A Quick Explanation of “Religious Freedom” for These Conservatives Who Seem Unable to Understand What it Means

palin-cruz-bachmannWhile Arizona made headlines with its anti-LGBT bill that was passed by the state legislature (but ultimately vetoed by Governor Brewer) several other states have proposed similar types of legislation.

Conservatives who support these bills are masking them with the defense of “religious freedom,” while anyone with even a shred of common sense knows that’s complete garbage.

Just as conservatives didn’t seem to understand what “freedom of speech” meant during the Duck Dynasty/Phil Robertson controversy a couple of months back, they also don’t seem to understand what “freedom of religion” means.

Freedom of religion, as per our First Amendment, gives a private citizen the right to practice whatever religion they like during their personal time.  If someone wants to attend church 7 days a week, read the Bible every single day, pray at every meal and send their kids to a religious school – they’re absolutely free to do so!

However, a business is not allowed the freedom of religion.  While an individual might have a friend come over and pay them $5 per hour to do some work around their house, a business is required to adhere to certain labor laws which mandate that they pay workers a minimum of $7.25 per hour.

See, when you decide to open a business, your business doesn’t operate under the same Constitutional protections that an individual has.

As an individual, you can hang a Nazi flag inside your home and never once associate with someone who’s of a different race than you are.  But as a business, to discriminate against a customer based on race is illegal.

And don’t give me this, “Well, the Bible says homosexuality is wrong so it’s different than race” nonsense.  Decades ago, people argued “religious rights” when they were trying to segregate the races and keep interracial marriage illegal.  So yes, religion has been used to validate racism just as it’s being used to try to validate discrimination against homosexuals.

So let’s run through this one more time.  As an individual, someone can be as religious, sexist, racist or as hateful as they want to be in their homes and their private lives.  If all an individual wants to do is associate with straight, white Christians – that’s 100% legal.

But if someone wants to operate a business, they must operate that business within the confines of the law.  And guess what?  Laws prohibit discrimination.

Another quick example before I wrap this up.  Say a photographer opposes interracial marriage, therefore tells an interracial couple that they refuse to work their wedding based on their religious beliefs that the “mixing of the races is wrong.”  Is that illegal?  Yes.  Because a business cannot discriminate.

Simply replacing “interracial” with “homosexual” doesn’t suddenly make that discrimination legal.  Which is what these “religious freedom” bills are seeking to do – legalize homosexual discrimination.

Again, it’s real simple.  As an individual, you’re afforded all the religious freedom you want and you can personally discriminate as much as your ignorant heart would like.  As a business, you’re not allowed to discriminate – period. 

And yes, it’s really that simple.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


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