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!!!!!!!! Search error!  If the URL ends something like .htm/  or .htm# delete the character(s) after .htm and hit return.

The new, inverted meaning for the terms
"religious freedom
" and "religious liberty."


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

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Some notable quotations related to the Golden Rule:

  • Maya Angelou (author, poet, civil rights activist): "... 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."

  • Anonomous "you can't deny women their basic rights and pretend it's about your "religious freedom". If you don't like birth control, don't use it. Religious freedom doesn't mean you can force others to live by your beliefs." 1

  • Dana Arcuri (author): "Our job on earth isn't to criticize, reject, or judge. Our purpose is to offer a helping hand, compassion, and mercy. We are to do unto others as we hope they would do unto us."

  • Alexandra Katehakis (therapist): "If your actions were to boomerang back on you instantly, would you still act the same? Doing to others an act you’d rather not have done to you reveals a powerful internal conflict."

  • Brennan Manning (author): "How I treat a brother or sister from day to day, how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my reverence for life than the antiabortion sticker on the bumper of my car."

  • Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ:
    • "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12. 2

    • "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31. 2

  • Steve Shallenberger (author): "Replacing rudeness and impatience with the Golden Rule may not change the world, but it will change your world and your relationships."

  • Socrates (philosopher): "Do not do to others what angers you if done to you by others."

  • George Takei (actor): "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 or faith to prove."

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image of two elephants opposing each other The transition from religious freedom of belief to religious freedom to hurt others:

While monitoring:

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

The terms changed meaning:

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

    • Involved smaller faith groups or individuals as victims.

  • TO the new freedom sought by some 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 typically:

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.

The terms "religious freedom" and "religious liberty" have been turned on their head, and few seem to have noticed.

People who exercise their religious freedom to discriminate rarely connect their actions to Jesus' words in two Gospels -- Matthew and Luke -- where he commands his followers to obey what is now called the Golden Rule. It is sometimes expressed:

"We are to do unto others as we hope they would do unto us in return."

That fundamental moral precept is found in all of the major religions in the world, secular belief systems, and many philosophical writings.

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Topics covered in this section:

Scope and meaning of the terms "religious freedom" and "religious liberty"

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Years 2010 until now: The new "religious freedom to discriminate" laws in various states.

Some of the following links are to essays that describe new "religious freedom to discriminate" bills in various states. Others describe owners of for-profit businesses who have:

  • Run afoul of existing state or municipal human rights laws, and

  • Violated the Golden Rule,

because they have refused goods and/or services to customers because of the owner's deeply held and sincere religious beliefs:

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

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

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  • Year 2012: New Hampshire: Catholic Church and HHS birth control mandate. Hawaii: Civil unions.

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  • Year 2013: Arizona: Part 1: House passes discrimination bill.

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  • Year 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

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  • Year 2016: Many dozens of "religious freedom to discriminate and denigrate" bills were filed in many U.S. states. There are too many for us to handle thoroughly. We have elected to select only a few high-profile "freedom to hate and denigrate" bills below:
    • star New York State: 2016-JAN: A "freedom-to-discriminate" court ruling in upstate New York State found in favor of a married same-sex couple. Part 1  Part 2  Part 3

    • Tennessee: 2016-JAN: A state law was passed to allow counselors, therapists, and mental health professionals to refuse service to LGBT people, atheists, divorced people, literally anyone, by simply claiming that it violates their "sincerely held religious beliefs." Signed into law in late April. Part 1  Part 2  Part 3

    • starstarNorth Carolina: 2016: The City of Charlotte amended its human rights law to include protection for the transgender community. The state legislature killed the ordinance, and similar ordinances in other NC cities, with a law that also wipes out protection for persons discriminated against on the basis of their religion, skin color, race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientatinon, etc. The media focused on the "bathroom" aspects of the bill to the exclusion of other effects. Few noticed. Various court decisions.

    • Georgia: 2016-MAR: Religious liberty to discriminate bills: Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5  Part 6  Part 7  Part 8  Part 9

    • British Columbia, Canada: 2013-2016-JUN: Religiously motivated discrimination against the LGBT community by the Trinity Western (TWU) law school. Part 1  Part 2

    • Washington State: Law requires pharmacies to not discriminate against customers seeking emergency contraception: Part 1  Part 2

    • Mississippi: "Religious freedom to discriminate" bill signed into law and later declared unconstitutional by a federal district court. Part 1  Part 2  Part 3

    • starFederal bill: FADA (The First Amendment Defense Act): All points of view: Some view it as defending the freedom of religion; others as defending people's freedom to discriminate against & denigrate others on the basis of sexual orientation and sexual behavior.

    • 2016-AUG: Indiana Mother defends beating her child on state religious freedom law

    • 2016-SEP: Iowa couple accused of bigotry & hatred

    • Northern Ireland: Bakery found guilty under Equality Law of discrimination in cake-baking case

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Other aspects of the religious freedom to discriminate:

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Details of specific cases exercising the freedom to discriminate against others:

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Unsponsored link
ACLU banner

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A 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. Available on 2016-AUG-26, for $15.45 plus postage in Paperback; for $7.41 in Kindle format . 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:

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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. This was a posting by an reader of an article on who identified themselves only as "anneutral." It is dated 2012-FEB-15. The quote was apparently later picked up by others, attributed incorrectly to President Obama, expanded, and "liked" or re-blogged by more than 28,000 other web sites. See: "Rick Santorum Wants to Fight 'The Dangers Of Contraception,' at: for the original posting.
  2. From the King James Version of the Bible. Other translations differ.
  3. "Using Religion to Discriminate," ACLU, at:
  4. Shadee Ashtari, "Kansas State House Passes Bill Allowing Refusal Of Services To Same-Sex Couples," 2014-FEB-12, at:
  5. Chas Sisk, "TN lawmakers drop wedding vendors bill," The Tennessean, 2014-FEB-18, at:
  6. 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 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally written: 2009-DEC-08
Latest update: 2016-OCT27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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