The liberty principle for this week is the simple fact that Americans need to become more tolerant of those who have different principles. Religious freedoms and gay rights seem to be up against each other more and more, but they do not have to be.
Americans are guaranteed religious freedom by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….” This statement says simply that Congress cannot choose one religion over the others but must allow all Americans the right, liberty, and freedom to worship as they please.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence caused some fireworks this week when he signed the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act last week. This law was written to protect “businesses and individuals who object on religious grounds to providing certain services.” Gay rights supporters were “swift and intense” is letting Governor Pence know they though he was wrong. Maybe Indiana really does need the law.
Memories Pizza, located in Walkerton, Indiana, is right in the center of the state’s debate over its new law because of this statement: “If a gay couple was to come and they wanted us to bring pizzas to their wedding, we’d have to say no.” The pizza place did not actually refuse to provide pizzas to a gay wedding but simply said they would have to turn the business down if it arose.
The owners had to close their pizza shop because gay rights supporters called for the place to be boycotted. The decision to shut down the restaurant came after a coach in Goshen tweeted, “Who’s going to Walkerton with me to burn down Memories Pizza?” The account is no longer there, and detectives investigating the incidence recommend “charges of harassment, intimidation, and threats.”
The town has approximately 2,100 residents and few people in northern Indiana even knew Memories Pizza existed until a reporter as a nice young woman about catering a gay wedding. It appears that supporters of gay rights consider standing up for your principles to be religious bigotry. It appears the shop will remain closed, but supporters raised $400,000 for the business as of Thursday night.
The Indiana legislature is quickly writing new laws to try to stem the damage, but their state is not the only one writing laws to protect religious freedom. Alabama also passed a religious freedom bill.
“In Indiana, legislators passed a series of changes on Thursday that, while not outlawing anti-gay discrimination, clarified that the religious freedom law does not authorize such discrimination. Lawmakers in Arkansas, acting at the urging of the governor, passed a measure that is nearly identical to the federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act – and thus narrower in scope than the initial bill – but does not directly address discrimination.
“While liberal critics said the new versions did not go far enough to prevent discrimination, and some social conservatives saw the measures as needlessly watered down, many lawmakers considered the changes to be acceptable compromises.”
The uproar is apparently two decades late in arriving. The states began passing Religious Freedom Restoration Acts after the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith. This decision “narrowed protections for the free exercise of religion.” In 1993 Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). This Act passed in the U.S. Senate 97-3, unanimously in the U.S. House, and was signed into law by Bill Clinton, then President of the United States.
Since the federal law was passed, eighteen states in addition to Indiana and Alabama have passed Religious Freedom Restoration Acts of their own: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. An additional eleven states “have RFRA-like protections provided by state court decisions.”
The laws were written some years ago, and none of them were passed to encourage discrimination of gays. So why is there an uproar at all, and why is there one now? I believe the uproar is happening now because Barack Obama has opened a war against Christians and gay rights supporters are taking advantage of it.
Have you ever thought about what would happen if a gay couple went into a Muslim bakery and ordered a gay wedding cake? Well, this guy tried to order a gay wedding cake from Muslim bakeries. Check out his video here.
Ryan Anderson of The Heritage Foundation researches and writes about marriage and religious liberty, and he argues the RFRAs are not written to be “anti-gay.” He explained that the law in Indiana “does not allow business owners to refuse service based on a person’s sexual orientation” but simply “provides those with strong religious beliefs a shield from being discrimination against for dissenting against popular opinions about marriage or other faith-based matters.”
Ryan told The Daily Signal: “This debate has nothing to do with refusing to serve gays simply because they’re gay, and this law wouldn’t protect that.
“The religious liberty concern centers on the reasonable belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. The question is whether the government should discriminate against these citizens, should the government coerce them into helping to celebrate a same-sex wedding and penalize them if they try to lead their lives in accordance with their faith? A Religious Freedom Restoration Act could protect these citizens. But it might not.”
Indiana’s law is different from those in other states such as Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, and Rhode Island in that it does not explicitly ban discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation.
Last month Utah passed a religious freedom and anti-discrimination bill that drew cheers. “SB296 drew praise from a wide range of groups in the state and across the country, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LBGT advocacy organization. There has been no backlash in Utah over its law. Why?
University of Utah law professor Cliff Rosky explained: “The Utah law grants equal protections to LGBT people and people of faith. It says that you can’t discriminate against someone because of their religious beliefs, their sexual orientation or their gender identity.
“The other laws don’t do that…. Our law bans discrimination based on religion, sexuality and gender. [Indiana’s] law legalizes discrimination based on religion.”
The law in Utah “added sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s anti-discrimination laws for housing and employment, expanded exemptions for religious institutions and their affiliates and provided protections for religious expression.”
I think we should just learn to get along with people who have different principles. I cannot understand why anyone wants or supports homosexuality. I do not believe in gay marriage. I think it is wrong; in fact, I believe homosexuality is a sin against God. Having made my position clear, I must also state that I do not understand the uproar about serving those who are gay. When the high school friend of my daughter chose to marry her partner, I wished her well. I loved her before I knew of her same-sex attraction, and I still love her. I want her to be happy and would never say or do anything to cause her to be unhappy. She understands my beliefs about homosexuality without me throwing it in her face and does not demand that I change my beliefs. I believe more tolerance for differences in others could bring healing to our nation.