Religious Freedom as I see it
There seems to be a continuing battle going on in America these days over religious freedom. One side, the side I am nominally on but seem to frequently differ with, feels it’s religious freedom is be trampled on by today’s culture and oppressive government rules. Later today there is going to be a rally downtown in Raleigh to support our freedom to say who can and can’t use the public bathrooms we, and our children, use as one example.
I firmly believe that the vast majority of Americans, including atheists, support the idea of religious freedom. The problems arise when this freedom comes into conflict with other freedoms, or even cultural norms. Do we in our business have the freedom to refuse to render services that we give to others because something in a person’s lifestyle offends our religious sensibilities or is even something we consider morally wrong?
As a person of faith I understand how hard it can be to hold beliefs that are counter to the culture around us. Frankly, the recent battles usually flared up when evangelical values, which used to be the cultural norm, became a shrinking minority. In same sex marriage, for example, evangelicals who stood firmly on the “no” side woke up one day to find that the ground beneath them had shifted. But trying to yank culture back to “our” side has proven to be useless and has also brought accusations of bigotry. So what are we to do?
I think the first step is to understand that religious freedom is different than religious comfort. I can expect the government to protect my right to practice my faith. But the government, and even more the culture around us, has no obligation to make that practice easy. If you uncomfortable using the same bathroom as a transgender person it is up to you, and not the government or the transgender person, to solve that problem.
Count me in on favoring religious freedom. I am aware of the long history of men and women who died to defend it. I am equally aware of the courage of so many around the world today who take death-defying stands for their faith. But laws dictating things like saying which people use the bathroom I use or who I can refuse to serve in my business insult those courageous people. Whether intentionally or not, such efforts end up twisting the idea of religious freedom into a tool to discriminate against others.
Here then is the challenge before us. If our faith causes us to feel so much conviction about the issues confronting us, then we must find a way to manage the inconvenience of making the sacrifice to live out that faith rather than trampling the rights of others.