Freedom of Religion Shouldn’t Be Unconditional

Dec 16, 2014

By Jason Miller

Have you ever heard of a rabbi who was against religious freedom? I certainly hadn’t until last week when I became one. Well, I’m not really against religious freedom per se, but I am against the “Religious Freedom and Restoration Act” (RFRA). That bill, known as HB 5958, was passed by the Michigan House of Representatives on December 4 and could soon be passed by Michigan’s Senate and then signed into law by the Governor. I am concerned.

It would seem that any congressional bill that advocated for religious freedom would be a good thing. After all, I believe that one of the most cherished benefits of living in a democracy like the United States is that we all have the right to practice our own faith. However, this bill, if signed into law, would have many negative consequences. (A similar bill was ultimately vetoed by the Governor in Arizona.)

HB 5958 seeks to “limit governmental action that substantially burdens a person’s exercise of religion,” which includes “an act or refusal to act, that is substantially motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, whether or not compelled by or central to a system of religious belief.” This language would allow individuals to choose not to service other individuals on the basis of their religious beliefs. Imagine if a bakery owner was asked to produce a wedding cake for two homosexual men who were getting married. Claiming that his deeply held religious beliefs forbid homosexuality and therefore gay marriage, the bakery owner would be able to legally refuse to sell this couple a cake. In other words, his bigotry would be upheld by state law.

Another example would be a Jewish pharmacist who refuses to fill a medicine prescription for a fellow Jew with gelatin capsules on the basis that selling non-kosher pills to another Jew violates a religious law he follows. Perhaps a Catholic pharmacist would refuse to fill a prescription for birth control pills or an abortion pill. How about a Muslim shopkeeper who could, under HB 5958, refuse to sell a bottle of wine to a fellow Muslim, citing his own Islamic beliefs.


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20 comments on “Freedom of Religion Shouldn’t Be Unconditional

  • The OP lists examples of discriminatory faith beliefs intruding on other peoples lives, but of course those using “faith-thinking” to draft the legislation, don’t input logic, or equal rights, or evidence.
    Faith-thinking only requires unimaginative tunnel vision of following of dogma, without regard to physical consequences of such actions, beyond the circularity of promoting the dogma meme!



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  • What is religious freedom anyway? I mean, there are regulations to ensure it, but why religion should be given more or different freedom than that of other people (citizens)? They do not deserve any other freedom that me or you deserve. If they can not respect civilization rules than they are not civilized. Your freedom ends where my begins. Religious people shouldn’t be granted any special freedom acts, or be in any way more free than I am! Who invented religious freedom? Yes I vote for conditioning of religious freedom!



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  • @OP – HB 5958 seeks to “limit governmental action that substantially burdens a person’s exercise of religion,” which includes “an act or refusal to act, that is substantially motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, whether or not compelled by or central to a system of religious belief.”

    This is just the, ” I’m a religinut” so I can take any opportunity to inflict my views on anyone I like”.

    People may hold deluded eccentric views. They are not entitled to claim with impunity, that these are equivalent or superior to expert opinions on running society.
    Seeking expert opinions and expert advice on collective decisions, is the responsibility of government, as is the enforcement of an equitable system of law. These objectives are seldom achieved due to the corrupt nature of politics, human greed, short-termism, and the Dunning-Kruger effect in decision making.



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  • Suppose my religion opposes black people, or thinks women are evil. Under this law I would be permitted to refuse service to them. Why don’t the politicians who come up with legislation like this see that these are the results of not thinking this through ?



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  • Alan4discussion: People may hold deluded eccentric views. They are not
    entitled to claim with impunity, that these are equivalent or superior
    to expert opinions on running society.

    Exactly! They should not be allowed to form state within a state,… it is called a coup.

    These objectives are seldom achieved due to the corrupt nature of
    politics…

    Unfortunately. But not surprising; right? Actually, I consider religious organisations a sort of political organisations. Religious persons have teamed themselves up into a organisations with their own laws, agendas, goals, etc. to impose their point of view on everybody else, to gather wealth and power (that comes from it) to gain control over ways of living, thinking of citizens, etc. We atheists have freedom to fight for common sense and against such horrible attempts to form parallel laws, or double standards, without calling us immoral or that we are attacking religious people,… we simply want to hold natural laws, common sense and civilized standards.

    Anyway, why this religious persons have this urge to reform us all?,… if one have direct relationship with hers/his god, than why is that not enough for them?, why do they feel that they have to “convert” us? When this wishes occur in religious mind, than they have just stop being religious, they became despot. Hungry for power and control, and that is not religion (peace and love as they claim), that is being psychopath and aggressive human being. Probably people inclined to control and molestation join this organisations (controlled and obedience seeking) to freely express their shifted nature.



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  • The problem with dogma-driven faith-thinkers, is that if society gives them an inch, they will try to take mile!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-30514054

    .The UK’s highest court has told two Catholic midwives they do not have the right to avoid supervising other nurses involved in abortion procedures.

    The Supreme Court in London ruled that Mary Doogan and Connie Wood should have to support staff who are caring for patients having terminations.

    The midwives previously won their case at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

    NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s appeal said the right to abstain should only extend to treatment ending a pregnancy.

    Ms Doogan, from Garrowhill in Glasgow, and Mrs Wood, from Clarkston in East Renfrewshire, were employed as labour ward co-ordinators at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.

    They challenged whether NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) could require them to delegate, supervise and support staff who were involved in carrying out abortions.

    Public funds really should not be wasted on this sort of silly litigation, when the medical services are under financial pressure!



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  • rod-the-farmer Dec 17, 2014 at 6:01 am

    Suppose my religion opposes black people, or thinks women are evil. Under this law I would be permitted to refuse service to them. Why don’t the politicians who come up with legislation like this see that these are the results of not thinking this through ?

    Faith thinking takes decades of centuries, for rational ideas to penetrate the collective faithist-brain!
    For politicians infected by the faith-virus, representing the “faith”, trumps representing the interests of their electorate.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30510137
    Reverend Libby Lane has been announced as the first female bishop for the Church of England, just a month after a historic change to canon law.

    She will become the new Bishop of Stockport, a post that has been vacant since May.

    Mrs Lane has been the vicar at St Peter’s Hale and St Elizabeth’s Ashley, in the diocese of Chester, since 2007.

    I think it could take quite some time yet, before we see a married woman pope!!!!!!!



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  • I’m all for freedom of religion as long as religion is not forced on anyone and does not interfere in the life of those who do not want to practice a religion. Therefore, if there is freedom of religion, there must also be freedom FROM religion. The wording of this bill, known as HB 5958, aims to give some people the power to control other people, and for me this has nothing to do with religious freedom, but with the interference in the life of people. It is hard to believe this is happening in the XXI century, it seems as if we were back to the times before the Enlightenment.



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  • Quite! I’m all for freedom to worship as one sees fit, but within the law. As I read this law as reported above, I could commit murder, then use as a defence that my religion (e.g. ancient Aztec) requires human sacrifice, therefore I must be allowed to make human sacrifice according to my beliefs. This law would give anyone claiming any religious belief carte blanche to do what he liked. Even if you are the only member of your faith it would still be possible to use this defence. The phrase “an act or refusal to act, that is substantially motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, whether or not compelled by or central to a system of religious belief.” is so open ended as to allow any act or inaction be covered by this law and immune from prosecution.



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  • 11
    Trondesson says:

    Well, religious freedom has been misinterpreted from the start. It should really mean freedom from religion, not freedom of religion.



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  • Religiously motivated acts of terror such as 9/11 are not OK because the terrorist action interfered with the life of many people who never asked to die for a religion.



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  • 15
    inquisador says:

    It is possible that the drafting of this proposed legislation was done by religious persons of simple and innocent naive bent who could never envisage the misuse of these kinds of statutes for anything other than good and holy purposes. It surely requires the intervention of more informed and realistic heads, such as I guess, those mentioned in the Arizona case, to point out the potentially calamitous results of such nonsense as this.

    I am convinced that there should be no special rules or favouritism for any religious crowd for any reason whatever. One rule for ALL. No exceptions.



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  • 17
    Cairsley says:

    Jason Miller is right to worry.

    Surely the legislators can see that such a bill is not about religious freedom but about religious rule. If God or any of the other gods existed, there might be some point to this bill, which can instead be regarded objectively only as enabling the silly to limit the freedom of the not-so-silly and differently silly by imposing the requirements of their own silliness on them.



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