Religion and freedom is not reserved solely for Christian conservatives who wish to discriminate
Why is religious freedom the only part of the First Amendment that conservatives care about? It seems that religious freedom and the right to own guns are the only parts of the American Constitution that matter to them.
The idea of “religious freedom” has always been used as a wedge issue in modern American politics, especially to American conservatives. While today we associate this with the “religious freedom” laws that gained headlines in Indiana, the term and purpose has been used many times. The main problem is that conservatives always seem to define religious freedom only in the context of their specific belief system. Religious freedom only applies to their group, and none other.
This is not just hyperbole. Conservative Christians in America have never had acceptance and respect for any other group. They have used religion to justify all sorts of insane positions, and discrimination always seems to be attached.
The issue here is that the religious right have grappled onto this issue, and they’re not letting go so easily. Why is the freedom of religion so important that we must pass further laws, when there’s already an amendment in the Constitution that guarantees free exercise of religion? Because this issue is not about “freedom.”
Conservatives, the ones crying about religious freedom, have often said that they believe that religious freedom only applies to Christians. Men like Bryan Fischer have stated over and over again that freedom of religion only (should) apply to Christians. All other groups have no such rights, by definition. They’ve also made the asinine claims that “freedom of religion if not freedom from religion.” In short, the issue in Indiana and elsewhere is not about freedom. It’s about the right to discriminate.
I realize I’m preaching to the choir for the most part, but I think the framing is important here. By calling these laws “religious freedom” laws, it gives a certain impression that freedom is under attack. Somehow, by allowing gay Americans to be treated equally, this is defined as attacking someone’s “religious belief” and that their religion gives them the freedom to discriminate against anyone they define as offensive to their belief.
Freedom is inverted here, and it only seems to apply for one religion (Christians) to dominate all others. Keep in mind, framing can be everything in a political debate. While Indiana has received tremendous backlash for their new law, the continued use of the term “religious freedom” to describe the law is unnecessary. That’s not what the law is about.
My home state of Louisiana is now taking up this same idea. It is receiving the same negative press. Yet, the religious right still pushes on. They will hang on to this until even time itself slips away, and they are left in the black abyss called “the past.” Because of this, they feel any tactic is necessary.
Remember, racists in the Civil Rights era believed that opposing integration could be defended on religious grounds, and many tried to. America must evolve today the way it did then. We should start by calling this what it is; freedom to discriminate.