By: Joshua Tijerina
Religious freedom is neither a conservative nor a Christian cause. It is a cause that all Americans can and must support.
Religious freedom has always been a major part of America’s foundation. Without religious freedom, the other freedoms we value also go by the wayside. Just look at countries that don’t have religious freedom – do they have free speech or freedom of the press?
The early European settlers came to this continent in search of religious freedom, and our founders, recognizing its importance, enshrined it as our first freedom to be enjoyed by all--no matter their creed. Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA) restore religious freedom to its intended application, as explained in depth here, from a supporter of same-sex marriage, no less.
So, if religious freedom is a staple of the American identity, and rational people, regardless of their view on same-sex marriage, understand it is of paramount import for a good and just society, why is everyone making such a big deal about recent RFRAs?
That’s a great question, and the answer is mainly misinformation. RFRA is not going to starve your children, create a religious state, or going to deny the LGBT basic rights and services. RFRA restores religious freedom - hence its very clear title. (RFRAs have been used to protect people of all faiths – here are some examples.) But don’t take my word for it. Listen to some rational voices from the LGBT community and its supporters:
- Andrew Koppleman wrote "I've been a gay rights advocate for more than 25 years. Here, for the first time, I make common cause with my longtime adversaries. I've worked very hard to create a regime in which it's safe to be gay. I'd also like that regime to be one that's safe for religious dissenters.”
- Daniel O. Conkle, professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, supports same-sex marriage . . . and RFRA. Conkle rightly states that RFRA "has little to do with same-sex marriage and everything to do with religious freedom."
- Douglas Laycock, Robert E. Scott Distinguished Professor of Law at University of Virginia School of Law, told Vox in an interview why he supports both RFRA and same-sex marriage: “I think it really is possible to protect liberty and justice for all here. I filed a brief in the marriage cases saying, ‘Protect marriage equality, and after you've done that, protect the religious liberty of churches and religious organizations and very small vendors in the wedding business.’ We can do that. We can be fair to both sides. But neither side seems much interested in it. They want to crush the other side.”
Several members of the LGBT community also support individuals who have had their religious freedom threatened:
Some of the top comments on a Facebook post of an interview with Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, were from individuals who identified as gay or lesbian offering their support for the owner who could not create flower arrangements for a same-sex ceremony. A few examples:
- “As a gay man this is amazing! What a beautiful woman! I don't care that she doesn't agree with my lifestyle . . . Not all people will. I won't force my homosexuality on others. She has the right to stand by her beliefs and the God she follows. That's what being free in this country means…”
- “As a gay person, I'd say 'Amen' to what she said. Liberty is powerful.”
- “I just want to start off my comment by saying that I am gay. But I absolutely support this woman. What they are doing to her is absolutely wrong.”
- “I'm gay and I agree with her 100%. She shouldn't be forced to support something she doesn't believe in.”
Kathy Trautvetter, who owns a t-shirt business with her same-sex partner, spoke out about the ADF case involving Blaine Adamson, owner of the promotional print company Hands on Originals. Adamson referred an order for t-shirts promoting a gay pride festival the messages that would have been printed on the shirts conflicted with his strongly held religious beliefs. Adamson was sued, even though the people making the request received the requested shirts from another company for free. Trautvetter stated, “When I read the story I immediately felt, ‘If I were in his shoes, what would they be forcing me to do?’ I have to say, if that were me I wouldn’t like it either.”
These members and supporters of the LGBT community are standing up for religious freedom because they understand its intrinsic value for America. Don’t buy into the hype of those that oppose it. Rational voices within the LGBT community, and all across America, agree that RFRAs are “something that all Americans can support.”
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