I came upon two interesting stories last week. The first is about the freedom to discriminate through religion and the second concerns this quiz on the Huffington Post religion blog — “How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened In Just 10 Quick Questions .”
Most of you are aware of Arizona passing SB 1062 only to be vetoed by the governor.
SB1062 would have allowed business owners to deny service to gay and lesbian customers so long as proprietors were acting solely on their religious beliefs.
Of course, Gov. Jan Brewer only acted this way because the state’s tourism business was being threatened. What you may not know is that the same or similar laws have been passed in Kansas and are on the table in Missouri.
The Missouri proposal, SB 916, states “that a governmental authority shall not substantially burden a person's free exercise of religion, unless the governmental authority demonstrates that it has a compelling governmental interest, and the burden is the least restrictive means to further such interest.”
Here is the problem with this language. Because it is not illegal to discriminate against a person because of his or her sexual orientation, there would be no “compelling government interest” in refusing services based on sexual orientation — more specifically, to refuse to provide services to a gay person or couple.
The bill’s sponsor, state Sen.Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, used the example of a baker refusing to provide services to a gay couple based on the baker’s religious beliefs. There is the possibility that the baker could be sued, and this bill seeks to avoid that situation.
But it is not just the LGBT community that needs to be afraid; it is all religious minorities, regardless of sexual orientation. The way the proposed law is written, a Christian may refuse to deal with a Muslim or Jew because of religious beliefs.
A couple questions arise:
- Which is the more grievous discrimination, the religious beliefs of the individual or class discrimination, what one report called the Jim Crow laws concerning the rights of the LGBT community?
- Are the religious’ rights being demoted or threatened by the LGBT community and the new secular morality of the nation?
This is where the article reference above comes into play.
Rev. Emily Heath of the United Church of Christ posted her “How to Determine if Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions,” in September 2012 on the Huffington Post’s religion blog.
Hers is a simple test; it asks the reader to make a decision about 10 questions under the heading, “My religious liberty is at risk because…” The reader chooses answer A or B to each of the questions. I tried to answer the questions as a “devout Christian” (a role I found interesting to play).
The “A” responses indicate a threat, and if one were honest, an “A” response would not likely be chosen as an answer to the queries. Those responses would look like these: I am not allowed to choose my own religion. I am not allowed to pray privately. I am being forced to use birth control (as a female).
The “B” responses are really what the First Amendment is all about: I cannot use my faith to bully others to pray or discriminate because of sexual orientation. Any religion can build their house of worship where they please, as long it complies with local zoning ordinances. Science classes teach science and religion can be taught at home.
So are the baker’s religious freedoms being threatened because a gay couple wants a wedding cake? Heath does not pose this question, but it is an interesting one to ponder.
Forcing one’s beliefs upon another is a threat to the religious freedoms of all. At the same time, if religion is used to discriminate against a class of persons, in this case members of the LGBT community, then the situation changes.
Can an atheist baker refuse to bake a wedding cake for a Christian couple because of the couple’s religious affiliation and beliefs? The answer to both using Humanist and secular morality is simply “no.”
The First Amendment prevents the state from forcing any religious beliefs on others. SB 916 would permit such a situation to occur with government’s sanction.
If SB 916 makes it through both housed of the Missouri legislature, I am sure Gov. Jay Nixon would veto the bill without hesitation and without the lobbying efforts of the tourism industry.
Such a discriminatory bill is simply wrong and its consideration should go by way of the Dodo bird. Into extinction.
David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of his commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.com.