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Friday, November 4, 2016

On Religious Liberty And Religious Myopia

John Stonestreet (click here for bio) has just written an article for CNS on religious liberty and limited government. His concern is that both are vanishing and they are interrelated (click here for the article). Religious liberty, according to Stonestreet, limits our government in terms of what it can demand from us. And now, that liberty is being sorely tested in a number of areas from Christian pharmacists being required to carry abortifacients to Christian counselors being told that they must help same-sex couple prepare for marriage to Christian pregnancy centers being required to share information on abortion centers to Christian business owners being forced to provide goods and services to same-sex weddings to county clerks who were told to provide marriage applications to same-sex couples.. According to Stonestreet, the consciences of many a Christian worker are bullied by government. And the reason, according to Stonestreet, is because many do not understand religious liberty.

In all of this, there are things missing from Stonestreet's discussion. One of the things missing is that any consideration on religious liberty should be taken on an instance by instance basis. For it seems that according to Stonestreet, all of these individual instances are wrongful violations of religious liberty.

What is also missing from Stonestreet's discussion are past instances where religious liberty was used to defend abusive and discriminatory actions. For example, the discrimination that was prevalent during the Jim Crow era was defended by some on the basis people's Christian and Biblical beliefs. Here we might want to check what kind of parallels exist between the prejudice that was on display against Blacks during Jim Crow and any possible prejudice that religiously conservative Christians may want to exhibit today against those in the LGBT community.

What is also missing is any mention of the effects that the insistence on religious liberties will have on the rights, including religious rights, of other such as those from the LGBT community. There is no mention that what is often viewed as a infringement on the religious rights of Christians in this post Obergefell v. Hodges decision are possible collision of rights between religiously conservative Christians and those from the LGBT community. For when comes to these issues over Christians having their religious liberties being infringed on, in most cases it is due to their being involved with either those from the LGBT community or their events like wedding ceremonies. Likewise, when it it comes to Christian pharmacies providing abortifacients, we need to consider whether their claimed right not to provide them collides with the rights of those seeking such medicine.

Also what is not mentioned in Stonestreet's article is any mention about a broader context in which these possible infringements on religious liberties take place. These take place in a Capitalists economic system where the provisions of goods and services are provided by the private sector. That means that if the private sector denies goods and services to a group, that group is deprived of those goods and services. And that can happen because if one provider can legally prohibit providing goods and services to a group, then the potential is there for others from the private sector to also deny that group goods and services. And thus members from that group can suffer from a partial or even full deprivation of goods and services depending on their location.

What is also missing from Stonestreet's article here are the past concerns expressed by some religiously conservative Christians over homosexuality and same-sex marriage. In short, one of the fears is that homosexuality will be viewed in society as being normal (click here and there). What is rarely mentioned but strongly implied then is that many religiously conservative Christians want society to view homosexuality as abnormal and deviant. Some appeal to natural law in making their argument. But there is a problem with such an appeal. That problem is that homosexuality is practiced in 1,500 species (click here).

What is finally not mentioned, especially with regard to the LGBT community, is that we see a pendulum swing in the direction of favoring LGBT rights over religious rights. And how far that pendulum swing goes depends on how far religiously conservative Christians pushed the pendulum when it was in their favor. And it was in their favor for centuries in this nation against recognizing the rights of the LGBT community including the criminalizing homosexual acts.

This article is not saying that there are no current infringements on religious liberties today. Logically speaking, the prohibition to same-sex marriage based on Christian theology was an infringement on the religious liberties of those who did not agree with that theology. And there have been infringements on the religious liberties of religiously conservative Christians such as those who have been dismissed from their jobs for stating their convictions even though their statements had nothing to do with their job performances. 

As for the rest the alleged instances of religious liberties being violated, we need to judge them on a case by case basis. But we need to do so from a much broader context than what Stonestreet has worked with here. For what Stonestreet has done is to talk about religious liberties only from the perspective of religiously conservative Christians. He has failed to mention other issues and concerns such as the ones that have been mentioned here.





And it seems that what has caused the controversy of religious liberty is the legalization of same-sex marriage.

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