Let me start by saying that I can never properly express my joy and appreciation to the Insane Clown Posse for the ability to parody their “fucking magnets” line at every turn. It’s so succinct, even more so than Bill O’Reilly’s “tide goes in, tide goes out” routine, and makes the exact same point with exactly the same amount of intention: some people don’t know or don’t want to know how things work because they prefer their made up answers.
Which brings us to religious liberty, what it means, and why we really need to get our definitions straight. To be honest, I’d rather be writing about the return of the horrid Kill the Gays bill in Uganda and this laughable farce of a press release regarding it, especially considering the foreign aid that Uganda is going to give up to pass this thing is necessary to support the corruption sector of their economy.
Instead, I will explore what religious liberty is & is not and, broader, what liberty is & is not.
We’ve heard a lot lately about the “war on religion,” a “secular vision for America,” and similar meaningless phrases. Newt Gingrich is particularly fond of linking secularists to Muslims (because both are, you know, super scary). Mitt Romney thinks that the government forcing religiously-affiliated institutions to cover contraception like everybody else is a violation of conscience. Rick Santorum, who’s religious views are so intertwined with his political ones that he thinks he can rule the country by God’s law and not be “pastor in chief,” agrees.
But those are just the GOP candidates (minus Ron Paul who thinks that state governments can do pretty much anything they want). Let’s instead look at other people. The Liar Tony Perkins recently threw a hissy fit about the Air Force Academy not promoting a sectarian charity. Archbishop Timmy “Apple Cheeks” Dolan has a little bit to say about everything, and it all proves how put upon his international, ludicrously wealthy tax free organization with billions of members is. Muslim students at the UK’s London School of Economics claimed religious discrimination because an atheist group posted a cartoon on their Facebook that portrays an imagine of the prophet Mohammed. Kind of. Sort of. In a way.
The question becomes, what is the common thread with all of theses? I’ll give you a minute to think of it.
If you said, “they all require other people to adhere to the religious doctrines of the speakers,” you’re correct. You get a prize!
“Repsect” and “tolerance” are becoming code words from people like those mentioned above for the demand that others follow the dictates of their faith. It’s a problematic bug (feature?) that a lot of them have. Their faith demands that all people follow it, claims that it is the one true way and all others are false, and puts it upon its followers to wrangle everybody together under this set of beliefs. So, the easiest way for Apple Cheeks or the Liar Tony Perkins is to make it happen by default. If everybody is forced, legally, to act like a Catholic or an Evangelical, even if they don’t actually believe, then that’s good enough for God, right?
I somehow doubt it.
The pernicious way in which this is approached, however, is the real problem. I know that Rick Santorum wants everybody to believe what he believes. The voices in his head have made it very clear that that is the only way to tempt Jesus back to Earth. However, he likes to pretend that there’s some sort of reason that doesn’t stem from his holy book that would make people think that having a father in prison is better than having two gay fathers. It’s not so much that he denies that he thinks God wants things to be this way, but rather that he manufactures other reasons for those of us who think his mythology doesn’t count as an authority.
Listen, we as human beings are going to disagree on things. Disagreement, however, is not intolerance. We’re not saying that your opinions are invalid, we’re saying that they’re wrong, and there is a gigantic difference between those. For example, saying that homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to marry is saying that their relationship is invalid, that it doesn’t count, since marriage is ultimately a validation of love, especially when done with no facts to support the assertion. Yes, people claim it’s also wrong, but the only evidence presented is provably false or from scripture, and I can point to thousands of works that make the opposite point.
Saying that somebody is a bigot for opposing equality is not intolerance because it doesn’t say that their opinion doesn’t count. Quite the opposite, it says that their opinion is so valid that it defines an essential part of their character. Their words matter, they exist, and they have meaning. The same can’t be said for their opinion of LGBT rights which don’t matter, don’t exist, and don’t have meaning.
This is where religious liberty comes back into the picture. This is an individual liberty, one that affords the exerciser the ability to believe and worship in whatever way they see fit. Liberty in general is an individual exercise, one which permits people to act in a fashion that suits them. This is the opposite of the “religious intolerance” crowd who see liberty as the ability for a group to exercise their preference on others. If it were the government telling them how they had to personally act, they would scream bloody murder, and in fact are screaming bloody murder pretending that’s what’s happening. But the fights being fought aren’t over the actions of the complainers, but rather over the actions of outside third parties that aren’t legally required to act in the fashion those complainers would have them act.
Religious liberty does not obligate the state or other people to believe and worship in the same way as you. Using the above example again, it is a violation of religious liberty to force an Evangelical minister to marry a same sex couple. It is not a violation of the religious liberty of that Evangelical minister to allow an Episcopalian minister to marry that couple.
The state is under no obligation to protect your sensibilities. It is a violation of religious liberty to force the Catholic Church to use their own money to adopt to same-sex couples. It is not a violation of religious liberty to refuse to pay them to discriminate against LGBT couples. And I’m tired of people who get this wrong (BTW: as of this writing, I’m top of the comments on that last link based on likes. Keep me there, my minions!)
What the behavior of those crying “religious intolerance” the loudest clearly demonstrates is that they have no faith. Archbishop (soon to be Cardinal) Dolan doesn’t have enough faith in his God to believe that God can prevent women from taking contraception given the option (he’s right, BTW), so the celibate, virgin man will instead cry like a celibate, virgin baby about how very unfair this is that he might have to give women the option to express their own religious liberty, including their right to reject his authority over them. Jesus apparently doesn’t have the power to keep people going to church (and it offers so many good reasons, let me tell you) if they don’t pick up the habit early, so Newt Gingrich is going to make sure kids get as much exposure as possible, before those anti-religious pagans can affect their opinions.
These people have “faith” in the same way that I’m “straight.” Sure, I’m attracted to women, but I fail to possess the crucial component of being “only or primarily” attracted to women. This is sort of the same way these people of “faith” are perfectly fine in the comfortable trappings of religion, but fail to have any real belief in the power of their divinity. It’s a sham and a farce and entirely unsurprising as they seem dedicated to making everybody else observe the window dressing of their religion and could care less if the home is equally empty inside.
So, when it comes to religious liberty, your freedom exists for your ability to act in the manner that you feel is correct and not to impose that on others. That means that your religious liberty allows you to decide not to marry a same sex partner, not the ability to refuse to do your job in issuing legal licenses. Your religious liberty allows you to decide not to use contraception, it does not allow you to accept public money while refusing to let others use it. Your religious liberty allows you to not portray Mohammed, it does not prevent others from doing so.
The Liar Tony Perkins has claimed that the Obama administration has “created an atmosphere that is hostile toward Christianity.” Quite frankly, if we’re talking about his idea of Christianity, I hope so. It’s a Christianity that demands obedience. It’s a Christianity that excludes people. It’s a Christianity designed for one purpose and one purpose alone: to give power to Tony Perkins.
Timothy Dolan’s Catholicism is designed to give power to Catholic bishops. Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum are all using their faith in order to leverage power for themselves. And if not allowing them to run rough shod over the rights of people who won’t live by their standards creates a hostile environment for that, I say bring it on and throw their outdated, stupid, and hateful ideas into the dustbin of history to make room for better ones.