Like I've said before (quite a few times), and almost certainly will say again (after this time), religious beliefs shouldn't allow people to ignore laws.
Where does this end, if we allow it to begin?
Some Christian religious bigots believe homosexuality is a sin, so they refuse to bake a cake for a gay couple who want one for their wedding. Which, by the way, is completely legal in 36 out of 50 of these United States, where gay marriage is allowed.
Yet as Frank Bruni says in his thoughtful New York Times piece, "Your God and My Dignity," this same perverted interpretation of religious liberty doesn't seem to apply to minority faiths in this country.
What’s more, in a country that’s not supposed to promote any one religion over others, we do precisely that.
Would we be content to let a Muslim store owner who believes that a woman should always cover her hair refuse service to women who do not? Or a Mormon hairdresser who spurns coffee to turn away clients who saunter in with frappuccinos?
I doubt it. So why should a merchant whose version of Christianity condemns homosexuality get to exile gays and lesbians?
A belief is just a belief. Calling it "religious" just puts an adjective before that word. It doesn't change the fact that this is simply someone's personal subjective opinion about something.
Combining those opinions into an organizational point of view, and then calling it, say, "The tenets of the Catholic Church," doesn't make the belief any less subjective and personal.
I have to follow the law. Or at least I am supposed to. If I choose to break some law, I understand that there may be consequences. A fine. A ticket. Maybe even jail time.
But religious people have this strange idea that their personal beliefs on certain subjects, such as homosexuality, entitle them to, so to speak, a Get out of jail free card. No, they don't. And shouldn't.
However, because this is a Christian-majority nation, there are powerful pressures to legally elevate religious bigotry onto a moral high ground that is off-limits to people with equally strong, but non-religious, beliefs.
I heartily agree with how Bruni ends his piece.
Baking a cake, arranging roses, running an inn: These aren’t religious acts, certainly not if the establishments aren’t religious enclaves and are doing business with (and even dependent on) the general public.
Their owners are routinely interacting with customers who behave in ways they deem sinful. They don’t get to single out one group of supposed sinners. If they’re allowed to, who’s to say they’ll stop at that group?
I respect people of faith. I salute the extraordinary works of compassion and social justice that many of them and many of their churches do. I acknowledge that we in the news media, because we tend to emphasize conflict and wrongdoing and hypocrisy, sometimes focus more on the shortcomings of religious institutions than on their positive contributions.
And I support the right of people to believe what they do and say what they wish — in their pews, homes and hearts.
But outside of those places? You must put up with me, just as I put up with you.