Two Types of U.S. Religious Freedom:
1. Freedom of religious
2. Freedom to hate, denigrate,
despise, oppress, or discriminate
Some quotations about religious freedom:
Judge Vincent Howard at Marathon County
Circuit Court, Wisconsin. "The free exercise clause of the First Amendment protects religious
belief, but not necessarily conduct."1
Michael Terrance Worley. "Attacks on religious freedom will continue and combine unless we change a culture about overly broad anti-discrimination laws ..."2(He is apparently referring here to existing human rights legislation -- probably laws that protect people from discrimination based on their gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other factors.)
Ken Ham, a leading young Earth creationist, Christian fundamentalist, and the president of Answers in Genesis, a Creationist apologetics ministry: "... we‚ve been told that Christians don‚t need to worry -- we are free to have our beliefs, but that is demonstrably not true. The government is clearly no longer respecting or upholding the First Amendment. Instead, it is punishing people for having -- and holding to -- religious convictions, namely Christian ones. 3 (We suspect that the term "holding to" in this quotation refers to actually applying a religious belief to discriminate against someone.)
Jon Stewart's intentionally amusing comment about "the long war on Christianity:" "I pray that one day we may live in an America where Christians can worship freely! In broad daylight! Openly wearing the symbols of their religion ... perhaps around their knecks? And maybe dare I dream it? -- maybe one day there can be an openly Christian President. Or, perhaps 43 of them." 4
Walter Koenig, the actor who played the character Ensign Pavel Chekov in the original Star Trek series: "Religious tolerance is something we should all practice; however, there have been more persecution and atrocities committed in the name of religion and religious freedom than anything else."
As indicated by this menu's title, the term "religious freedom" has two very different meanings:
Sometimes it refers to the term's traditional meaning: the freedom of religious belief, including the associated freedoms of religious speech, religious writing, freedom of assembly with like-minded believers, freedom to proselyze, etc.
Other times, it refers to a person's religiously motivated actions that discriminate against, harm, or oppress others. In recent years, "others" have typically been members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community.
Unfortunately, many people do not differentiate between the two terms.
Many Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs) have become laws in states throughout the U.S. These are often heavily promoted as simply guaranteeing individual freedom of belief. However, they often contain clauses that protect freedom of actions based upon one's sincerely held religious beliefs -- actions that discriminate against and harm others. They can be regarded as anti-human rights legislation that encourages people to violate the Golden Rule. I sometimes call such legislation as encouraging the Lead Rule. That is, "lead" as in the metal. It is: to do onto others as one would never in a thousand years wanted to be treated yourself.
In one truly remarkable case in 2014, the Mississippi Senate unanimously passed a RFRA bill that gave individuals the freedom to apply their religious beliefs to discriminate against others. This happened because none of the Democratic senators had actually read the bill before voting for it. They apparently thought that a religious freedom bill was as American as apple pie, and concluded: who could oppose religious freedom?