The Collision Of Two American Values: Religious Freedom And Freedom From Discrimination

An interesting article in its coverage and analysis of the collision that is building between religious liberty and the sexual revolution.

The collision of two core American values — freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination — is prompting a showdown in legislatures and courts across the country.

For some conservatives, religious freedom means the right to act on their opposition to same-sex marriage and other practices that go against their beliefs. LGBT advocates and their allies, meanwhile, say no one in the United States should face discrimination because of their sexual orientation…

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.

Tom Gjelten gives examples from current and past news articles showing the divide.

After Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage the case of adoption and Catholic Charities.

One of the thorniest cases involves Catholic Charities, whose agencies long have provided adoption and foster care services to children in need, including orphans. Under Catholic doctrine, the sacrament of marriage is defined as the union of a man and a woman, and Catholic adoption agencies therefore have declined to place children with same-sex couples.

When Massachusetts (and other jurisdictions) redefined marriage to include same-sex couples, making it illegal to deny adoption to them., the Catholic agencies closed down their adoption services and argued that their religious freedom had been infringed.

Stanley Carlson-Thies, who is founder of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance said,  “One of the major activities of the [Catholic] church, going way back, was to look after the orphans. For that to be illegal unless the religious people change their standard, seems to me … unfortunate.

But to the LGBT community and its supporters, a refusal to place a child for adoption with a same-sex couple is unacceptable discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Karen Narasaki, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said,  “I can’t think of a single civil rights law that doesn’t have some people who are unhappy about it. But once the country has said, ‘Well, we believe that people who are LGBT need to be protected from discrimination, then how do you make sure that happens?”

U.S. Civil Rights Commission language of intolerance used in order to be intolerant.

 Martin R. Castro, commission’s chairman said,  “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”

Charles Haynes, Director of the Religious Freedom Center at the Newseum Institute in Washington said, “We may not like the claim of conscience, but you know, we don’t judge claims of conscience on whether we like the content of the claim. We are trying to protect the right of people to do what they feel they must do according to their God. That is a very high value.”

Equal Footing

Charles Haynes, Director of the Religious Freedom Center at the Newseum Institute in Washington said,  “Nondiscrimination is a great American principle — it’s a core American principle — as is religious freedom. When you have two important American principles coming into tension, into conflict with one another, our goal as Americans is to sit down and try to see if we can uphold both.”

Haynes put both, nondiscrimination and religious freedom, on an equal footing which the two are not. In the U.S. Constitution religious liberty is foundational to this country.

The article continues on the issue of the free exercise of religion and what does exercise mean? – is it limited to only freedom of worship?  The article on NPR by Tom Gjelten is worth reading.

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