Monday, July 27, 2015

The Slippery Slope of Religious Freedom Laws

In the wake of many recent events, the American public has initiated a discussion about religious freedom, particularly as the concept relates to business owners and the conduct thereof. That's what I'd like to talk about today.

In Indiana, there was a bill proposed called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would make it legal for business owners  to refuse service to anyone if serving them violated their 'sincerely held religious beliefs." Proponents of the bill stated that the bill was a response to religious liberty. It was about affording theistic business owners the right to practice their faiths, even during business transactions.

I call bullshit. Let's not kid ourselves here, the RFRA and other bills like it are not about liberty or freedom. It isn't about making Christian business owners feel comfortable. It's a thinly-veiled attempt to push discrimination against the LGBT community, pure and simple. This is a form of modern segregation, and nothing more.

And yet, many people, including those on the left, are in favor of such bills being made into laws. They support the right of private business to choose how they conduct said business, even if it means enforcing discriminatory policy. To them, it isn't a matter of bigotry. It's about workers' rights, apparently.

These people go on to claim that it's okay for bakeries to not serve gay couples, so long as there is a separate bakery where the couple can go to be served. That way, both the bigot and the couple can remain comfortable, having never crossed paths with one another in the first place. That would be fine, except for one small problem. Separate but equal is inherently unequal. We have already had this discussion. We ruled that, under the fourteenth amendment, segregation is unconstitutional. There. This discussion is over.

Wait, no it isn't. So-called pro-freedom individuals will say that we have to empathize with Christian business owners. After all, if you believe that serving a gay couple will result in you burning in Hell for eternity, then isn't it wise to not serve that couple? Again, it's about the feelings of the business owners.

But that's a slippery slope. The irony of me invoking this argument is not lost on me, but I feel it makes sense in this context. If Christian bakers can refuse service to business owners based on their feelings about Hell, what's stopping Christian landlords from doing so? There are many states where it is completely legal to fire someone for being gay. This is again based on the feeling of the business owner. The point is, should laws like these become the norm, you will eventually see gay people being turned away from vital services, such as, again, housing. The RFRA sets a very dangerous precedent.

 If the goal of the RFRA is to prevent the eternal torture of a significant subset of the population, then by all means, sign it into law immediately. I might disagree with your views, but I certainly don't condone torture. But here's the problem with that line of reasoning. Nobody fucking knows what happens after we die. Many of us like to pretend we do, but at the end of the day, we have no clue. At a certain point, we're going to have to be pragmatic and make decisions based on the here and now, instead of some hypothetical scenario that, in all likelihood, will probably never come to pass.

Just something to think about.

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