Our View: Bills would create more problems than they solve

February 21, 2014 

Legislating protection for religion employs a number of terms like “sincerely held beliefs,” “conviction” and “religion” itself — all of which are quite open to interpretation.

Idaho Rep. Lynn Luker’s two bills under his Free Exercise of Religion Act ran into a buzzsaw of controversy and a much broader interpretation of some of these terms.

This has resulted in the withdrawal of his legislation, at least for this session. We can only hope that the author comes to the realization that laws, even though propped up by religious convictions and protections, can cut a wider path than intended.

Whereas the Republican Boise lawmaker and attorney had hoped to create recourse for those with “sincerely held religious beliefs” who feel under attack or threatened by laws or modern societal norms, his ideas collided with an almost unavoidable perception of discrimination.

Even Luker, in the end, admitted that perception was reality and his legislation was misunderstood as a “sword for discrimination.”

He even said that those who chose to use new legal tools to protect themselves might not escape lawsuits and loss of jobs as a result of exercising their religious choice.

Trouble is, the proposed scapel of his remedies for the righteous who want to deny services to certain classes of people whom they deem incompatible — and this is where the vagueness begins and never ends — had the potential to become a chainsaw upon general society.

And it seems to us that while protecting the culture of established, mainstream religion, Luker’s legislation potentially was affording counterculture expressions of cults and hate groups the same tools.

He said: People who don’t want to participate, “celebrate” or do business with certain other segments of society deserve protections and options if they choose to not fulfill a service.

Critics heard: a bald-faced plan to institutionalize and cannonize discrimination.

Luker’s alarm over religious people being forced to do things contrary to their faith is legitimate. Examples of abuse abound that affect people of many faiths. Attempts to show where one’s rights begin and another’s end have been fraught with peril.

We wonder: Should not people of faith, when choosing careers or choosing to go into business, have some expectation that the exercise of their calling will present challenges to their beliefs? And if so, why remain in an occupation that will consistently compromise your faith?

We understand workplaces and businesses to be mostly secular universes with a neutral, but respectful, recognition of the demands of one’s faith.

By the same token, we believe religious sensitivity and protection is the responsibility of everybody in society to acknowledge and respect.

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