There has been a concerted effort with Religious Freedom Acts to allow people to discriminate because of “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Today, I saw a reference to the Supreme Court Ruling against Abercrombie and Fitch because the company denied employment to a woman who wore Hijab, (a head covering) per her religious beliefs. The reference tries to equate the two issues – if this person can get a ruling for her religion, the government is discriminating against another religion by requiring its members to serve someone who is doing something against the member’s beliefs.
This effort to allow discrimination has gone one step further in some states like North Carolina, which have passed bills to allow magistrates to opt out of marrying same-sex couples, if they had sincerely held religious beliefs against such marriages. In North Carolina, this law was vetoed by the Governor, but the Senate has overturned his veto and the House is considering it. Other states are further down the path on this issue and have passed laws to permit such unfair discrimination.
People who are making this argument are missing a very important point. Per the Supreme Court ruling which upheld our constitutional rights, no one should be discriminated against for their religious beliefs. Yet, it is not OK to discriminate against someone to honor your freedom of religion or any belief for that matter. When your freedom infringes in a discriminatory way on another person’s rights and freedoms, then that is not just. Giving you the freedom to unfairly discriminate is not in keeping with the constitution. This is a key basis for why the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, as African-Americans were getting unfairly discriminated against by white business owners and government officials.
This last part is key as the efforts to tell magistrates they can choose to not uphold a law is unconstitutional. A simple exercise can demonstrate this. During the height of the Jim Crow era, there were some ministers who used the bible to placate their parishioners, saying it was OK to treat African-Americans differently. These parishioners also had sincerely held religious beliefs, as their minister said it was OK. Even after the 1964 Civil Rights Act which gave equal rights to African-Americans, white officials in some southern cities imposed a rigorous test on African-Americans to earn the right to vote, a test whites did not have to take. This selective testing was deemed unconstitutional by the Voting Right Act, which was passed a year later.
Every state that is considering passing a bill or law like the North Carolina one or has already done so, needs to accrue about $1 million for legal fees. Why? Any law which memorializes unfair discrimination will be taken to court and it will be overturned as unconstitutional. So, that is my strong advice to our legislators and similarly minded folks in other states – don’t waste taxpayer money fighting an unjust bill – just don’t pass it.
Our forefathers got it right when they separated church and state. Our forefathers and their parents left countries where religious persecution occurred. And, for some that do not believe this assertion feeling our nation was ordained by God, they may find of interest that several of our forefathers were Deists in faith. The main thesis of a Deist is God created the world, wound up the clock and let us live out our lives. That belief is inconsistent with God ordaining our nation. I would love to hear your thoughts.