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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Let's Stop This Distortion Of "Freedom of Religion"

Category: Gay Rights
Posted: 08/30/14 00:11, Edited: 08/30/14 00:12

by Dave Mindeman

Christians have taken the idea of religious freedom way to far....

A Christian couple fined $13,000 for refusing to host a lesbian wedding on their New York farm has decided to close the venue rather than violate their religious beliefs. Cynthia and Robert Gifford decided not to host ceremonies anymore, other than those already scheduled, Alliance Defending Freedom attorney James Trainor told The Blaze. "Since the order essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions, even though it will likely hurt their business in the short run," he said.

If you think this Christian couple have been wronged, I want you to think about a few things.

First of all, how were the Giffords prevented from exercising their own personal right to practice their religion? Were they stopped from going to church? Were any of their beliefs questioned? Were any of their own personal religious practices obstructed in any way?

Secondly, how were their beliefs violated? Obviously, they think that a gay wedding is not something they think their beliefs condone. OK. Were either of them or any of their family members involved in the wedding? No. Were they forced to personally recognize the wedding as legitimate? No. All they were doing is hosting the venue. What happens at the venue after they have been paid for its rental is really none of their business.

The Giffords business has them hosting weddings. They do not perform the ceremony. They don't have to even like the people getting married. And if they are going to run a business open to the general public, then they cannot discriminate against the people who pay them for its use.

This did not violate any of their religious beliefs - it only violated their prejudice. And apparently, they believe that their religion allows them to be prejudiced.

My guess is that they have people use their venue for getting married who have differing religious views all the time. They probably have secular ceremonies as well. But what they are essentially telling us is that their religious belief allows them to discriminate based on their own personal idea of who they think should be allowed to be married.

That is simply bigotry. And certainly not the free exercise of religion.

If they want to shut down their business so that they don't have to allow their venue to be used for gay marriages, fine. That is their right and under the circumstances, probably the best course of action.

But if they believe they were treated unfairly, then they are also wrong.
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A New Front In The Church vs. State Political Wars

Category: Gay Rights
Posted: 07/03/14 00:21

by Dave Mindeman

The Supreme Court has clearly stepped in it with the Hobby Lobby ruling. And, in some respects, the "Fab Five" Justices know it because they made a half hearted attempt at leveling off the slippery slope.

Justice Alito's majority opinion tried to define arbitrary lines such as the ruling's application to only "closely held corporations"....

Has more than 50% of the value of its outstanding stock owned (directly or indirectly) by 5 or fewer individuals at any time during the last half of the tax year; and is not a personal service corporation.

Which is the vast majority of corporations, of course, but it still is a rule that the court felt obligated to define.

But the real dangerous element comes from this (again Alito)....

This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer's religious beliefs. Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice.

Let's focus on that last line. "Illegal discrimination as a religious practice." This, at least has the appearance, of the court warning about using religious freedoms as a method for discriminatory hiring practices. They are trying to say - do not do that.

And for "protected" classes, this is true. But guess what....

As Jonathan Capehart points out:

After all, sexual orientation is not a protected class or characteristic like race is under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Nor was it unwise to fear that employers would try to deny LGBT workers coverage for, say, HIV medication or hormone replacement therapy for transgender men and women.

Discrimination is a problem in this country and all too often its root cause comes from religion.

Freedom of religion applies to individuals. Individuals can practice their religion and for the most part not harm others. But the Supreme Court classifies corporations as "persons", although Ruth Bader Ginsburg points out, in her brilliant dissent, they are legal constructs - not people.

Giving a corporation a religious freedom protection is a bridge that the Supreme Court should not have crossed. But they have and the discrimination that stems from religion now has a new door opening up.

A new front in the religious/political morass will be wafting its way through the court system.

The LGBT community may have a new war to fight....and we can thank the Supreme Court for adding its blessing to the conflict.
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Marriage Equality: In A Few Years It Will Be What Were We Doing?

Category: Gay Rights
Posted: 05/24/14 12:15, Edited: 05/24/14 12:16

by Dave Mindeman

The wave of court rulings that strike down state gay marriage bans has put the social conservatives into a tight box. Pennsyvania's Governor Corbett has stated that he will not appeal the court ruling that struck down that state's ban - effectively making gay marriage legal in Pennsylvania.

The political rhetoric has shifted on gay marriage and the social conservatives are left standing by themselves. They still have token GOP support, but it has reached the lukewarm stage.

Minnesota legalized same sex marriage a year ago and what has really changed? Gay couples are happy. Opponents of same sex marriage are still unhappy. But there have been no problems with marriage itself. Heterosexual couples noticed no differences. Churches are not forced into doing something they do not want to do. The sky did not fall.

The Republican Party took the wrong side. They left their "freedom" principle on the shelf and sided with discrimination. They still give lip service to the anti crowd, but only in very select venues. As a public topic, the tone is more tempered or does not exist.

The idea that we should deny marriage rights to a select group of individuals was a fool's errand. It could not stand up to the test of full public scrutiny. The courts see it clearly and the public is shifting rapidly. Even in the Republican Party itself there is an unmistakable statistic that portends the future:

...among 18- to 29-year-old GOP voters, 61 percent support letting gays and lesbians marry, according to a March 2014 Pew poll.

A few years from now we will look back on this part of political history and wonder how there could have been so much contention on this issue. The answer to that continues to be the determination of some to mix morality and public policy. Religious values are personal and will be respected if kept personal. Imposing your own values on others has no place in a democratic society.
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