What does religious freedom mean anyway? The first amendment to the constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” You have the freedom to practice your religion; I have the freedom to practice mine. I don’t see where it says either you or I can impose our religious beliefs on one another or anyone else.
New laws are popping up around the country allowing discrimination against LGBTQ people on the basis of religious freedom or religious liberty. The Governor of Kentucky (makes me rethink my planned trip there this summer) recently signed a bill which effectively allows students in High Schools, Colleges and Universities to discriminate against LGBTQ students based on their religious beliefs. South Dakota just passed a law allowing religious objections to same sex couples adopting or fostering kids.
According to the ACLU, 19 states have bills pending restricting bathroom use by transgender people; Religious Freedom Restoration Acts are pending in six states; First Amendment Defense Acts are pending in 10 states; 5 states are considering or passed restrictions on adoption and foster care by LGBTQ people and 8 states are considering bills allowing religious exemptions for same-sex marriage services.
Someone recently asked this question on Twitter: “If there’s a religious liberty right to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals, why not against Jews or African Americans?” Good question! I suppose it’s because those who are claiming the religious liberty to discriminate against LGBTQ people think being LGBTQ is a choice. That’s ludicrous but even if it were a choice, so is being Jewish. I’m Jewish and I choose to remain Jewish. I could convert to another religion if I wanted. And if memory serves me, the very same Bible that is used today to promote religious liberty in discriminating against LGBTQ people was used to discriminate and even enslave African Americans. Those religious folks quoted verses from the Bible to justify segregation and in our country’s history, slavery. They were on the wrong side of history then and they are on the wrong side now.
As the mother of a gay son and advocate for LGBTQ people and their families, this infuriates me, frustrates me and frankly, scares me to death. We have come so far in the fight for equality for all LGBTQ people. I can’t bear the thought of turning back the clock. I will continue to fight wherever and whenever I can. I think we still have a long road ahead of us, but I will not stop fighting. Will you join me?