Should the government fight “discrimination” by forcing private businesses to relinquish religious freedoms?
No. In fact, the only reason this is even a complex issue is because the liberalization of American society has allowed many to hold Constitutional rights under an allegedly “more civilized” and “modern” lens of discernment. The argument is that the founding fathers didn’t know how to handle a world as diverse and inclusive as ours. They claim that religious freedoms cannot supersede our 21st century sensibilities.
Actually, yes they can. They absolutely can and should. This isn’t the only issue for which this applies, but it’s a hot topic today and will continue to be one for the foreseeable future. To understand the core of this issue, we have to look at a pair of misunderstandings.
The separation of church of state is often misunderstood. The concept was intended to be a two-way street with the primary goal of protecting religious freedoms FROM the government, not the other way around.
Discrimination is the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on grounds of race, age, or sex. This is where the lines are blurred and it will be a primary goal of this party to delineate how to properly classify the two categories of discrimination. One is discrimination by absolutes. The other is discrimination by selection.
Race, age, and sex are absolutes. We live our lives with these absolutes in place and, with the exception of sex, we will die under the binds of these absolutes. Sex is the only murky absolute as some hold that sex can be changed through surgery and others hold to our birth sex as unchangeable. That segment of the discussion is an issue to cover at another time.
Selections, or lifestyle choices, are not absolute. They are based upon decisions that we make in our lives which can be changed with varying degrees of effort. Gender-identity, marital preference, political stance, and an endless list of other selections define who we choose to be as individuals.
With discrimination of absolutes, there are only isolated circumstances when they should not be fought. When those absolutes define an organization, “discrimination” is acceptable. For example, if the NAACP chose to not hire a Caucasian for a certain job, they should be granted that exception.
Discrimination by selection should also be fought in certain circumstances. Employers should not be able to discriminate against protected selections. If a gay person wanted to work at a bakery and had the proper qualifications, they should be allowed to work there. This might sound counter-intuitive to the argument for religious liberties, but it’s not. The operations of a business are different from the actions performed within them. Understanding this fully would take more fleshing out. Let’s use the common example of a bakery owned and operated by Christians. They can have rules in place that protect them from actions, but those rules cannot be translated into discrimination of an individual. For example, they can prohibit public political discussions and declare that politically polarizing shirts are not to be warn, but they can’t make hiring decisions based upon the selections a potential employee has made as it pertains to politics. In other words, they can prevent them from wearing a pro-Hillary shirt at work, but they can’t choose to not hire them because they’re a Democrat.
Religion was specifically protected in the 1st Amendment because it is the one item that falls in the middle between absolutes and selections. It is both. As such, the operation of a private business should be able to practice religious liberties in their operations without allowing discrimination in their practices. A practice would be hiring, for example. They could not discriminate against an atheist who wanted to work there, but they could prohibit religious speech or even prayers on the premises. This upsets many, particularly conservatives, but if we are to allow a business to express the owners’ religious views, we must also be willing to allow them to not express religious views. You can’t have one without the other.
Operations, on the other hand, must be protected under the 1st Amendment. It is not discrimination if a private business has as an operational principle that they will not oppose their religious beliefs through their products or services. If a Christian or Muslim baker does not want to bake a cake for a gay wedding, they cannot be forced to do so. Perhaps a better example of this would be a Muslim artist. If an atheist wants to hire a Muslim artist to draw an image of Muhammad carrying a Star of David, is the artist practicing discrimination by declining? Would the ACLU take him to court and force him to chose between breaking from his religious views or shutting down his business?
Let’s look at another example that would hit closer to home for liberals. Would there be outrage against a gay baker who refused to make a cake that quoted Leviticus 18:22? There would be outrage, but not against the baker. The outrage would be directed at the person asking for the cake to be made.
The bottom line is this: as Constitutional conservatives, we cannot look at the war waged against religious liberties in the relativistic light that is being shone from every side. Politicians on both sides are lining up. Democrats are trying to place personal selections on a higher plane than the 1st Amendment. Many Republicans are going with the argument of “do it and then say a prayer for them when they leave.” Libertarians are calling for bakers to just bake the cake regardless of their religious views.
The line was drawn by our founding fathers for a reason. Those reasons are no different today. Our “more civilized” and inclusive society still faces the same consequences if we abandon religious liberties. We must hold this line.