What does it mean to be free in America? I believe it means that in the United States of America, no citizen will be denied services, opportunities, benefits, goods, transactions, acquisitions, access or mobility on the basis of their race, creed (religion), color, or gender. In fact, if there were distinctions to determine the extent of such rights, based on any physical or spiritual difference, then “American Freedom” would become meaningless.
This is not a state to state issue, either. There cannot be one definition for the qualifications of civil rights in one state that differs from another. American citizens can pass freely with a full complement of rights and expect the full protection of federal law. How could that be argued?
Yet it is. It is in legislation that is being re-introduced by Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. And with a supportive Republican Congress and the blessings of President Trump, the First Amendment Defense Act could pass.
The First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) may very well be the most frightening oxymoron of all time. Its “defense” of the First Amendment quite literally offends the First Amendment. Specifically, FADA would prohibit the federal government from taking “discriminatory action” against any business or person that discriminates against LGBTQ people. The act creates the right to refuse service to LGBTQ people based on two sets of beliefs: “(1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, and (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
The bill positions the right to discriminate against one class of Americans as a “first amendment” right, and bans the government from taking any form of action to curb such discrimination. The irony is that FADA allows individuals and businesses to sue the federal government for interfering in their right to discriminate.
Many people (some are reading this) believe that Religious Liberty is at stake here and that it is logical to allow people, and businesses, to follow their beliefs, even if those beliefs contain discrimination against a group of people. But there is an ill-logic at the root of that reasoning; that being the First Amendment disallows state dominance of one religion over another and it allows for the interpretation of religion.
No one here will (nor should they) argue that a Christian baker shouldn’t bake a cake for a Jewish wedding, even though there is a fundamental religious difference; Ephesians reveals that earthly marriages are a picture of the church’s union with Christ. Christ is the Messiah in Christianity, in Judaism, He is not, but if the denial of services was acted upon, due to such religious differences, then our First Amendment has been directly violated. FADA would have protected the crime, not the amendment.
“The free exercise of religion” outlined in the First Amendment does not mean the free exercise to impose one set of religious beliefs upon another, or onto non-believers, as well. That is the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech. If a person is gay and they are religious and have their beliefs (which likely include that they are acceptable human beings entitled to full civil rights), should they be denied service at a business within a country predicated on equal rights?
Makes no sense.
“How can a gay person be religious?” I’m sure someone just asked. Well, I know of many. I’m not gay, but I have religious beliefs and I recognize the rights of the LGBTQ community. How is the First Amendment defended if my beliefs can be arbitrarily discriminated against?
Makes no sense.
The First Amendment was based on Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute. In it he states:
“Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right.”
In summation: We have the right to fully live and express our religious views- right up to the point when they interfere with the civil rights of others. In America that means that every citizen can expect to receive service without regard to the nature of their beliefs or their being. FADA would erase Jefferson’s clear directive.
Let’s see…the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson or Ted Cruz…I’m going with Tom on this one.