I’d like to think our legislators are keen enough to recognize the legal incompatibility of recent proposals to allow, by law, discrimination on the basis of religious belief. Such bills have been met with obstacles (and dropped), but this is no good reason to rest on our laurels.
It seems to me there is an additional aspect of these proposals that has yet to get mention by opponents: the important distinction between public and private realms. We may discriminate in the private realm. We choose who we associate with casually, and even professionally. But in the public realm, as business owners or licensed practitioners, entities that are in part established and sanctioned and regulated by the state, we must, as participants in a kind of social enterprise, follow certain established norms.
The United States has done pretty well at trying to perfect this environment of the public realm — its standards and norms. And there is a long-established tradition that justifies this social and legal framework — of balancing the needs of individual and community — going back to at least the French Revolution and the ideas that gave birth to our great nation. May this continue, with ardent defense.
Dana S. Hathaway, Moscow