The Fallacy of Religious Freedom Laws

101103_mike_pence_wave_ap_328Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) defended the religious freedom bill he signed last week, saying the growing outrage over the legislation stems from “… a tremendous amount of misinformation and misunderstanding.”

George Stephanopoulos, host of “This Week,” ended an interview with the governor by asking for a yes-or-no answer on whether it should be legal to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

You’re following the mantra of the last week online, and you’re trying to make this issue about something else,” Pence said. “What I am for is protecting … the religious liberty of Hoosiers.” Pence described the media coverage and opposition to the law as “shameless rhetoric,” saying it strengthens the foundation of First Amendment rights rather than discriminates.

Believe it or not, a federal version of the religious freedom law was enacted in 1993. However, dozens of states have passed their own versions, including one passed unanimously in Illinois when President Barack Obama was a state senator.

Supporters claim that for the florist who refuses to sell flowers for a gay wedding or a baker who won’t make a lesbian couple’s wedding cake, this law fends off lawsuits each business might face. Whereas civil liberties groups assert the law could be used by businesses to deny service to people based upon sexual orientation and religious belief.

The problem lay in the suggestion that both sides have valid arguments. They don’t. One side fights for equality and civil rights while the other creates pseudo bigotry to prevent the other from becoming reality. There really aren’t two acceptable stances on these issues for millions recognize what mainstream conservatism doesn’t – that God loves all.

The argument over what Pence signed is destined to become visceral, vitriolic, and ugly. Both sides dig in, because each thinks the other is flatly wrong — both in heart and fact. As the debate rages on, this will spiral to a place so far away from the law itself.

As a Buddhist, in general, Buddhism does not make a distinction between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships. Instead, the expectation is not to harm, exploit or manipulate others, which would directly violate the third precept, sexual misconduct. For instance, Zen Buddhists often refer to hedonism, ascetic masochism and prostitution as practices violating the “Middle Way.”

On another note, I didn’t know we needed to strengthen America’s First Amendment rights, for they seem pretty strong. But strange how some believe one amendment requires strengthening, while others, per se, such as gun control, gains nary a review.



Categories: Social Justice

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