Religious Discrimination?

I recently read an interesting comment about Proposition 8 apparently from a gay man:

As a gay man….none of my rights are being violated or taken away by prop.8! I already have “domestic partnership” rights! I do believe, however, that the rights of parents, and religion as a whole, are about to be disrupted and violated in a very profound way. The moral fabric of our society has been slowing eroded by liberal views over the years. If prop 8 fails to pass, in order to protect civil rights we will likely be forced to return to the courts for additional protections of religious rights. It’s not unreasonable to assume that failing to pass prop 8 presents real possibility for restrictions on religious freedoms. Same-sex marriage could lead to more widespread social acceptance of homosexuality that would create a polemic tension with religious groups whose negative attitudes towards homosexual behavior derives from faith in the divine inspiration of church leaders or traditional scripture. Their doctrines and institutions could more and more find themselves under the label of bigotry. And since members of religious institutions behaviors, practices, and even perceptions are framed within these doctrines, individuals will find their very conscience under siege. We may very well find ourselves in a situation where we must choose whether we would prefer religious discrimination over orientation discrimination!

When those who say that gay rights are a civil matter and not a religious one, they forget that most of our laws are based on morality. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a Utah Supreme Court Justice and U of Chicago Law professor, said the following when addressing BYU students in 1999, “[Some say] we should not legislate morality. Those who take this position should realize that the law of crimes legislates nothing but morality. Should we repeal all laws with a moral basis so our government will not punish any choices some persons consider immoral? Such an action would wipe out virtually all of the laws against crimes.”

I’m sad to see the world change so drastically in the last few years. The protests against LDS members in California are disheartening to say the least, but we have to remember that a vote is an opportunity to give your opinion, and everyone is entitled to one. Comparing lifestyle and behavior to skin color is disrespectful to those who’ve suffered centuries of hatred and bigotry simply because of their family tree. The experience of this LA Detective is insightful.


5 thoughts on “Religious Discrimination?

  1. Ryan,
    You’re one of the most authentically kind and generous-hearted people I know and I consider you a dear friend. But this is beneath you. You aren’t being persecuted. You aren’t suffering from bigotry. The Ryan I know is so much bigger than this. And frankly, so is the Church I grew up believing in.

    Your friend,

  2. I don’t think I’m being persecuted at all. I haven’t been persecuted once in my life and frankly I’m not concerned about whether or not I will be persecuted. I hate when people play the victim. I just think there’s a whole lot more to this than discrimination and civil rights.

    “The protests against LDS members in California are disheartening” not because we don’t deserve it—I think we totally asked for it—but because of how nasty it’s gotten. I’m sad to see the beloved temples with graffiti on them.

    I have good friends who are gay. I care for them. If this were about giving them rights to do whatever they want, I’m all for that. I’m more concerned about how it will affect religious freedom in the long run.

  3. I’m happy I misunderstood your comment about persecution. That seemed particularly un-Ryan to me.

    But still, it’s not clear how religious freedoms are being threatened, even eventually. Even in the fairly flimsy example of the Catholic adoption agency it’s not clear who’s religious rights were being violated. I think it’s just dandy if the Catholic church wants to restrict candidates for adoption to Catholic families using their adoption services. I believe it should, by and large, be totally acceptable in private practice to discriminate on any criteria, really. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. I want to know who wasn’t allowed to practice their religion in this particular case? The adopted child? The people working for the adoption service? How broadly can we possibly define religious practice? And isn’t that a bit of a slippery slope once you apply such a broad interpretation of religious freedom to areas that have nothing directly to do with one’s own personal expressions of faith? It feels very dangerous.

    In the document your encouraged me to re-read, the Church itself really only contends that the right to practice religion might be threatened if children are exposed to state-recognized homosexual relationships in their public education (I didn’t see anything about adoption). But this seems even less compelling to me. How is learning that same-sex marriage is recognized by the State a violation of religious freedom? Countries all over the world with practicing Mormons have countless governments (including our own) that have committed horrible atrocities and publicly declared them right and good. Who cares? We still have an obligation to teach our children what we believe is right. It simply isn’t and can’t be the role of the government.

    I really am genuinely struggling to understand how religious practice is restricted in any way when we allow others to practice theirs. I’m not talking about whether or not private institutions can discriminate, which seems a different matter all together even if the two often go hand in hand. But where’s the example where anything related to gay marriage has led to the government denying the faithful access to their place of worship or their sacraments or rites? Where’s the example of where anything related to gay marriage led the government to force a Church to marry people previously ineligible under their faith? Or change a creed to support an openness to homosexuality? Or revise sacred texts that describe marriage as a strictly man/woman thing? These represent the true spirit of religious freedom.

    I think I need to go to bed now!

  4. @jon
    I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. I think freedom of religion extends beyond your examples. You can see the book I wrote in my ‘Religious Nutjobs‘ post and comments for details. I believe the prophet is called of God and speaks for God. I’ll side with him.

  5. That’s a fair enough point of departure for the two of us. It occurs to me, though, that if religious freedom is granted such wide latitude in such a variety of settings to assert its freedom, homosexuals have just as much right to challenge for rights within those spaces as well.

    After all, I’m fairly certain even the Church has fairly withdrawn from any definitive argument that homosexuality is a conscious choice for individuals (even if the Church still asserts that celibacy or limited cases of recovery are preferable). Not that life is fair or anything, but clearly religion is much more of a choice than sexual preference.

    I guess if we’re drawing to a close on this argument I’d like to circle back to a couple statements I’ve made throughout these exchanges:

    I believe the Church and its members are well within their rights to vote for and express support Prop 8

    I believe it diminishes the Church to focus its energy and PR on a divisive and (to even many supporters of Prop 8 ) small issue when there are so many more important issues to mobilize the faithful around in public policy

    I believe that in most private practice and speaking broadly, discrimination against otherwise legal behaviors/beliefs should be allowed and possibly even protected

    While such discriminatory practice may be based on religious belief, it’s a very slippery slope to claim religious freedoms are being attacked or undermined, which isn’t to say that religious people don’t have the right to discriminate
    It occurs to me that arguments about religious freedom being limited by expanding rights with other groups is fairly reductionist and not meaningfully supported by history

    If religious freedom is defined in such broad terms that the right to discriminate against others (which I believe is acceptable but not under the umbrella of religious freedom) is more protected than for other reasons, then we’re all in more trouble than I thought! I shudder to think what kind of discrimination could be protected in the name of religion.

    Even if supporting Prop 8 isn’t particularly onerous, there are a lot of other religions out there that believe a lot of wacky stuff!

    Any way, I hope we have more opportunity to discuss.

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