By now, I don’t think it’s really necessary to rehash the details of the so-called “religious freedom” laws passed over the last month. If you haven’t heard about them or what they entail, then a quick Google search should do the trick. As a quick summation, multiple states, most notably Indiana, recently enacted legislation that is supposed to make it easier for people and corporations to use religious beliefs as legal defenses. On the surface, this sounds harmless enough, since our country is supposed to be one centered on freedom, including the right to practice whatever religion you desire and not be encroached upon by the state. However, as is typical in the American political scene, prying underneath the surface reveals a startling reality about these laws.
Before delving deeper into the intent of religious freedom laws, one must ponder what religious freedom really means. For myself, it just means that my religion is my choice and that I cannot force it upon other people.
Seems simple enough, right? However, for certain political figures (I’m doing my best to leave party out of this), religion has a direct influence on how businesses decide to best serve their customers. For example, imagine a restaurant run by individuals whose religious beliefs do not permit homosexuality. Now consider the restaurant owner being so adamant in his or her beliefs that he or she refuses to serve a homosexual couple. I’d argue that this is not a stretch of the imagination, but rather a very likely reality in places with the new law.
If the aforementioned homosexual couple files a lawsuit against the business that basically discriminated against them, they will find it very difficult to win if the business cites religious freedom as the reason for refusing service. Now, I am not arguing that the law is against the Constitution or legally wrong. Rather, the religious freedom laws are morally flawed in such a way that they foster a culture of discrimination. Not only homosexual but also bisexual and transgender individuals could find themselves marginalized by businesses due to this new law.
This is absolutely outrageous. It’s 2015. You would think that as a society we would be above this kind of discrimination. It disgusts me beyond belief that there are still people out there who think it is okay to treat someone differently because of who they choose to love.
I certainly hope that these laws are not indicative of a pattern in our society, and hopefully public opinion will soon swing far enough against them that they will become nothing more than a smudge in the history of our collective march toward equal rights for all.