The traffic lanes of our constitutional freedoms seem to be getting ever more crowded with travelers representing a wider variety of agendas. Collisions and even pileups seem inevitable as fast-moving societal and cultural vehicles merge into lanes traditionally occupied by those navigating with moral and religious GPS systems.
Anticipating threats to “religious freedom,” clergy, Idaho legislators, members of our congressional delegations and lawmakers around the country have drafted measures meant to shore up religious freedom “protections.”
Without question a hypersensitivity has developed, and not only because of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage and efforts around the country to broaden human rights provisions, such as the Add the Words campaign in Idaho. Things are getting complicated.
Last month the Chicago Tribune reported on a Roman Catholic woman who recently claimed Office Depot discriminated against her because employees told her running copies of an anti-abortion prayer violated company policy. The Washington Post is following a story about a Muslim employee of a domestic airline who filed a complaint, “alleging she was placed on administrative leave after refusing to serve alcohol for religious reasons.”
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As a society we routinely are encountering cases of employees, employers, business owners and even county clerks refusing to do their jobs — all citing religious issues. We wonder where all of this ends, or whether this is just the new normal.
We think the situation involving Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis is a poor example of a religious freedom violation litmus test. Davis is an elected public servant sworn to carry out the law. Despite her objections to issuing marriage certificates to same-sex couples, she should have done so or resign. What if police or other public servants involved in emergency medical services began cherry-picking whom and how they were going to assist based on their religious conviction or a citizen’s religion or lifestyle?
We are all for employers — whether in the government or private sectors — making accommodations for religious expression and convictions. But how can that happen in every case or situation when doing so defeats or undermines the mission of the organization?
We don’t believe any faith group should be forced to perform or sanctify a marriage they don’t agree with. Those judgments are the purview of the religious organization and belong in their lane of traffic. Government intervention in religious matters is contrary to everything American. Such actions deserve our immediate wrath.
Last year city officials in Houston subpoenaed the sermons and other materials of some pastors, purportedly to investigate some petitions filed against the city’s equal rights ordinance. Whatever the motives, demanding sermons is an affront to religious freedom and deserved the overwhelming criticism it received.
We as a society have our work cut out for us defining and defending the lanes of traffic that will preserve religious freedom and still provide the equal access our Constitution guarantees.
Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email firstname.lastname@example.org.