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Religious Tolerance logo

An essay donated by Susan Humphreys

Whose religious or secular rights take
precedence over other peoples' rights?

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The term "LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered persons and transsexuals.

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Whose rights takes precedence?

I have been following the debates on this web site as well as in my local and national media over the rights of the LGBT community for a long time. The arguments come down to two main issues, as I see it.

  1. Can a Christian honestly and truthfully claim that the Bible, their religion, their God supports their right to persecute and limit the rights of others?

  2. Does anyone have the right to claim that their rights (religious or secular) take precedence over the rights (religious or secular) of all others?

The quote below from this web site made me realize that sometimes those that are so intent on defending their religious rights don’t realize the statements/claims they make can be and someday might be used against them.

The case involved a lesbian couple who went to a commercial photography business -- Elane Photography -- during 2006 in Albuquerque NM asking that they photographically document a committment ritual that they had personally written. The business refused because of their personal religious beliefs and thus ran afoul of New Mexico's human rights legislation.

Jordan Lorence, Senior Counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom -- a conservative legal defense group -- had defended Elane Photography in court. He said:

"The idea that free people can be 'compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives' as the 'price of citizenship' is a chilling and unprecedented attack on freedom. We are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to make it clear that no American has to abandon their constitutionally protected freedoms just to make a living. No American should be punished or put out of business simply for disagreeing with the government’s opinion on a moral issue."

I wonder just how far he is willing to go in support of his opinion? Should abortion providers be put out of business by state government regulations? Or is that compelling them by law to compromise their religious beliefs? Should certain church groups be banned from meeting because their teachings are in violation of the government’s position on a moral issue? Think about polygamy and the fundamentalist wing of the Mormon religion. Our government/society decided to ban polygamy not the whole church. Which by the way shows that Mr. Lorence’s claim that compelling people to abide by secular laws is unprecedented is simply not true!

I think the idea that free people can NOT be compelled by law to accommodate the religious and secular beliefs/rights of others is a chilling idea! If you don’t agree with me I suggest you watch the nightly news. We see it happening all over the Middle East and in some African countries each day.

Many people such as Mr. Lorence complain that others are violating their religious rights while insisting they have the right to violate the religious and secular rights of others. Something is wrong here.

What makes folks like this think that their religious rights take precedence over the rights (religious and secular) of all the rest of us? What makes them think that there isn’t some other group that will come along and insist their rights have precedence over his rights? Think about Communist countries banning all expression of religion or a non-Christian theocracy banning Christianity.

Does might make right? Is this all about who has the most money to buy the most votes? Or about who has the greatest fire power, or largest number of soldiers (holy warriors) willing to commit suicide for “the cause”?

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What do we do when the rights (religious or secular) of one person or a group of people come in conflict with the rights (religious or secular) of another person or group of people. Our founding fathers were, I think, very much aware of this dilemma and decided to follow a higher standard and created a system of government that protects the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority -- even though we haven’t always lived up to this standard.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [and that means all men and women, blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics, heterosexuals, homosexuals, transgender folk, Christians, and people of other faith traditions and people of no faith tradition, wealthy and poor, educated and uneducated] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable, rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

AND that

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility [helping people get along], provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. ...”

We seek the common ground that accommodates our great diversity and creates the least amount of civil strife.

One of the hardest things for some folks to accept is the idea that IF they want their rights (religious or secular) upheld they have no choice but to uphold the rights of others even if they don’t like those others, even if those others don’t hold the same religious beliefs they hold, even if those others ethnic traditions seem odd."

After all doesn’t the Bible tell us to “do unto others as we would have them do unto us”? And doesn’t the Bible tells us that we are to “forgive others their trespasses as we hope to have our own forgiven”? And doesn’t the Bible tell us that “he who has not sinned should cast the first stone”? AND isn’t denying people their rights a way of ‘casting stones’?  Which makes me realize that the Bible and Christianity really don’t support the persecution of others. Some may still claim that the Bible insists that marriage is to be only between one man and one woman but it never tells them to persecute those who think differently. IF there are passages in the Bible that support their right to persecute others I’d like to hear about them.

So whose rights take precedence? The right of the religious person to discriminate and persecute (cast stones at) the LGBT community? Or the rights of members of the LGBT community to be treated fairly and justly, equally as the heterosexual community under the secular laws of our country?

We should think long and hard about the answer to these two questions, because our own rights may someday be dependent upon the position that we take. And I think, the Bible has tried to tell us that!

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Home > Religious freedom > here

Home > Important essays > Religious freedom > here

Home > Religious information > Religious freedom > here

Home > Human rights > Religi45.htm and linked itous freedom > here

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Original posting: 2013-DEC-16
Latest update: 2013-DEC-16
Author: Susan Humphreys

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