15 Jan What is Freedom of Religion?
As gay marriage and non-discrimination ordinances which include sexual orientation and gender identity become legalized throughout the world, an atomic bomb of sorts is spreading its way through the legal system. Where ever gay marriage is legal, the common religious belief that marriage is a union between a man and a woman is then considered bigoted under the law. The state becomes required to teach gay marriage and gay sexual relationships equally alongside heterosexual marriage and sexual relationships in schools, or the public schools are bigoted. Business owners, fertility doctors, family lawyers, adoption agencies, judges and clerks are required to treat homosexual marriage, sexuality, and parenting as equal to heterosexual marriage, sexuality, and parenting. Eventually, religious institutions, universities, buildings, and clergymen will be facing the same conundrum. Law suits are already filed against churches. Religious Freedom and Sexual Freedom are in opposition. They cannot stand together equally in the law. When sexual freedom wins, religious freedom loses.
What then is religious freedom? Those who ratified the Bill of Rights in early American history recognized that the right to religious freedom is far more than a “right to worship.” Religious freedom pertains not only to what one does in the church or in the home. It is the right to express faith in public as well as private and to act on one’s religious convictions about justice and the common good in carrying out the duties of citizenship. Religious freedom allows the freedom to “exercise” religion in the public square.
Laws that force the individual to set aside their religious convictions as a “price of citizenship,” deny freedom of religion. By its very nature, religious freedom includes a right to leave one religious community and join another religious community, or the right to change one set of beliefs to one more fitting to the individual’s conscience. In a society where religious freedom is honored, the laws strictly exclude the use of civil authority to punish or impose penalties on those who change faiths or have a different set of beliefs from the majority.
The cry for “equality” forces everyone to act on one belief system. It trades freedom to act according to one’s conscience into a forced set of beliefs and actions for all. Yes, changing the laws so that every individual’s sexual behaviors are treated equally under the law sounds nice. But is it worth the cost? Religious freedom and sexual freedom cannot stand together equally in the law. When sexual freedom wins, religious freedom loses.