Freedom of Religion is not a license to discriminate against others

September 4, 2015

I received the following comment regarding my article yesterday titled, Kim Davis, Clerk of the Rowan County Circuit Court, held in contempt and ordered into custody.

I mean is she really wrong? What im saying is , we tend to fall asleep until let’s say some stupid politician makes some law that insults or could harm our life or may be our children’s future. And like Kim, it awakes us. I mean let’s be real. I don’t trust politicians. But I understand her. It probably frighten her . to give or contribute to an abomination. Its frightening.

The comment posted to my pending file because the person had not previously posted a comment and been approved. For reasons that will become clear, the comment offended me and I felt compelled to respond to it. Here is my response.

I think your comment is offensive. I do not believe that same-sex marriage is an abomination, mostly because I have known many gay males and lesbian women during my adult life. For example, when I moved into Seattle to be closer to work in the early 80s, I rented an apartment on Capitol Hill that was within walking distance to downtown and the state and federal courthouses where I practiced law. I soon discovered that I was living in the heart of the gay and lesbian community. I was the only straight male in my apartment building. Over the next week or so, I ran into quite a few lawyers and several judges in the neighborhood whom I knew from work. They lived there. I suddenly realized they were homosexual. They weren’t quite sure what to make of me since I was obviously straight, but since I was on their turf by choice they figured I wasn’t prejudiced. They welcomed me to the neighborhood. They made no effort to pretend they were straight and within a short period of time they began to introduce me around to their friends. I was a little uncomfortable at first but I got over it quickly They were good people and they showed a genuine interest in getting to know me. I ended up forming many lasting friendships.

It didn’t take me very long to realize that gay males aren’t sexually interested in straight males, just as straight males aren’t sexually interested in gay males.

As time went by, I got to know their significant others, people they would have married. but for the fact that the law did not allow it. All of this was happening during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s. Several people I knew died of AIDS. This was a terrible time that I will never forget. Many of their families had long ago rejected them and they only had themselves to turn to for comfort. That really pissed me off. Often a sick and dying person’s partner could not even visit their dying partner in a hospital or obtain any information about their condition because the were not “family.” Eventually, hospices were created on Capitol Hill to permit them to pass in dignity with their partners and friends present.

As a result of these experiences, I have been a firm supporter of equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people for many years. Yes, indeed, I support same-sex marriage and proudly so. I celebrated and shed more than a few tears when the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided <em>Obergefell v. Hodges</em> back in June. At long last, the SCOTUS held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians. Therefore, laws that prohibit same-sex marriage violate the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Freedom of Religion Clause of the First Amendment is misunderstood by most Americans. It prohibits Congress from making any law regarding the establishment of a religion. Many of our Founding Fathers were atheists who wanted a prohibition in the Constitution prohibiting the government from endorsing any religion or religious view. This prohibition is the basis for the doctrine of separation of church and state. People who claim nothing in the Constitution authorizes the separation of church and state are absolutely wrong.

Freedom of religion means that a person can hold any religious belief they desire. They can even claim a religious basis to hate on blacks, women, Muslims, lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, Latinos, the poor, and any other person or group they don’t like. However, that does not mean that they can assault, murder, enslave or discriminate against them, even if they can point to some passage in the Bible that approves of doing so. For example, the Bible says God told Moses and the Israelites to slaughter everyone in Jericho and all the Canaanites. A person in this country today is not going to be able to beat a murder charge for killing a Palestinian living here on the ground that the Bible condones what he did. Similarly, a person cannot claim a religious exemption to a murder charge because they believe in the Old Testament <em>lex talionis</em>, an eye for an eye and killed someone in an act of revenge.

Kim Davis is the elected Clerk of the Rowan County Circuit Court. Issuing marriage licenses is one of her duties. If she truly believes her religious beliefs won’t permit her to do that, then she should resign her position.

Instead, she claims a religious right to discriminate. As I said, the Freedom of Religion Clause only applies to beliefs. It cannot be used as a sword to justify doing something that the law prohibits or refusing to do something that the law requires. Therefore, she can’t discriminate against same-sex couples who want to get married by refusing to issue them a marriage license.

In addition, while I do not pretend to be a Biblical scholar, I do not believe homosexuality is forbidden. Homosexuality has been around forever and in ancient Egypt it was accepted. Same thing in Greece. Alexander the Great, a military genius and fierce warrior who conquered the known world (Egypt, Persia and India) around 330 BC was a homosexual and no one thought any less of him for that. Nevertheless, even if God supposedly called it a sin, which I seriously doubt, that still does not give any person a right to discriminate against gays.

She took her best shot at convincing a judge that she was right. She lost in the United States District Court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The United States Supreme Court declined to consider her appeal. She has exhausted her legal options and now she is refusing to do her job while selfishly imposing her religious beliefs on other people. She also wants to become a martyr.

Kim Davis is not a hero and she is definitely not a martyr. She’s a bigot imposing her deeply held prejudices on others and for that reason she deserves no sympathy. She is literally contemptible and deserves to be exactly where she is: the Rowan County Jail.


The Hobby Lobby case violates the First Amendment

July 3, 2014

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Good morning:

I write again today about the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case. I believe it is an awful decision with great potential to be used to impose a set of religious beliefs on people who oppose those beliefs.

The Freedom of Religion Clause was intended to assure and protect a person’s right to believe anything they wanted to believe that might reasonably be described as a religious belief, including a denial of the existence of God and a supernatural world. To protect religious freedom, the First Amendment prohibits Congress from enacting a law that discriminates against a person because of their religious belief.

Beliefs must be distinguished from actions. Although beliefs are protected, actions taken that are consistent with a particular religious belief are not protected. For example, a person cannot be discriminated against because they believe in human sacrifice, but they can be prosecuted for murder if they sacrifice a human.

In the Hobby Lobby case the Supreme Court has ruled that an employer can impose its religious beliefs against abortion and emergency contraception on its employees by excluding those acts from coverage in an employee health insurance policy.

Abortion and emergency contraception are lawful medical procedures. By upholding the employer’s religious based opposition to abortion and emergency contraception, which are lawful medical procedures, the court has approved of action taken in support of a religious belief to deny insurance coverage for lawful medical procedures.

A decision to have an abortion or to undergo emergency contraception is no one’s business except the doctor and the patient. A health insurance policy should cover all medical procedures. Denial of coverage based on religious belief permits people holding one belief to impose it on others who do not share that belief and that is exactly what our Founding Fathers sought to prohibit with the Freedom of Religion Clause.

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Thank you,

Fred


Arizona legislature passes bill legitimizing discrimination against homosexuals

February 22, 2014

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Good morning:

When the going gets tough, the hypocritical and willfully ignorant right-wing-hate-machine in Arizona gets weird.

Standing the First Amendment on its head the Arizona legislature has passed a bill legitimizing discrimination by businesses against homosexuals.

If signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer, the law would permit business owners with sincerely held religious beliefs to refuse service to homosexuals. It also would create a legal defense for any business, church or person to assert in any action brought by the government or an individual claiming discrimination, and it would authorize the business, church or person to seek an injunction prohibiting the government or an individual from claiming discrimination (1) once they show that their actions are based on a sincere religious belief and (2) the claim places a burden on the free exercise of their religious beliefs.

The First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

These fools do not understand the difference between between belief and action. In 1879 Chief Justice Waite of the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) wrote in Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879),

Freedom of religion means freedom to hold an opinion or belief, but not to take action in violation of social duties or subversive to good order.

/snip/

[to rule otherwise], would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government would exist only in name under such circumstances.

The Court used human sacrifice as an example of a religious practice that the law can prohibit.

Wiki provides a good summary of developments since the SCOTUS decided Reynolds.

In Cantwell v. State of Connecticut the Court held that the free exercise of religion is one of the “liberties” protected by the due process clause of the 14th Amendment and thus applied it to the states. The freedom to believe is absolute, but the freedom to act is not absolute.

In Sherbert v. Verner (1963), the Supreme Court required states to meet the “strict scrutiny” standard when refusing to accommodate religiously motivated conduct. This meant that a government needed to have a “compelling interest” regarding such a refusal. The case involved Adele Sherbert, who was denied unemployment benefits by South Carolina because she refused to work on Saturdays, something forbidden by her Seventh-day Adventist faith. In Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972), the Court ruled that a law that “unduly burdens the practice of religion” without a compelling interest, even though it might be “neutral on its face,” would be unconstitutional.

The need for a compelling interest was narrowed in Employment Division v. Smith (1990), which held no such interest was required under the Free Exercise Clause regarding a law that does not target a particular religious practice. In Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah (1993), the Supreme Court ruled Hialeah had passed an ordinance banning ritual slaughter, a practice central to the Santería religion, while providing exceptions for some practices such as the kosher slaughter. Since the ordinance was not “generally applicable,” the Court ruled that it needed to have a compelling interest, which it failed to have, and so was declared unconstitutional.

In 1993, the Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which sought to restore the compelling interest requirement applied in Sherbert and Yoder. In City of Boerne v. Flores (1997), the Court struck down the provisions of the Act that forced state and local governments to provide protections exceeding those required by the First Amendment on the grounds that while the Congress could enforce the Supreme Court’s interpretation of a constitutional right, the Congress could not impose its own interpretation on states and localities. According to the court’s ruling in Gonzales v. UDV (2006), RFRA remains applicable to federal laws and so those laws must still have a “compelling interest”.

[citations omitted]

The Arizona legislature can cite to no compelling state interest to support or justify this proposed law legitimizing discrimination against homosexuals other than discrimination for the sake of discrimination.

Next steps these fools will take, if Governor Brewer signs this POS bill into law, probably will be to pass bills legitimizing slavery and the human sacrifice of homosexuals, illegal immigrants, minorities and the mentally ill as activities that cannot be prohibited by the Free Exercise of Religion Clause.

I don’t know about y’all, but I have had enough of these disgusting racist and homophobic fools.

Time to call them out for what they are, mock them relentlessly and boycott Arizona until the voters replace them with representatives who respect the rights of all people regardless of race, gender, sexual preference and religious belief.

A good beginning, if Governor Brewer signs the bill into law would be to petition the NFL to move next year’s Superbowl from Arizona to another location outside of Arizona and boycott Arizona and the Superbowl, if the NFL refuses to do so.


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