The Walkerville Weekly Reader

National Desk: Hard-hitting journalism from your completely un-biased (pinky swear!) reporters in Walkerville, VA.

Walkerville, VA
Monday, September 18, 2017
Carolyn Purcell, Editor

Is religious freedom a license to discriminate?

The Reader is proud to offer space for this guest editorial to the American Civil Liberties Union. We prove our dedication to tolerance whenever we fight religious extremism.

Edward N. Trifonov, refuseniks and Andrei Sakharov

Extremist religious ‘refuseniks’ must acknowledge the errors in their belief systems before they are allowed freedom.

Religious freedom is fundamental to American life. The principal that each and every person in our country has the right to his or her own beliefs is enshrined in our constitution. Our country was founded on the principle that the separation of church and state must never be violated.

I am outraged that powerful forces in our society are working to redefine religious freedom as the freedom to impose their own beliefs on the rest of us when we visit their churches, businesses, and homes. This is a complete distortion of one of America’s founding principles. National legislation is required to combat this perversion of American values.

Religious freedom must never be used as an excuse to discriminate against behaviors in church halls that the churchman opposes, or behaviors in businesses that the businessman doesn’t support, or behaviors in homes that makes the homeowner uncomfortable.

A woman goes to buy birth control at a pharmacy that doesn’t carry it… a middle-school teacher at a religious school is fired because she became pregnant while unmarried and the school doesn’t want their fourth graders thinking that’s okay behavior… a counseling graduate student doesn’t feel she can appropriately counsel a gay man about his relationship, so she refers him to another counselor…

Bridal salon owners, photographers, and churches, refuse to take part in gay marriages—and the law does not yet force them to.

These situations have a common—and very dangerous—thread. Each of them is an example of Christians refusing to associate with people based solely on behavior they find to be immoral. And a government that refuses to convince them of their errors.

For most Americans, religious freedom means that each of us is free to do what we want, where we want, safe from consequences.

But powerful forces in our country now claim that religious freedom means they are free to refuse to allow immoral behavior in their churches, their schools, their businesses, and their homes.

They want to turn America’s freedom on its head, to create of whole cloth a freedom to mind their own business—literally—and be left alone while they leave other people alone. This is all part of a nation-wide religious refusal movement—built around the notion that individuals and businesses can refuse to engage in behavior against their religious beliefs.

The time to stop them is now, and the organization that can do it is the ACLU. We are asking all of our members, and everyone reading this, to sign our “I Believe in Religious Freedom” pledge, and pledge that “My right to throw a punch does not end at religious noses.”

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