Let's do away with religious freedom. There's no need for it. For lots of reasons it makes no sense. Let me explain.
I'm fine with people being free to believe whatever they want to. So let's simply have believing freedom. After all, religious belief is just one form of believing.
Some people believe in God. Others believe in playing golf, in listening to rap music, in eating meat -- none of which I believe in.
So be it. Each to his own. Beliefs, that is. If we all looked upon life the same way, we'd be identically programmed robots. Boring.
What irks me is when religious believing gets elevated above other forms of believing.
Actually, a belief is a belief. A belief is different from a fact because there is no demonstrable evidence for it, nothing that justifies saying "This is" rather than "I believe."
Gravity is a fact. Considering that using certain forms of contraception or having sex with a person of the same gender is evil -- that's a belief.
You and I are each entitled to our own beliefs. But not to our own facts.
Yet in the Hobby Lobby decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that closely-held corporations can deny contraceptive coverage to their employees in the name of religious freedom.
In other words, a belief was considered (by five Catholic male members of the Court) to be higher than the law of the land. Well, if this is so, why aren't people with other sorts of strongly held beliefs able to ignore laws?
A "religious conscience exemption" argument usually is a load of crap. Religious believers shouldn't be able to avoid laws just because they have a strongly held personal belief. Hey! We all have strongly held personal beliefs.
I haven't had a single bite of meat or fish since I became a vegetarian in 1970, forty-one years ago. I strongly believe in both the morality of not killing animals for food, and in the health benefits of vegetarianism.
But if a bunch of other vegetarians and me started a college which espoused our dietary beliefs, yet enrolled meat-eaters also, would it be fair if we required that anyone who got a student loan from the federal government couldn't buy a hamburger -- or any other animal flesh -- while they were associated with our college?
Most people would think that'd be ridiculous. But it's no more ridiculous than a Catholic hospital saying "We shouldn't have to provide our employees with birth control coverage under their health insurance plan."
Today the New York Times reported that President Obama plans to sign an executive order that doesn't allow religious believers to discriminate against their fellow human beings.
President Obama plans to sign an executive order on Monday that protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees from discrimination by companies that do federal government work, fulfilling a promise to a crucial Democratic constituency, White House officials said on Friday. But the directive will not exempt religious groups, as many of them had sought.
The order will also, for the first time, explicitly protect federal employees from discrimination on the basis of gender identity, officials said. Gay men, lesbians and bisexuals who work for the federal government already have such protections.
Excellent. But not surprisingly, bigots want to use religion as an excuse to keep on with their unjust discriminating.
Religious groups had sought the exemption to ensure that they would not lose federal money or contracts if they could not meet the new guidelines because of their beliefs.
Because of their beliefs. Ah, what a screwed-up country we would live in if everybody could ignore any law they chose because of their beliefs.
"You can't arrest me for drunk driving, officer. I believe it is OK to chug a couple of six packs and then drive home from the bar."
"I don't have to pay my taxes because I don't believe in government."
"I'm innocent of murder because I believed that asshole deserved to die."
Hey, these are all beliefs.
They have exactly the same validity as an equally subjective religious belief that contraception is evil or homosexuality is wrong. The only difference is that religions are collections of people with similar beliefs who have managed to get the government to give them special treatment under the law.
The absurdity of this is clear when we take out the word "religious" from religious beliefs, as in the quote above. Should anyone be able to ignore regulations or laws "because of their beliefs"? I say, no. That way leads to anarchy.
In a sane, reasonable, rational, fair world, religious beliefs wouldn't be treated any differently than other sorts of beliefs. Eventually, I hope, that world will come. Until then, we'll have to put up with bigoted people wanting to discriminate in the name of a belief that they call "religious."