The Watering Hole, Saturday, November 23, 2013: Does Freedom of Religion Equal Freedom to Discriminate?

An interesting vote is going to take place next year in Oregon. A group called “Oregon United For Marriage” is close to collecting enough signatures for a ballot initiative making marriage equality the law of the land there. This past week they announced they were about 1,200 signatures short of the number needed, and Nike announced they were donating $280,000 to help them collect more, in case any of the signatures are ruled invalid. They aren’t the only ones collecting signatures. The group Oregon Family Council, conservative Christians (an oxymoron, as there is nothing conservative about Christ’s teachings), filed a ballot initiative to “guarantee the right of people and businesses to refrain from participating in or supporting ceremonies for same-sex civil unions, domestic partnerships or marriages, if those violate their religious beliefs.” Actually, the proposal specifically says “deeply held religious beliefs.” And that leads to an important question. Does the freedom of religion equal the freedom to discriminate?

The First Amendment (the one that comes before the one about guns) begins, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The Fourteenth Amendment includes the words “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” So while it may have been true at one time that a state could deny you the religious freedom the federal government couldn’t, the ratification of the Fourteenth negated that. But how far does “religious freedom” go? Just as your right to free speech has limits, as well as your right to bear arms, your right to freely exercise your religion must also have limits. After all, what if your religious beliefs include human sacrifice? Would you try to argue that the First Amendment protects your right to snag someone off the street and ritually remove his heart, all under the guide of “religious freedom”? (Is that how Dick Cheney got his new heart?) What if you claim you practice a religion that makes it a mortal sin to pay taxes to a governing body? Obviously this claim would not be recognized by any US court, as it would bring about the end of the country. So there are limits. There have to be. Taken to its logical extreme, absolute religious freedom would lead to anarchy.

But does religious freedom include the right to discriminate against others who violate your religious beliefs? Not if you wish to operate a business that accommodates to the public, it can’t. If you wish to make a little money organizing weddings and parties for other members of your church, that’s very legal I’m sure. You’re not claiming your unregistered business is “open to the public,” so if there are people whom you don’t wish to serve, you don’t have to. But if you open a business to the public that specializes in catering weddings and parties, then you cannot discriminate against people based on your religious beliefs, or theirs, or against those who do things your religion does not allow you to do. Your religious freedom does not include imposing your religious beliefs on everyone with whom you have contact. Freedom of religion must also include freedom from religion.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss religious freedom or anything else you wish to discuss.

57 thoughts on “The Watering Hole, Saturday, November 23, 2013: Does Freedom of Religion Equal Freedom to Discriminate?

  1. The fears so often spoken by wingnut Christers concerning same sex marriage, abortion access, etc. are hollow and vapid, at least i.m.o. I agree that if the law was written to DEMAND everyone has to marry someone of the same gender, or that every pregnant woman must have an abortion then I’d be more than a little bent myself. But that’s obviously not the case.

    I’ve long felt that everyone who wants to practice any religion should be free to do so, so long as practicing those beliefs is done privately and has no impact on anyone else. Freedom of and freedom from. It’s really that simple.

  2. I think churches should be taxed and taxed hard.
    Churches are a huge racket here in the south.
    Joel Osteen, Pat Robertson and his ilk live a lavish lifestyle because they really feel the pain of the common man.

    • I’m with you. Our area is inundated with Jehovah’s Witnesses, they own so much property in town to the south of us that the town had to build a bigger firehouse. At least the JWs paid for that, or contributed quite a lot to it. Now I’ve heard that their 600+acre facility has its own firehouse and equipment.

      • Yes but they never, ever go over the speed limit….. that would be ‘fun’ and they can’t have fun….. I get stuck behind them all the time…. they have some cult building near here…

  3. Thus far, the government cannot discriminate based on religion, or lack of religion. The government takes a hands-off approach when it comes to churches discriminating based on religion.

    There is a push now to to allow corporations and individual citizens the right to discriminate based on religion. Hobby Lobby comes to mind, with its insistance it can regulate women’s health care/health insurance based upon its Corporate Religious Beliefs. Now a “christian” faction in Oregon wants to allow anyone to descriminate, based on their “deeply held religious beliefs”.

    Should these efforts succeed, the ultimate outcome is sectarian violence, as members of religious sects discriminate against each other, and lines are drawn. This pits the common peoples against each other, and allows the ruling class to continue to rape the country.

    • “Certainly, this is not too much to do for these people who are caring for our spiritual welfare”

      Why should our spiritual welfare be more important than our physical welfare? Is prayer the only thing we should offer our suffering fellow humans?

      • The Parish Exemption allows religious ministers to avoid paying taxes on houses given to them by the church, which cost the government about $2.3 billion from 2002 to 2007 alone. The number is likely much higher now. –

        …permitted to exempt all costs related to the home (maintenance, improvements and upgrades) up to the fair market rental value of the home –

        Oh, now I understand the mansions the charlatans ‘right reverends’ are building…

      • Actually, what is, really, “spiritual” welfare? I suppose if anyone could ever show me even just one shred of (verifiable) evidence that some sort of deity actually did indeed exist, then maybe I might (or maybe might not) become at least curious as to the “spiritual” realm or whatever one could call it. Actually, make that two ten shreds of verifiable evidence. That would clearly be the far better option, but still, given the unlikeliness inherent in that, I’d probably be willing to look at even just one. But I’ll not hold my breath in anticipation.

      • The lady who lives across the hall has quite a reputation for erratic behavior including an alleged rat sighting when there were two other people present who did not see the rat (I have never heard of a verified report of any kind of vermin in our complex.). I guess that yesterday was a bad day and she was in the hall yelling at her social worker that she is “praying to the Lord for deliverance”. It took all of my self-control to keep from popping my head out and suggesting she should probably pray to her shrink for more effective medication.

    • I’m so glad that isn’t a bird dog. That would be so embarrassing. And what’s with the cat meowing? That bird is hilarious.

  4. This is my Weather Channel page right now.

    Huntsville, AL (35801) Weather
    24ยฐF
    FEELS LIKE 12ยฐ
    Partly Cloudy
    Much colder than yesterday.

    Gee, ya think? Yesterday at this time it was 50!

  5. Secret US-Iran Talks Over Past Year Set Stage for Nuke Deal

    The United States and Iran secretly engaged in a series of high-level, face-to-face talks over the past year, in a high-stakes diplomatic gamble by the Obama administration that paved the way for the historic deal sealed early Sunday in Geneva aimed at slowing Tehran’s nuclear program, The Associated Press has learned.

    Chris Wallace just asked Senator Corker, about these secret talks.
    “I don’t know how to react. This news has just come out. I think that there had been statements of overtures that had been made for some time, so I don’t really have much reaction to it.”

    You could see that Corker was clearly caught flat-footed, and was afraid to respond without the Frank Luntz-supplied talking points he’d been spouting earlier to try to water down the success of the negotiations.

  6. George Will has lost his ability to understand English, or he thinks the average Fox viewer won’t know the difference.
    Will: “In his statement last night, there’s a sentence that’s absolutely surreal.”
    Wallace: “He, the President?”
    Will: “The President. He said for the first time in nearly a decade we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program. That implies that it has been halted for a decade, where as we know, it has been racing forward.”

    Now, I read that as, if something has been ‘halted’ for the first time in a decade, it’s been in motion up to now. George Will apparently doesn’t.

  7. Switching over to CNN for Fareed Zakaria, I got 4 minutes of Fareed, then he handed off to Wolf Blitzer, saying he would be back with a report on Tesla cars. I wanted to hear Fareed’s take on the agreement, not Wolf Blitzer’s, so I am giving up on CNN for the day. The F1 broadcast starts in under an hour, I don’t have time for Wolf.

  8. Watching North Carolina and Louisville on ESPN with the sound off because Dick Vitale is doing the color. It sure is peaceful today. It’s too cold to clean the yard, not only for me, but for everybody else. There’s nary a leaf blower blowing out there.

  9. Apologies if this is a ‘rerun’:
    (in the story there’s a link to the unedited version)

    Two Aussies discover venomous snake on windshield
    Reaction is quite hysterical as Australian captures the moment on video

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