the ONLY way to accomplish what your ideological brethren want to accomplish. Follow it through to the only ends that you can, it works every time.

Roland, I do not believe you are a dumb guy, but you stop short every time of following something though the end result. You see something that you deem important and then do the easy thing to accomplish that task, never stopping to see where that immediate, TEMPORARY fix is headed. Ultimately there is only one person that is going to have to live his life. You want to bind him to everyone else and in case you did not know this, that means moral equivalence to all things equally. You want your gay abortion marriage, then you have to come to church, praise Jesus, and MEAN IT. No faking allowed.

Gay marriage is now an issue because breeder marriage was determined to be Constitutional and the state needed/desired to sanction it. This is the end result of all crisis or immediate need legislation, it was not thought through.

Religious freedom ends at one point, when you are FORCED to submit your religiosity to the government. If you attempt to FORCE me to abort children, you shall make me a criminal by your ridiculous laws and FAIRNESS. How fair to me? You don't care because I am not the aggrieved, BUT at some point I shall be. And when I demand my FAIRNESS, you have to give back everything that YOU took from ME. That is fair. And my guys have all the guns, well except for your guys that are criminals, but they never mess with my guys, your criminal guys only pray on the disarmed.

To continue to add more and more legislation reducing individual freedoms can only lead one place, to everyone being equally enslaved, there is no other end result and everyone shall get trampled in the process.

The sanction of hetero marriage shall lead us to left-handed, tri-sexual, bestiality, prepubescent marriages on Tuesdays in the end. And then to the next ridiculous level. No clue where that weirdness lies.

Individual freedom is terribly hard to guarantee, but government is there to protect exactly that, when they follow the Constitution.

And yes, they teach teh ghey is AWESOME in Jackson, Mississippi Public Schools.

Two Dogs said...

Through = though in some places and pray means prey in one.

TRiG said...

Two Dogs: "Abstinence only education works 100% of the time, WHEN IT IS FOLLOWED."

So when a condom breaks because it wasn't put on right, that's a failure for sex education? But when a couple have sex without a condom that's not a failure for abstinence-only 'education'? Your statistics are dodgy.

Here's one of my favourite phrases: To every complex problem, there exists a solution which is simple, obvious, and wrong. Abstinence-only 'education' as a response to the problem of unwanted teen pregnancies is a prime example. So too is the death penalty as a response to high crime rates. In both cases, though, it's more complicated because people's motives are mixed. Some people don't promote abstinence because they want to reduce unwanted pregnancies. They promote abstinence for reasons they think of as 'moral'.