When do we start punishing people for defying the law for the sake of their “religious freedom” – especially when sympathetic politicians actually create and pass laws that are themselves illegal, and enable this illegal activity?
Most people’s understanding of the First Amendment might give them pause when answering this question, so let’s discuss it.
North Carolina has just passed a sweeping piece of anti-LGBT legislation that will allow for businesses to discriminate against members of the LGBT community on the basis of sexual orientation for the sake of protecting “religious freedom.”
Without sifting through the legislation itself, we know at least one citation will be the 1st Amendment of the Constitution, which clearly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof[…]” which seems pretty definitive, right?
Weeeeelllll….. *deep breath*
The Supreme Court has made gay marriage legal in all 50 states, not to mention that it has already made landmark rulings on the interpretation of the “free exercise” clause of the First Amendment. Anti-discrimination laws already exist with the intention of preventing unfair treatment on the basis of sexual orientation. Christians are already not forced to engage in homosexual behaviour (obviously), nor are they forced to work in industries that punish discriminatory behaviour according to the law (i.e., the clergy) … Of course, the scarcity of available positions in said non-regulated industries would explain why they don’t all choose this option, but the point remains valid.
Furthermore, no one is forcing them to live in a country whose laws are so tolerant, and I don’t like getting so close to the “IF YOU DON’T LOVE ‘MERICA, THEN YOU CAN GIT OUT!” argument, but the point is also undeniably valid in this context nonetheless.
And according to the text of the 14th Amendment (which… I’m not CERTAIN but I’m PRETTY SURE is just as significant at the 1st Amendment), “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
I know that’s a lot of words, but it basically means: the law is the law, it applies to every citizen, and you either have to follow it or risk violating the Constitution.
So: alternatives, disincentives, and escape routes exist – all supporting the concept that 1) the relevant laws we have are extant & binding and 2) you can either put up with them, or find a legal way to avoid being impacted by them at all.
But that’s not what people like Hobby Lobby, Chick-fil-A, Kim Davis, that asshole bakery, the North Carolina State Legislature, etc. want to do. Clearly.
No, they want to live in a world where the 14th Amendment is subordinate to a choice interpretation of one section of the 1st.
That way, they can continue to justify their hatred by passing brazenly illegal laws.
So I’ll repeat the question: When do we start punishing people for defying the law for the sake of their “religious freedom” – especially when sympathetic politicians actually create and pass laws that are themselves illegal, and enable this illegal activity?
I don’t want to live in a country where people can’t practice their religions freely; but I also don’t want to live in a country where the “free practice of religion” is actually code for “an excuse to violate the freedoms of others.”
Not when Justice has already spoken so loudly and clearly.
– THE DUEL CITIZEN