The Religious Freedom Bill’s name is tremendously misleading. The proposed legislation sounds like a progressive bill that will protect religious rights from the first amendment of the United States Constitution. But, upon closer examination, it is obvious that the phrase “religious freedom” is used euphemistically to legalize discrimination.
Different forms of the Religious Freedom Bill were drafted in several states with the same goal: to “protect the right” of religious individuals to deny services to those that conflict with their beliefs, primarily the LGBTQ community. Unfortunately, these bills are completely constitutional. Although 21 states, primarily the more liberal ones, have passed legislation that prevents anti-gay discrimination, this is not mandated by the Constitution. The protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation, or lack thereof, is, therefore, decided by state legislation.
This should not be the case; the Civil Rights Act, federal legislation that prevents discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, or sex nationwide, should be expanded to prevent the legalization of discrimination based on sexuality.
50 years ago, the United States passed the Civil Rights Act, abolishing the Jim Crow laws after almost a century of segregation and discrimination based on race. Instead of learning from our mistakes and moving towards expanding equality to all marginalized groups, history is repeating itself through the Religious Freedom Bill.
Those who drafted and support the bill feel that they are the ones who need protection because their beliefs are challenged when someone who even seems possibly homosexual harmlessly enters their restaurant and orders a milkshake. However, these beliefs are homophobic, not religious. Religion does not condone discrimination.
Nowhere in the bible does it say that a true Christian must refuse to serve a “sinner”. In fact, the bible promotes values like love, respect and tolerance and condemns those who spitefully judge others based on their sins.
Even this wasn’t the case, is there anyone who would be pious and pure enough to be assisted at a store or served at a restaurant? Unless the intention is to only deny services to those who are presumed gay, divorcees, single mothers, those with tattoos, and even those who tell the occasional white lie would be rejected as well.
The freedom of religion clause in the first amendment was intended to protect the diversity of religions that existed in the thirteen colonies. It is supposed to promote a tolerance of and coexistence between different beliefs in the melting pot that is the United States. Abusing the first amendment to further alienate a marginalized goes completely against the founding father’s intentions when they ratified the Constitution.
Fortunately, the Religious Freedom Bill was shut down in every state where it was proposed except Mississippi, where it is being reworded and will return to the state legislators. However, the bill can and will reemerge later unless the federal government makes discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal. The federal government should pass legislation that protects the rights of the LGBTQ community and prevents bills like the
Religious Freedom Bill from ever becoming law.