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A negative aspect of religious freedom


The transition from: "freedom of belief" to
"religious freedom to control, discriminate
and/or oppress others
" in violation
of the Golden Rule.

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image of two elephants opposing each other Quotations:

  • Maya Angelou: "... equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air: we all have it, or none of us has it. That is the truth of it."

  • George Takei: "If you have to make laws to hurt a group of people just to prove your morals and faith, then you have no true morals of faith to prove."

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The transition from religious freedom of belief to religious freedom to hurt others:

While monitoring:

we noticed a radical shift in the definition of "religious freedom" and its near-synonym "religious liberty:"

  • FROM the historical meaning: the freedom of religious belief, speech, practice, assembly, and proselytizing by believers. Such attacks on personal religious freedom typically:
    • Involved governments or larger faith groups as perpetrators, and

    • Involved faith groups or individuals as victims.

  • TO the new freedom demanded by faith groups or believers to oppress or denigrate others, to discriminate against them, and/or to mount political campaigns to deny them equal rights. These attacks on religious freedom typically:
    • Involve individual believers, faith groups, companies, or parachurch organizations as perpetrators, and

    • Involve either women or members of sexual minorities as victims.

Religious freedom once referred mostly to the believers' right to express religious ideas and to engage in religious practices. Now it is becoming mostly about the freedom for individuals and religious groups to take actions that discriminate against others by limiting other people's human rights and freedoms without incurring negative consequences themselves.

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Topics covered in this section:

  • Two contrasting meanings of the term "religious freedom:" The freedom of belief vs. the freedom to discriminate:
  • 2010 to now: Detailed descriptions of the religious freedom to discriminate.

    Some of the following links are to essays that describe "religious freedom to discriminate" bills in farious states.

    Others describe owners of for-profit businesses who have run afoul of state or local human rights laws because they have refused goods and/or services to customers for religious reasons:

    • 2010: Federal hate crime and employment discrimination bills. Transit ads in Toronto.

    • 2011: An Apple app; Ontario Catholic schools. Kansas House passes bill.

    • 2012: New Hampshire; Catholic Church and HHS birth control mandate; Hawaii civil unions.

    • 2013: Arizona: House passes discrimination bill.

    • 2014:
      • Part 1: Kansas: Second try. Fails again in the Senate.

      • Part 2: Tennessee House passes discrimination bill; Senate delays it.

      • Arizona:
        • Part 2: Arizona Legislature passes discrimination bill. Reactions. Is Arizona's SB 1062 bill really needed?

        • Part 3: More reactions to Arizona's bill. Again, is it really needed?

        • Part 4: Massive opposition & some support for bill SB 1062 mounts

        • Part 5: Opposition & support continues

        • Part 6: Arizona Governor vetoes "license to discriminate" bill SB 1062 bill!

        • Part 7: Review of other states' anti-gay legislation. What groups are generating these bills?

        • Part 8: starThree factors that are rarely considered in this type of legislation

      • Mississippi:

        • Part 9: Mississippi "Religious freedom bill SB 2681" (aka "License to Discriminate" and "Turn Away the Gays" bill)

        • Part 10: Quotes. House Committee passed revised version of Mississippi religious freedom bill SB 2681. Webmaster's note. Bill signed into law

        • Part 11: Details about SB 2681, the Mississippi religious freedom bill: Reactions

        • Part 12: More reactions to SB 2681, the Mississippi religious freedom bill

      • Part 13: More instances of discrimination by public accommodations

    • 2015:
      • Over 70 "Religious Freedom to Discriminate" (RFTD) bills introduced to state Legislatures. Some pass. A few become law:  Part 1  Part 2
      • star Indiana: Religious "Freedom to Discriminate" laws. A real firestorm of opposition resulted.

        • Part 1 RFRA acts in multiple states, with Indiana's examined in detail
        • Part 2 Comparing the federal RFRA of 1993 and the Indiana RFRA of 2015

        • Part 3 Reactions to the Indiana law

        • Part 4 More reactions

        • Part 5 Governor Pence having second thoughts? Union relocates conference. Potential Republican candidates for the
          Presidency in 2016 defend RFRAs

        • Part 6 Mayors, Governors, and NASCAR denounce Indiana's RFRA

        • Part 7 Family Research Council circulates petition, and comments further on state RFRA. Further Indiana RFRA developments.

        • Part 8 Additional comments on Indiana's RFRAs. Assessing where the truth lies.

        • Part 9 Assessing where the truth lies (Cont'd). Legislature updates RFRA law. Governor signs it into law.

        • Part 10 Indiana Legislature passes new bill to clarify RFRA law. Governor signs the new bill into law. Reactions.

      • starLouisiana: 2015-MAY: Bill to discriminate against LGBT commuity fails. Governor preserves discrimination. Part 1 Part 2
      • starMichigan: 2015-APR to JUL: Governor promises to not sign a RFRA bill into law, but later signs three. Part 1 Part 2

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  • Other aspects of the religious freedom to discriminate:

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Recommended book:

book cover image Robert Boston, "Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn't Give You the Right to Tell Other People What to Do"

Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store. $12.26 plus postage in Paperback. Available in Kindle format for $7.86. book description:

"Increasingly, conservative religious groups are using religious liberty as a sword to lash out at others. In this forcefully argued defense of the separation of church and state, Robert Boston makes it clear that the religious freedom guaranteed in the First Amendment is an individual right, the right of personal conscience, not a license allowing religious organizations to discriminate against and control others. The book examines the controversy over birth control, same-sex marriage, religion in public schools, the intersection of faith and politics, and the 'war on Christmas,' among other topics.

Boston concludes with a series of recommendations for resolving clashes between religious liberty claims and individual rights."

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Site navigation:

Home > Religious freedom > here

Home > Important essays > Religious freedom > here

Home > Religious information > Religious freedom > here

Home > Human rights > Religious freedom > here

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Using Religion to Discriminate," ACLU, at:
  2. Shadee Ashtari, "Kansas State House Passes Bill Allowing Refusal Of Services To Same-Sex Couples," 2014-FEB-12, at:
  3. Chas Sisk, "TN lawmakers drop wedding vendors bill," The Tennessean, 2014-FEB-18, at:
  4. Paul Guequierre, "New Extreme Cincinnati Archdiocese Teacher Contract Takes Anti-LGBT Discrimination to a New Level," Human Rights Campaign, 2014-MAR-18, at:

Copyright © 2009 t0 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally written: 2009-DEC-08
Latest update: 2015-JUN-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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