Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law
First let me say that I unequivocally oppose discrimination of any kind. It is immoral in my view to treat people differently based on race, religion, or sexual orientation. I abhor all such discrimination.

That said, I support in principle the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which was signed into law by Indiana Governor Mike Pence. According to the Indianapolis Star - it  states that ‘the government cannot intrude on a person's religious liberty unless it can prove a compelling interest in imposing that burden and do so in the least restrictive way’.

I might be in the minority on this issue. Certainly as it pertains to those that actively oppose it. Their loud voices seem to be the only ones heard. Angry protests are underway all over the country. While I understand where they are coming from… and agree with their anti discriminatory attitudes, I believe that they are mistaken.

There has to be a balance between protecting the rights of homosexuals and protecting freedom of religion. Because protecting only one side ends up oppressing the other.

The way the law should work (and I don’t know if it does) is that no one should ever be denied access to any public or business facility based on race, religion, or sexual orientation. That means no gay individual or couple should for example be denied service in a restaurant.  Nor should anyone be able to discriminate in any way in their hiring practices.

On the other hand no individual should ever be forced to do things that violate their religious principles.  A priest, minster, imam, or rabbi should never be required to perform a marriage ceremony to a same sex couple.  That seems like a no brainer to me.

There are some grey areas that need to be worked out. Should wedding planner be forced to facilitate a same sex marriage? Should a religious caterer be forced to cater the wedding banquet of a same sex marriage? Should a baker be forced to bake a wedding cake with words on it congratulating a gay couple in their marriage?

For me common sense should mean that people not be forced to do things that they are not religiously comfortable with.  It would be best if a gay couple found a caterer, baker, or wedding planner that do not have any religious objections to it.

But what if - for example - they are an Orthodox Jewish gay couple that wants a Kosher catered banquet after a marriage ceremony  – and there is no Kosher caterer willing to do it? Should a Kosher caterer be forced to do it? Whose rights should be sacrificed here?

My quick answer is that no Orthodox gay couple would want to have a marriage ceremony in any case. They would realize that the Torah does not consider a gay marriage to be valid in any sense of the word. Besides, which Orthodox rabbi would perform it?

If they simply want the benefits given to married couples they should have a civil union… or even a civil marriage. While I oppose even a civil gay marriage in principle (for reasons beyond the scope of this post) it would at least not force people that see such marriages to be against their religious principles to participate in it at any level.

Just some random thoughts on a very thorny issue. The bottom line for me is that treating some people fairly should not be at the expense of others by forcing them to violate their religious principles. If common sense and common courtesy prevailed, we wouldn’t need laws like this.