Religious Freedom or Discrimination??

As a member of the Christian denomination, the Episcopal Church, we begin worship with a gathering prayer called the Collect. In this past Sunday’s Collect  we acknowledged God’s teaching that whatever we do without love is worth nothing.

Someone please explain to me then how the legislation pertaining to religious freedom passed by the Arizona state legislature and awaiting the Governor’s final decision, is about love much less religion.

While I don’t hesitate to express my views in conversation with others, I don’t usually write publically about LGBT issues, yet this is something in which I choose not to remain silent. Some of you may interpret this as my preaching politics. Some of you may even agree with the proposed legislation in Arizona. Some of you may feel just as offended as I that a state government would propose what is in essence a (thinly) disguised Jim Crow law.

Some of you may be wondering how this personally affects me since I am not L, G, B, or T.  Many people I know though are. People I respect and care about. People I admire. People I know not to be any different from me other than their romantic relationships are (in general) with same sex individuals. And the truth is, discrimination in any form hurts everyone in one way or another.

Another reason I find this offensive is because it’s being done under the guise of religious freedom. The bill defines Exercise of Religion to mean “the practice or observance of religion, including the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.”

Religious or not. LGBT or not. If this wording doesn’t scare you, it should. Especially the last line, “whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.” This sounds to me that it’s completely left up to individual interpretation and determination of what constitutes a religious belief.  In other words, one large blanketed excuse to discriminate.

Religion was used to keep blacks down pre-Civil Rights and now it’s being used to keep LGBT men and women down. What or who is next? Formed deeply in a Christian faith tradition (that’s what they do to us in seminary 😉 ), anything that’s done to oppress other people is not about love. I’m hard pressed to find any examples in scripture of Jesus either engaging in or supporting acts of oppression in the name of God.

Jesus doesn’t call us to condemn nor discriminate against others. Jesus calls us to spread the Good News and the Good News is about love, forgiveness and salvation.

So how is this related to my RV travels? One of the ways we are called to speak out in protest of this bill is through the act of boycott. Arizona is/was one of my travel destinations next winter. Beside the warm weather, it’s home to a number of friends of mine…a seemingly perfect place to go to escape the winter weather of northern IL.  Now what?

Florida is looking pretty good right now!hummingbird Web LOGO point left

Your well thought out comments are welcome with the exception of any hateful spewing or condemnation of others.

5 thoughts on “Religious Freedom or Discrimination??

  1. So, let’s play a game. You are a priest. You have certain beliefs and you provide a service. One day, a [polygamist, polyamorist or Satanist] comes to you and says that they would like you to marry them (for whatever reason, they have chosen you). Should you have the right to say “no”? Second example: I am an Orthodox Jewish butcher. I have run a butcher shop that for years has faithfully served a Christian family because they think that I have great products. One day, the family comes to me and says, “I love your products but you don’t serve bacon. It’s too much trouble to go to more-than one store to buy our meats, we would like you to sell us bacon”. Do I have the right to say “no”? Jim Crow Laws were discriminatory laws imposed by the State. This proposed law (although I think it is silly) imposes nothing. It only reaffirms the Constitutional right of any citizen to say “no” to something that contravenes their religious beliefs. I don’t have to share those religious beliefs in order to support the right of others to make decisions of conscience without the State interfering, as long as they do not impose on the civil rights of others. Buying a cake is not a civil right. However, that being said, I fully support your right or any other person’s right to boycott that place of business on the basis of your conscience.

  2. Sure Dan.I like games! Re: your e.g. of the butcher. He/she doesn’t sell bacon in the first place therefore I find that a moot point. Consumers cannot demand that a business sell them a product they don’t carry or sell. I take that back. Consumers can demand anything they like, yet that doesn’t mean a vendor will respond nor are they obligated or bound by law to do so.
    Your second e.g. of the priest. The assumed reason that couples wish to be married in the church is a desire for their union to be recognized and blessed by God. There is something very powerful about a making a vow to God before a witnessing community of faith. With that said, I can’t imagine why a Satanist would approach a priest in the first place. As for the polygamist, it is against the law in the U.S. The sacramental rite of marriage as written in the Book of Common Prayer (which Episcopalians and Anglicans utilize) is a “solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God….and that the marriage confirm to the laws of the State and the canons (laws) of this Church.” This also speaks to the polyamorist example.
    In my home state and diocese, Chicago IL, the blessing of unions in the presence of God between same gender couples is allowed, yet still left to the collective discernment of the worshipping community. I cannot imagine that a same gender couple would want to have their union blessed in a congregation that is not comfortable with it, much less attempt to force the issue. Taking a vow as important as marriage is something one would want to do not only in the presence of God, but also in the presence of a loving and supportive community considering the community is part of the blessing in that they are called to support this couple in their marriage.
    I cannot speak for all religions or all Christian denominations other than to say that the Episcopal Church is generally more progressive in its ministerial/pastoral approach.
    Thankfully this is all now a moot point as the governor of Arizona had the good sense to veto it regardless of her reasoning to do so.
    Thanks for your comment Dan 🙂

  3. “I cannot imagine that a same gender couple would want to have their union blessed in a congregation that is not comfortable with it, much less attempt to force the issue.”

    There is no need to imagine it. This is exactly what happens when a homosexual couple insists on hiring a photographer, or baker, or innkeeper, or other service provider whom they know is morally opposed to homosexual practice.

    It happens all the time. It’s the same tactic the ACLU employed in the “Scopes Monkey Trial”. They’re not pursuing these providers because they have no other option. They’re doing it to provoke conflict, and to harass, and to coerce.

    So how is a Christian to respond? Jesus gave us two great commands: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

    Too often, people emphasize the second of those commands at the expense of the first. That feels good, but it’s not right. Jesus called “love the Lord thy God” the MEGA Commandment. (The ancient Greek actually puts it right back in our modern vernacular.) We cannot fulfill the command to love God while simultaneously loving what God hates, and God hates sin.

    We do our homosexual friends no favors when we tell them what they’re doing is OK, and that God loves them anyway. Same goes for adulterers, and thieves, and drunkards, and tax cheats, and speeders, and people who spit on the sidewalk. (“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”)

    They, and we, are all sinners. We need to tell them God loves them, for sure, but that by choosing to sin they’ve separated themselves from Him. They need to accept Jesus as savior, and as Lord. After that, then they can ask the Holy Spirit to help them work out the sin issues, just like me and every other believer.

    “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil…” (Isaiah 5:20)

    (Sorry for popping up out of seemingly nowhere like this, Leigh. It’s actually kind of ironic. I was walking by and saw you on the front porch of your “Privacy” post and ended up stopping for a chat. Hope you and yours are well.)

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