In certain states, that extra order of bacon may not be the only reason you feel scrutinized when sitting down for breakfast. The lines between Church and State are yet again blending as the push for individual states rights are gaining momentum. The initiatives to protect religious freedom would uphold such standings as restaurant owners being able to deny service to homosexual customers; protect people against certain litigation and free citizens from outlined restriction, all where religious reasons are noted. Although the controversial Arizona bill was vetoed on February 26th, at press time several states had their own versions on the legislative floor schedule.
Around the country, the supposed “Freedom of Religion” movement is gaining momentum quickly. For every bill that is vetoed, another version of it seems to be in the works, picking up where its predecessor failed. States such as Idaho (with bills HB426 and HB427), Missouri (with SB916), Oregon, South Dakota and Kansas are weighing out the possibilities of extending what religious freedom entails. Religious conservatives are already out in droves defending the push, urging the public that these acts protect all citizens. Attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom’s Kellie Fiedorek reaffirmed this idea to Fox News, stating:
‘“This bill has nothing to do with discrimination. It’s protecting basic freedoms that belong to everyone,” she said, explaining that it would protect a gay photographer’s decision not to work for Westboro Baptist Church, or Muslims who don’t want to sell “pork sandwiches on a Saturday.”’
Unfortunately for those in favor of the Freedom of Religion movement, those simple comparisons cannot be made to fit human behavior. The ceasing sale of a menu item is not the same as being refused service because of who you to choose to love. A photographer can put down a camera when he does not like the vision through the lens easier than a person can separate from who they were born as. I was able to sit down with seasoned LGBT Activist Curt Friehs and he suggested that the veil of religious freedom covers an ulterior agenda.
“The Push behind this Freedom of Religion movement seems to be a reaction to the recent successes in the LGBT community for marriage equality.”
Friehs went on to echo the concerns of many other community members noting that the continuation toward this type of legislature could very well prove dangerous. In a moment of levity, we hypothetically pondered whether or not opposite sex chaperons would need to accompany large same sex groups if they were to attempt a ladies/guys night out in the areas where these divisive bills would pass. And how would one regulate the homosexuals from the heterosexuals? Would there be special seating for Bisexuals? Transexuals? Those who merely experimented in college? These reasonable questions attach a preposterous appearance to these bills but when focused on, the reality of what some lawmakers are pushing is quickly sobering.
However, one aspect that many of the movement’s opponents will concede as a grey area is the question of free speech. For example, if a caterer denying servicing a reception for a homosexual couple is deemed a civil rights violation, would a tattoo artist denying the inking of wedding bands on said homosexual couple differentiate? As that tattoo artist’s work is protected under the first amendment, where the caterer’s work is not. This sort of balancing act produces a tight rope many that lawmakers are finding difficult to walk.
As often as the battle between church and state rages on — whether it be regarding prayer in school, the presence of God on currency or his omission during the Pledge of Allegiance — one thing is clear: religion shouldn’t interfere with our country’s growth from it’s devastating past regarding civil rights issues. Basic human rights have to trump religious freedom when religious freedom is urging segregation. We all know the cliché that America is a melting pot and upon living here we figuratively sign up to jump into the mix. At some point if one’s religion is that restrictive, the burden should fall upon the individual, as long as their practices aren’t being physically halted.
The undeniably un-American tone of this movement may currently seem worlds away from us in the progressive democratic state of New York but, the beginning of much injustice began with intelligent people simply turning a blind eye.