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Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Supreme Court is now considering cases that could usher in nationwide marriage equality, and state-level gay marriage bans are falling faster than you can say “equal protection under the law.”

People who want to turn back the clock on rights for their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) neighbors are struggling to find new ways to do so. Public opinion is turning against them, and the courts have followed.

Facing one legal defeat after another, anti-LGBT forces have latched on to a troubling new approach: cloaking discrimination in the language of religious liberty.

In states across the country — including Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming — right-wing legislators have introduced bills that could let business owners and others ignore anti-discrimination laws in the name of religion.

These so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, mostly modeled after a 1993 federal law, sound harmless enough. After all, individual religious freedom is a core principle of our country’s laws, rightly enshrined in the First Amendment. It’s a liberty that must be cherished and protected.

But these bills aren’t really about protecting the rights of religious people — they’re about giving some people the ability to avoid following laws that apply to everyone else. They’re more accurately described as “right to discriminate” bills.

The federal law that these state-level bills were based on was grossly distorted by the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision last year. That ruling turned “religious freedom” from a shield to protect an individual’s right to practice his or her religion into a sword allowing businesses to ignore laws they don’t like — even when it harms others.

With the passage of state-level laws, the risk is that business owners could cite religious beliefs to argue that laws banning discrimination against LGBT people simply don’t apply to them.

From there it’s a slippery slope.

What if business owners claim that their religious beliefs should exempt them from being required to pay minimum wage? And what if people claim religious “exemptions” from laws that protect children and spouses from domestic violence?

This is wrong.

Our country established many years ago that businesses can’t deny service because of the color of a customer’s skin or their ethnic heritage. The same principle should apply here.

Giving business owners the ability to, in essence, hang a “No Gays” sign on their door flies in the face of deeply held American values about dignity and equality.

This isn’t a partisan issue. The widespread concern over state-specific “right to discriminate” laws landed in the national spotlight last year when Arizona governor Jan Brewer — a Republican — vetoed one.

Brewer’s decision followed immense pressure from unexpected sources. Arizona’s Republican senators, major companies like Apple and American Airlines, and even multiple state senators who had initially voted for the bill all came out against it after its implications became clear.

Such legislation failed in several other states last year as well. But this year the bills are resurfacing. Americans who support both religious liberty and equality under the law should speak out against these efforts to disguise anti-gay bigotry as a means of protecting religious freedom.

The belief that all people deserve equal treatment regardless of whom they love prevailed in Arizona. It can prevail across the nation.

Peter Montgomery is a Senior Fellow at People for the American Way.

Originally posted at Other Words.

Photo: American Life League via Flickr

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Copyright 2015 The National Memo
  • idamag

    The religious right are neither.

    • darkagesbegin

      ah, good one!

      • idamag

        Two things our Founding Fathers warned against: Religion in government and money in government.

        • jointerjohn

          Perhaps these people should be reminded that one of the boldest examples of this type of so-called “religious freedom”, that is, the ability to deny products and services to those with whom one does not agree, already exists in this world. It’s called Sharia.

          • angelsinca

            Using sharia as an example is as insulting as denying services to people because of morality concerns.

          • jointerjohn

            There you go, we agree on something!

        • angelsinca

          They primary warning was against government.

          • idamag

            LIAR!!! Read the Continental Congress minutes. They warned against money and religion,not what your organization tells you. If you don’t like the Democracy they worked so hard for, then get the hell out of this country. You can’t go to Germany as they have outlawed the nazi party.

          • angelsinca

            Mind your false accusations and ridiculous assertions, idamag. It is to your disadvantage to expunge your own countrymen for the differences they embrace.

            “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much
            government.” Thomas Jefferson

            “Let the reins of government then be braced and held with a steady hand, and every violation of the constitution be reprehended. If defective, let it be amended, but not suffered to be trampled upon whilst it has an existence.” GEORGE WASHINGTON

            “The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.” John Adams

            “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” Thomas Jefferson

            The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests. Patrick Henry

            “Nothing is more dreaded than the National Government meddling with Religion.” John Adams

            “Man will ultimately be governed by God or by tyrants.” Benjamin Franklin

          • idamag

            Well maybe you aren’t a liar, but you are bearing false witness. Break one commandment and you break them all. George Washington was not making any aspersions against the government. Thomas Jefferson was not, either. George Washington was afraid the “backcountry Yeoman”, as he put it, would destroy our Government. His annual message to Congress in 1794, George Washington said: “To sow among the people jealousy and distrust of the Government are destroying confidence in the administration of it.”
            (The Rise of American Democracy. by Sean Vilentz, Professor of American History, Princeton university. Page 68.) I will address more of what our Founding Fathers said, later, as people don’t like to read a lot at one time. Many of our bloggers, on this site, will note the difference in the quotes, I use and the so-called angel uses.

          • angelsinca

            Thank you for the retraction. The subject is not “making aspersions(sic) against the government”. It is the founding fathers’ warnings against government vs warnings of religion & money in government.

            In researching your claim, I did find more quotes justifying respect for religious beliefs to guide the nation than those opposing it, with Jefferson being most vocal on the division. Eventually, he seems to be straddling the fence on complete separation.

            He recognized the inherent Christianity in young America and made no effort to eradicate its influence in both government and people’s lives, much to his credit.

  • Sand_Cat

    As always, all these people have no interest in exercising their “freedom” to follow all of the other barbaric – not to mention inconvenient – “laws” found in the same books as those containing their favorite bans on homosexuality and other things they find politically expedient. In fact, I’d bet a considerable number of those pictured have never read the book of Leviticus, and would refuse to even consider being bound by pretty much everything else in it. They all hide behind “the New Covenant,” which apparently says one doesn’t have to do anything mentioned in the “Old” Testament that one finds unpleasant, burdensome, or otherwise undesirable, but one sure can push those things that one likes, especially those that demonize and hurt others.

  • Those “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” will all fall apart the very minute someone attempts to assert that his religion prohibits him from providing services to Christians.

    Every time the Religious Right has tried to impose its way as law, this is how they came undone: A small group of atheists tried to exorcize the same rights, the Right threw a massive tantrum, the courts ruled that it had to be all or nothing, and the Right responded “Fine! You get nothing!”

    And if they are successful in getting these “right to discriminate” laws passed, they too will fall apart before they can be brought to the Supreme Court for the exact same reason.

  • FireBaron

    And many of those bills are written by Tony Perkins and his Family Research Council, hand delivered to senior Republican politicians in those states. Not even a word is different in the bills from one state to another.

  • plc97477

    If they want to put a “no gays” sign on their door, I will never set foot there. I have decided that I will never darken the door of a hobby lobby. I can certainly add more to that list.

    • idamag

      Me, either. And I can add to the list.