What is Religious Freedom?

Published: May 18, 2016

By Jim Lichtman
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In another move that can only be described by many as bizarre, North Carolina’s governor decided to sue the federal government over a recent state law limiting bathroom access for transgender people.

Governor Pat McCrory on Meet The Press

Governor Pat McCrory on Meet The Press

North Carolina Republican Governor Pat McCrory stated that he would sue the Department of Justice in response to a letter he received from Attorney General Loretta Lynch that said that the North Carolina bill violated the Civil Rights Act.

Last March, McCrory signed into law the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act. The bill also overturns an anti-LGBT discrimination ordinance that had been passed by Charlotte, NC. The law “forbids people to use public building restrooms that do not match the gender listed on their birth certificates,” The New York Times writes, (May 5).

So, I guess that means that North Carolina will now have paid bathroom attendants that will examine an individual’s birth certificate before anyone enters all public building restrooms.

All those who carry their birth certificate around with them, please raise your hands!

Last month, CNS.com reported (Apr. 22), on “a Mississippi law that protects religious organizations and individuals from being forced to act against their faith in dealing with same-sex marriage.”

When did all this begin?

In 1993, President Bill Clinton signed a bipartisan bill entitled The Religious Freedom Restoration Act which prohibits the government from improperly interfering in the way Americans express religious beliefs.

It came about as way to respect “Native American religions that are burdened by increasing expansion of government projects onto sacred land. In Native American religion,” Wikipedia writes, “the land they worship on is very important. Often the particular ceremonies can only take place in certain locations because these locations have special significance.”

In a story airing on CBS Sunday Morning (May 15), “Marci Hamilton, who teaches constitutional law at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that RFRA, in effect, granted a license to discriminate.

“ ‘Basically, the civil rights groups dropped the ball,’ Hamilton said. ‘Everybody was just so excited about religious freedom — how could you be opposed to religious freedom? But the very smart, very conservative evangelical groups knew what their agenda was.

“ ‘It’s tilted the balance so that people now have a concept that whatever they believe, they can get around the law, instead of what the Supreme Court’s First Amendment cases said, which is that we all have to obey the law.

“ ‘When I go to a stop sign, it just doesn’t matter that I’m Presbyterian — I’ve gotta stop at the stop sign,’ said Hamilton. ‘But now, every law is under attack because of this message of complete liberty.’ ”

“Baronelle Stutzman treasures that liberty,” CBS reports. “She’s the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, a 35-year-old family-run business in Richland, Washington. Rob Ingersoll was a favorite customer who shopped there for nearly a decade. Three years ago Ingersoll, who is gay, asked Stutzman, a 71-year-old devout Christian, to do the flowers for his wedding. Instead, she recalled, ‘Rob, I’m sorry, I can’t do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.’ ”

When CBS correspondent Mark Strassman asked why, Stutzman said, “Because my faith teaches me that marriage is between a man and a woman, and it symbolizes Christ and its relationship with the church. As much as I love Rob, my love for Christ is more important.’ ”

Strassman asked Law Professor Hamilton: “If your lifestyle offends me, why should I be obligated to provide a service when I’m not comfortable with you as a person?”

“When you walk into Best Buy,” Hamilton replied, “nobody should be asking you what your religion is, or what your sexual orientation is, or what you did yesterday. It’s Jim Crow. It’s just that there are different targets at this point for some of the people.”

And sadly, that’s what this is all about. Some state legislators are not only opposed to same sex couples; they’re focusing their dislike against the LGBT community at large.

And that, according to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, is discrimination.

“It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina,” Lynch said in a press conference, “had other signs above restrooms, water fountains, and on public accommodations, keeping people out based on a distinction without a difference. We’ve moved beyond those dark days.

“This is about the dignity and the respect that we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we, as a people and as a country, have enacted to protect them — indeed, to protect all of us.”

On March 29, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, who happens to be running against Gov. McCrory, says he will not defend the legislation, calling the law “a national embarrassment.”

Among the many passages in the Bible that teach tolerance, is this quote from James 2: 1-26 which seems appropriate:

“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?  

 “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”


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