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.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Nobody is more misinformed about Constitutional freedoms than the religious right and, well, basically the right at large. This is not hard to figure out, and most intelligent people not susceptible to evil and corrupt leaders like the clergy, right wing media and community peer pressure, particularly in small town America, understand completely why. There is a segment of human mentality that responds to the herd instinct, and they gravitate toward those with some leadership capabilities and a little charisma to tell them how to act, how to think, or not think as the case may be.
    Christianity is fond of the promise of “freedom” by “accepting Jesus” as a personal savior, which is about like asking Zeus to live inside you. It makes no sense whatsoever, the Jesus story being mythical, but it works because without any real hard proof of His existence beyond utilizing faith, the adherent can and does interpret the Gospels to fit whatever agenda they’re pursuing, or to hide behind when they’re committing acts of hatred.
    The early church and the Levant religions in whole were masterminded by political power figures who made mythology religion, compulsory and enforceable by death or genocide, thus instilling fear into a populace that, up until the Middle Ages in Europe and much of the mid-East were illiterates and had no real way to validate or refute what they were being told.
    It shows you how powerful the tool of fear and conformity is when those same ancient myths still hold peoples’ minds hostage after all this time despite the tons of research that have disproven so much of the Bible and its content that it’s ridiculous. These people do not understand freedom of religion also means freedom FROM religion. They’re lied to by their church leaders, assholes like David Barton and other fundamentalist cult leaders, and do not question what they’re being told.
    Indiana and Arkansas brought to the surface the hatred, hypocrisy and stupidity of the Christian cult in this country. Many right wingers want to make Christianity the state religion, and that would mean the end of the nation as we know it. We must never allow these very dangerous people ever impose their warped world view on us any more than they already have.

  2. I always explain it this way:

    It is against the Muslim and Jewish religion to eat pork. However, we’re all still allowed to buy bacon. I’m not Jewish or Muslim so I have no problem eating bacon and the government doesn’t feel the need to restrict my right to eat bacon.

    Is the fact that the government does not restrict me from eating bacon a violation of the religious rights of Jews and Muslims? Of course it isn’t. Nobody is violating their rights by not forcing everyone else to subscribe to their beliefs.

    However, if the government did restrict the sale of bacon to everyone just because it violated the religious beliefs of Jews and Muslims then that would be a restriction of my rights. That would be forcing the establishment religion on it’s citizens. This violates the first words of the first sentence of the first amendment.

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