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Recently, several conservative states have introduced legislation to allow businesses and self-employed individuals to refuse service to others on the grounds of religious beliefs, thus allowing discrimination. Though the laws are differently written, the main purpose is to allow those who claim sincere religious beliefs, to refuse service to LGBT members.

However, some of the laws are so broadly written, they may also allow businesses and self-employed individuals to refuse service to anyone who might offend their religious beliefs. A Muslim may refuse to serve a female because she is not wearing a burka or an interracial couple may be refused service by a Christian who is against interracial marriages. There are perhaps thousands of possible reasons someone could claim sincere religious beliefs in refusing to provide service to someone. Arizona's governor Jan Brewer recently vetoed a bill written by her states legislators that was written so broadly that it could have been used to discriminate against all kinds of people.

There are still several states with legislation pending to push such laws, mainly targeting same-sex couples, which would allow wedding photographers to refuse their services for same-sex weddings, bakers from baking wedding cakes for gay couples, or perhaps wedding planners from planning gay weddings. These laws could also be used to refuse housing or other types of service that has nothing to do with weddings, to anyone gay or transsexual. Restaurants may be allowed to refuse to serve anyone who appears to be gay and hotels may refuse lodging, citing sincere religious beliefs, and the possibilities are endless.

As a gay man, I do not entirely object to someone, such as a minister, refusing service on religious grounds, as I accept that some people have sincere religious beliefs that can cause a moral conflict with them personally, when it comes to religious ceremonies. However, this is a limit to ministers or any religious ordination particularly, but if those laws also allow someone to discriminate simply because they do not like gay people, then this is where the problem lies.

My family's pastor is a wonderful person and has been a friend of the family for many years. She is a Pentecostal woman and her religion is very strict. She would never perform a gay wedding, no matter what the law says. If I was going to get married to the man of my dreams, I certainly would not go to her and demand or even ask her to perform the ceremony as I respect her beliefs. She still would give me spiritual counseling, though I am gay or not, if I asked her to, but she would never officiate at a wedding for me to marry a same-sex partner.

As far as wedding photographers and bakeries, I would not personally want someone who found my marriage to be against their religious beliefs to photograph my wedding or bake a cake for my gay wedding. Perhaps there would be a reason to refuse such services if it pertains to taking photos that are sexually graphic in nature, and then it might be considered offensive on religious grounds or asking a baker to create a cake that could be sexually graphic. Undoubtedly, some gays like things a little over-the-top and so with exception, some bakers and photographers may find those things offensive and for good reason refuse, not because it is a same-sex couple but because of the specific nature of what the couple might want. The same sort of thing might be asked by a heterosexual couple and be offensive to a religious person or business.

I do however have objections of walking into a restaurant and being refused service because I am gay, or trying to rent a hotel room and being turned away because I look gay. There is a line where a business or a self-employed person is crossing the line from objecting to serving a gay person because of religious morals and objecting to serving a gay person out of hate and imposing their religion upon that person or persons. There is a slippery slope when religious people are allowed to treat LGBT members or anyone for that matter, differently when it comes to everyday, ordinary services.

I understand that as a gay person, I am not welcome in certain churches. That is up to the leaders and members of that church if they do not understand the true mission of Christ when it comes to opening their hearts to everyone. I have no desire to go to a church I am not welcome in, so I have no problem with that. Yet, when it comes to where I choose to eat or where I choose to live or any other normal, non-religious activity I might participate in as a citizen of this country, I entirely object to being turned away because I happen to be gay.

Perhaps there are religious people who fear that LGBT members will force them to serve them in a way that would cross their religious boundaries. I would hope there could be an understanding that most gay people, at least from my point of view, do not wish to impose themselves upon anyone who cannot accept us for who we are. When it comes to religious ceremonies, it should be a minister's own prerogative to draw a line in what they will or will not do when it comes to performing a religious ceremony. However, that is where the line must be drawn because any other activities that have to do with everyday life, gay people expect to be treated just like everyone else, and that is with respect, nothing more and nothing less.

This is a republish from my website: Fidlerten Place

Originally posted to Fidlerten Place on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 08:23 AM PST.

Also republished by Progressive Atheists and Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pierre9045, Penny GC, DJ Rix

    Rule the Day, Let not the Day Rule You.

    by fidlerten on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 08:23:37 AM PST

  •  You make some excellent points (5+ / 0-)

    From a moral perspective, I accept that some people have things they simply refuse to do, based on their religious beliefs. In the end though, religion has to take into account the wider human society, or else it loses its moral high ground. The two instances that irk me the most are in cases of health, and cases of business.

    In the case of health, if your religious beliefs put the health of yourself, family, or friends, or the larger community in danger, then the government has a responsibility, to all of those people, to mitigate that threat. The same goes for people who refuse to vaccinate their children because they believe it causes autism. When that belief jeopardizes not just their family, but the health of children who may come in contact with those unvaccinated children, there should be some societal responsibility to protect those children.

    In the case of business, these people are running a business that simply cannot function without government controls, without customers, and without employees, meaning many other humans with many diverse beliefs and rituals. By entering the business world, you should be under the social contract that, as long as it does not infringe your own religious beliefs, you should not be able to impose those beliefs on anyone else, either.

    Religion should not have any special privilege over any other societal institution. Why? Because our government was founded on this principle.

    "In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” -Confucius

    by pierre9045 on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 08:38:38 AM PST

    •  pierre - what principle? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fidlerten, DJ Rix

      The First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion or the free exercise thereof:" It seems to me that religion does nave a unique legal position in the US under our Constitution. In addition in early 1990s Congress thought that religion was not receiving the proper protection in our courts and passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to return to our legal system "strict scrutiny" as it related to religious issues and civil law.

      There are several cases that will be decided by the SCOTUS over the next few terms on this issue. I think the present Court will give deference to the RFRA and the outcome will be a middle ground based on the actual damages to the potential customer, but we will see.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 09:19:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for asking (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib, fidlerten

        I was kind of scratching my head over that "principle" too.  Nonprofit status gives religion a decided advantage over other societal institutions, although I'm not sure what Pierre means by "societal institution. "

        "There ain't no sanity clause." Chico Marx

        by DJ Rix on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 12:20:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Congress shall make no law... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fidlerten

        respecting an establishment of religion... This is the language which gives us the principle of separation of church and state.  So, Congress writes a law completely indifferent to religion, which is as it should be.  Giving religious individuals and institutions a special exemption to that law requires an establishment of religion.  The alternative is to allow people to exempt themselves from laws for secular reasons as well.  I don't see that as likely(or even desirable) to happen.  Frankly, our track record on this isn't so good.

        •  billy - you missed the "free exercise thereof" (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          fidlerten

          The Constitution gives us freedom of religion not freedom from religion. The separation of church and state is a 20th Century concept. At the founding of the US, and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution, there were some states where belonging to a specific church was required to be a citizen in good standing. The founders didn't want another Church of England, one official religion in the US, but people who embraced their own religion were given significant legal deference at the time.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 04:23:16 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I didn't miss anything. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            fidlerten

            You asked which principle the government was founded on, and I gave it to you.  "prohibiting the free excercise thereof"  applies to a second principle which was not the subject of pierre's point.  Separation of church and state is not a 20th century concept.  That is just stupid.  Pick up a history book and read Jefferson's letters.  Or, just tell me what the first clause of the First Amendment(the real one, not your amended version) is supposed to mean if it doesn't create either a separation of church and state or freedom from religion.

            You might also note, early drafts of the Second Amendment were intended to provide military service exemptions for religious objections.  This was removed, I'd like to think, because of the realization that the Second Amendment would create a violation of the First.

            •  The no establishment clause is different than (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              VClib, fidlerten

              separation of church and state.  All faiths can be allowed to do X (not pay a tax, not subject to some regulation, etc,) without violation of the establishment clause as no particular religion is given preference over any other.  

              At the same time, one could reasonably argue, that providing such a benefit, benefiting all or many religions violates separation of church and state, as church receives different treatment than other non-religious institutions in the country.

              The constitution has an establishment clause, there is no mention of separation of church and state in the constitution and its amendments.

              The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

              by nextstep on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 05:12:44 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  But religion is given preference... (0+ / 0-)

                over no religion.  The establishment clause prevents Congress from establishing religion, not favoring one religion over another.  Favoring religion over non-religion requires the government to first establish what qualifies as religion.  The government cannot do that without establishing religion.

                The establishment clause provides for separation of church and state.  Saying there is no mention of separation of church and state is like saying there is no mention of freedom of religion.  Neither phrase appears in the constitution, yet both are correct interpretations of clauses of the First Amendment

  •  You said this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fidlerten, Penny GC
    When it comes to religious ceremonies, it should be a minister's own prerogative to draw a line in what they will or will not do when it comes to performing a religious ceremony.
    Not only should this be the case, it is the case. While the law in the US permits clergy to act on behalf of civil authority to solemnize a marriage, the reverse is not the case. No law can compel a member of the clergy to solemnize a marriage. And no law DOES compel a member of the clergy to solemnize a marriage. Any fears to the contrary are irrational.

    People are apt to forget that when they leave their church and enter a place of business that is open to the general public, they are not, in fact, in church. Church rules don't apply in business; civil law does.

    •  This is one of the reasons... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sfbob, Penny GC

      ministers cite for their reasons to be against same-sex marriages, that somehow the law would force them to face lawsuits for not performing same-sex ceremonies . And, you are absolutely correct, the law cannot force a minister to solemnize a marriage.

      There is also no reasoning behind the fear of ministers being sued for not performing these ceremonies, as there have never been a case were a minister has been sued for not performing an interracial marriage, which has been protected by the law for many years now. Along with that, some ministers will not perform a marriage if either the bride or groom has had a previous marriage. So it stands to reason that there would be no difference with a same-sex marriage.

      Rule the Day, Let not the Day Rule You.

      by fidlerten on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 10:13:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  There are some ministers... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sfbob, fidlerten

      ...who have decided not to solemnize any marriages until such time as the state lets them solmnize all marriages.

    •  Why is this? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fidlerten

      Why is a member of the clergy permitted to discriminate against homosexuals, minorities, or the disabled? Why can religious institutions fire pregnant or divorced women?

      So maybe that is the case, but why should it be the case?

      •  It is a consequence of the Establishment Clause (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fidlerten

        Since the US does not have an established church it keeps its hands off the internal affairs of religious organizations and their clergy.

        Because the Church of England is in fact the (ahem) Established Church, Parliament has a great deal of say on the church's inner workings and of its policy.

        •  I don't think so. (0+ / 0-)

          The Establishment Clause states government cannot establish religion.  It does not say clergy is exempt from the law.  You'd do better to argue the free exercise clause

          •  That may be (0+ / 0-)

            However the fact that we have no established church does mean that government has no say in church policies, which would not be the case were there an established church. It is not that clergy are exempt from the law; after all, they can be prosecuted for the criminal code or even for such things as fraud. They cannot however be prosecuted for implementing the views of their church and those views cannot be directed by legislation. Churches are free to say that, for example,  interracial marriages unacceptable and their clergy are exempt from having to solemnize them. On the other hand, if a member of the clergy from such a church were to decide to solemnize a marriage his church objected to, he would have no legal protection if he were to be fired from his position. Those ministers who have chosen to solemnize (even symbolically) same-sex unions and who were defrocked as a result have no legal recourse. That isn't a consequence of the free exercise clause, it is a consequence of the establishment clause.

            •  I'd argue... (0+ / 0-)

              it's not really a consequence of either, but is instead an effort to give special deference to religious institutions which is neither deserved nor justifiable.  Churches may be free to say interracial marriage is unacceptable, what they should not be free to do is be allowed to confer legal status to marriages while flaunting civil rights law and discriminating against whomever they choose.

              •  As to the latter I most certainly agree with you (0+ / 0-)

                You are certainly right to point out that various churches discriminate in various ways, without any adverse consequences to themselves. For example, nobody's yet questioned whether the Catholic Church's refusal to ordain women is or is not an impermissible example of discrimination on the basis of sex and whether the Church should therefore lose its tax exempt status. I have to be honest: I can't see that happening. Where one draws the line is certainly a legitimate topic for debate.

                As to the former I believe you are mistaken. When the issues have come before the courts, either Free Exercise or Establishment (or both) have served to support the court rulings.

                I have been reading an amicus brief, pertinent to the current Utah marriage equality case, filed by a coalition of religious groups. Their argument is in fact that the state's ban on marriage equality is an impermissible violation of the Establishment Clause and that the state's pleadings (and the arguments of the Catholic Church and the Church of Latter Day Saints that overturning the state's ban would somehow be a violation of the Free Exercise Clause are entirely without merit.

                If you have any interest the brief can be found here.

                It could be argued I suppose that religions, based on their doctrines, should not have legal recognition and tax exempt status. In fact as I understand it, the LDS Church "saw the light" back in 1978 when its tax exempt status was threatened because of its refusal to ordain African-American men as clergy. It is questionable whether, if it had come to pass, the Church could have sued for the right to maintain its policy and won based on both the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses.

                While it isn't debatable whether the Church could have prevailed in a similar suit when Congress threatened not to grant Utah statehood unless the LDS Church abandoned polygamy. It certainly is arguable whether that was actually a breach of the Establishment Clause or the Free Exercise Clause; suffice to say that no court would have ruled in the Church's favor at the time. There are certainly non-religious arguments as to why there should be no legal recognition of marriages involving more than two partners but I doubt that either Congress or the courts were sufficiently sophisticated back in the 1890s to actually make those sorts of arguments.

                One thing that should be abundantly clear, and which the brief I've linked to brings up, is that religious organizations should recognize that they actually have a vested interest in not overreaching since that sort of thing simply invites the state to do likewise. Otherwise pertinent are statements made by the LDS church regarding church-state separation that the church appears to have conveniently forgotten about (and which the linked brief rightly refers to as hypocritical).

      •  In my opinion... (0+ / 0-)

        ministers should have the right to not perform marriages that conflict with what they believe, if it is solely because of their religious beliefs. Even though I may disagree with their belief, I still respect their right to believe it.

        Rule the Day, Let not the Day Rule You.

        by fidlerten on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 07:05:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I respect their right to believe it as well. (0+ / 0-)

          I don't care what people believe, I care how they treat others, and how they think others should be treated.  If a minister is a bigot, that is his right.  If he chooses to enter the arena of public accommodation, he should be held to the same standards as everyone else.

  •  The American Inquisition has already begun. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fidlerten, Penny GC


    I just missed being run over by the wheel of good fortune. The guy standing next to me was not so lucky.

    by glb3 on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 10:35:53 AM PST

  •  Here's What the Civil Rights Act Actually Says (0+ / 0-)
    42 U.S.C. §2000a (a)All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.

    42 U.S.C. §2000a(b) (b) Each of the following establishments is a place of public accommodation within this title if its operations affect commerce, or if discrimination or segregation by it is supported by State action:

    (1) any inn, hotel, motel, or other establishment which provides lodging to transient guests, other than an establishment located within a building which contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and which is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as his residence.

    (2) any restaurant, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain, or other facility principally engaged in selling food for consumption on the premises, including, but not limited to, any such facility located on the premises of any retail establishment, or any gasoline station;

    (3) any motion picture house, theater, concert hall, sports arena, stadium or other place of exhibition or entertainment; and

    (4) any establishment (A)(i) which is physically located within the premises of any establishment otherwise covered by this subsection, or (ii) within the premises of which is physically located any such covered establishment and (B) which holds itself out as serving patrons of any such covered establishment.

    Sexual orientation is not specifically listed in the first paragraph, nor is disability. Disabilities were covered in 1990 through the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    I think it might be interesting to for someone to say something to the effect that their "sincerely held religious belief requires that all persons be treated equally." Can the shop keeper's religion then trump the customer's religion?

    "A famous person once said, 'You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.' But as I once said, "If you don't teach them to read, you can fool them whenever you like." – Max Headroom

    by midnight lurker on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 01:11:21 PM PST

  •  If one of these laws does pass... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rubyduby7, fidlerten

    I would love to see a business apply it in the other direction and find a religious reason for discriminating against a Christian conservative.  Once that starts happening I suspect repeal will not be far behind.

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