In a recent op-ed piece, New York Times writer Frank Bruni says “I’ve been called many unpleasant things in my life…but I chafe at this latest label: A threat to your religious liberty.”
Bruni is gay, and he resents people claiming that their religion allows them to discriminate against same-gender couples and individuals in arenas such as marriage, parenting, and employment. Indeed, an increasing number of bakers, photographers and other wedding vendors are claiming the right to not serve gay couples.
I totally agree—it’s pathetic that adults hide behind religion to selfishly and piously opt out of our American constitutional covenant.
Many gay people seem shocked, SHOCKED, that religious people would do this to them. But as I documented in my 2007 book America’s War On Sex, religious adherents have been doing this to a majority of Americans for decades. (It typically, though not always, centers around religion’s obsession with sex.)
Just to pick a few recent examples, under the guide of “freedom of religion,”
* Christian pharmacists claim they have the right to not dispense medication whose purpose they disapprove of;
* Muslim taxi drivers claim they have the right to not carry passengers who carry alcohol;
* Orthodox Jews claim that Rabbis have the right to suck babies’ penises as part of the circumcision ritual;
* Congressional Christians blocked the proposed requirement that school sex education be scientifically accurate;
* Many Christian organizations have sued the federal government, claiming that they are exempt from the mandate to provide employees the option of free contraception. These same recipients of federal grants claim the right to discriminate in employment and service delivery.
As a conscientious American, I am sick of the religious exceptionalism we pay for every day. Religious people believe they should get a break from the normal rules that govern us because they believe in something that’s supposedly bigger than the rules; or because of “tradition”; or because lots of other people believe as they do. That’s just wrong.
Who decides what’s a religion (whose adherents get government privileges), what’s “just” a cult, and what’s plain silly? (Remember, every “religion” starts out as a cult.)
According to the most radical part of our Constitution, government is NOT supposed to decide—it isn’t supposed to “establish” a religion. When the government decides that Judaism is a “religion” but the Church Of Bacon isn’t, the government is “establishing” a religion. And when the government decides both are “religions” (the Church of Bacon is now “established” by Nevada law), the government is still taking sides against some other groups it derides as a mere “cult” (funny, no one has proposed the Church Of Broccoli).
When the government decides which Iron Age desert hallucinations form a religion, and which are simply delusions, it is “establishing” a religion.
The Constitution does NOT say that all religious practices are legally acceptable (female genital cutting? Mescaline as an adolescent rite-of-passage?). Nor does it say that government should facilitate every behavior inspired or required by religion (covering your face in a driver’s license photo? Refusing your kid’s life-saving blood transfusion?). Nor does the Constitution promise that government will help people PRACTICE their religion—only that it won’t prevent people from BELIEVING what they choose to believe.
But America’s religious leaders now demand that government help people practice any silly thing they believe their religion requires, which is a threat to our way of life. Gay people are not the only ones who are considered “a threat to religious liberty.” It’s everyone who wants to do something of which some religious people disapprove. If that sounds like tyranny, it is. It’s why the Puritans left England—because they didn’t want their lives controlled by others’ religious beliefs.
Crucifying democracy on a cross of religious liberty is a crime against humanity.