Religious freedom has been a hot topic in the news, especially following the Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states. I read an article the other day in which a government official said that forcing government employees to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples would violate the employees’ religious liberties if issuing such licenses conflicted with their religious values.
Religious freedom is an important topic, both historically and today. The men and women who founded the United States thought it was important enough to include religious freedom protections in the First Amendment. As a person of faith, I think it is important to protect our religious liberties.
But are there limitations to religious liberties? I think most people would say yes. For example, we don’t allow religious individuals to have multiple husbands or wives, or discriminate against racial/ethnic minorities.
So where do we draw the line with religious liberties? I think an analogy could be made with my right to throw a punch. I believe I should have the freedom to punch and flail my arms around as much as I choose. I should be allowed to do my Tae-Bo workout video all day if I choose to.
However, there is a limit to my punching liberties. My right to throw a punch ends where another person’s face begins. As soon as my punch connects with another person’s face, that’s the limit. My punching liberties are then hurting another person, and I don’t think that’s ok.
In a similar way, I think as a society we should make it a priority to preserve religious liberties, unless it hurts other people. I think discriminating against someone because of his or her sexual orientation falls under the definition of hurt.
That’s the difference, in my view, between the current situation of issuing marriage licenses and past religious liberty disagreements. Allowing a Native American person to smoke peyote as part of a religious ritual, or allowing a Muslim man to wear a beard in jail doesn’t harm anyone else. Allowing discrimination associated with ‘religious liberty’ is something different.
Let’s do our absolute best to preserve religious liberties. But let’s also make sure every person (religious and non-religious) has his or her rights also.
Discussion: What do you think about the limitations of religious liberties? Where do you draw the line?