Now that Labor Day Weekend and its cookouts, family time, and football are behind us, let’s have a relaxing conversation about politics and religion.
The national and local debate continues over religious liberty and civil rights in a pluralistic society. For many months, the focus has centered on whether business owners such as bakeries, florists, and photographers should be required to provide goods or services for same sex marriage ceremonies if it conflicts with their religious beliefs. Now, we have a Kentucky Court Clerk being locked up for contempt of court for refusing to issue a marriage license to a same sex couple. In Tennessee, a trial judge refused to grant a divorce to a straight couple because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Same Sex Marriage. (Yeah, you read it right. Go figure.) In Alabama, a state Supreme Court justice has bluntly declared that the U.S. Supreme Court has made it easier for Christians to be persecuted.
Meanwhile in Georgia, there is an objection to a Villa Rica football coach being baptized with some of his players before practice, and in Laurens County, a high school marching band is in hot water for playing Amazing Grace. Over at UGA, there is an objection to the Bulldogs football team having an unpaid chaplain. (Personally, I will take all the help we can get to get past South Carolina, Auburn, and Alabama.)
On our state legislative front, a Georgia State Senator is accusing “far left, liberal” business leaders in our state of blocking a Georgia version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) from passage. (After watching the video of his speech I half expected to learn that Georgia CEOs were all joining Bernie Sanders finance committee.) A prominent Atlanta radio commentator in colorful language earlier this year accused Georgia’s legislative leadership of kowtowing to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce on the same issue. (Check it out. The analogy includes a monkey and a banana colored G-string.) Meanwhile, opponents of a Georgia RFRA bill claim that it is nothing more than a thinly veiled attack on the LGBT community while a conservative Atlanta newspaper columnist spent his column this past weekend informing readers that a Georgia RFRA really won’t do what many proponents want or opponents fear.
Activists and advocates on both sides of the recent public debates on these issues carefully cling to generalities speaking of “protecting religious freedom” or “opposing discrimination.” When forced, however, these folks will usually begrudgingly add “but . . . .” For each of them – as with most of the rest of us to be honest –their true meaning when they use these phrases comes after they say “but.”
Therefore, let’s for a moment on this blog put aside the generalities and focus here on what specific real life situations each of us want to allow or prevent when we speak of opposing discrimination and/or supporting religious freedom. For instance, should a government employee be able to defy any law for religious reasons? Should a private business be required to provide goods or services to an event they oppose on religious grounds? If so, should religious freedom also be allowed to be grounds for discriminating against someone because of their race, religion, national origin or sexual orientation in other areas such as employment, housing, or other kinds of public accommodations? If not, what additional protections, if any, should the state created by law? When and how should religious activities be allowed in public schools or on public grounds? What other real life activities are you concerned about protecting or prohibiting?
Feel free, of course, to also state your general philosophy behind your position but be specific in the real life situations you are concerned about. After all, the Devil is in the details. (Pun intended.)