Conservative Corner: Religious Freedom vs. Civil Liberties

By : Mimi Planas
Comments: 6
Mimi Planas

Mimi Planas

Last week Indiana passed their Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Now, let’s all take a deep breath, shall we?

Much hoopla has resulted from this supposed “anti-gay” legislation enacted in Indiana March 26. The LGBT community and media are up in arms and downright livid, I have questions as to why all the drama.

First, President Bill Clinton signed the federal version of this law that was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1993. I do not recall the hate back then nor the backlash to be suffered by then-President Clinton. My question here is: what makes this Indiana legislation not okay but the federal one okay? I am confused. Is it the little details? The wording? I’m not sure, but let’s move on.

Religious freedom is guaranteed in this country by our First Amendment rights. It has always been guaranteed in this country. Similar religious freedom bills have been passed in 21 other states. If states with RFRA-like provisions that have been provided by state court decisions—rather than via legislation—are included, the list contains another 11 states. That makes a total of 32 states with similar laws or court decisions already in the books. So, why the Indiana bashing?

Although these laws have not been utilized very often, last month an Apache feather dancer used an RFRA to make the federal government return some unlicensed eagle feathers it had confiscated. Last year, the government settled with a Sikh employee who was fired for wearing a ceremonial dagger at work. A Muslim prisoner invoked a similar law when demanding the right to grow a beard behind bars and a Jewish one used it to obtain kosher prison meals. This is religious freedom at work.

When we start forcing businesses to sell to everyone or pay a price, that is a breach of the very freedom we claim to have in the United States of America. It is very simple. If someone does not want to sell you something for whatever reason because of their religious beliefs (yes, including being gay), then take your business elsewhere. Other businesses will be happy to take your money. Also, do you really want to give your hard-earned money to people who do not like you but are being forced to serve you? NO. They may or may not pay the price for it, but they have every right to exercise their First Amendment rights. I think we are confusing civil rights with religious freedom. This is why we work with state, federal and local governments, to ensure our civil rights.

Now we have states and corporations threatening to boycott Indiana. Not only is this childish, but it is also extremely hypocritical. Let’s take Apple, for example. Tim Cook, who is leading the corporate boycott charge, has been quoted as saying that this law “would allow people to discriminate against their neighbors.” So tell us, Mr. Cook, why are you promoting your products in countries that execute gays? Oh right, because you make a pretty penny. This is not how it works. You do not get to pick and choose according to your bank account. Then there is the Connecticut governor establishing a ban on state employees’ travel to Indiana. Can someone please tell the governor his own state also has an RFRA-like law in the books? Sigh…

Let’s cut to the chase here. Religious freedom and civil liberties are not the same thing. Those who believe this should look into it a little further.

I am happy to report that never in our history has the LGBT community had as much freedom (and rightly so) than it does today and no one will take that away.

If you want to purchase a wedding cake for your marriage and the store owner says, “Sorry, it is against my religious beliefs to sell you a cake,” then you take your business elsewhere. But, you do not make people sell you something because you think their religious beliefs are wrong or meaningless, simply because they are not yours.

This has been a blown-out-of-proportion bandwagon endeavor that has nothing to do with my rights as a member of the LGBT community. Let’s move on and stay focused on marriage equality and ENDA and ensure our civil liberties!

Now, who wants to sell me a cake?

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