Crossing the Line: Religious Freedom or Religious Imposition

Religious Freedom

Recently, several conservative states have introduced legislation to allow businesses and self-employed individuals to refuse service to others on the grounds of religious beliefs, thus allowing discrimination. Though the laws are differently written, the main purpose is to allow those who claim sincere religious beliefs, to refuse service to LGBT members.

However, some of the laws are so broadly written, they may also allow businesses and self-employed individuals to refuse service to anyone who might offend their religious beliefs. A Muslim may refuse to serve a female because she is not wearing a burka or an interracial couple may be refused service by a Christian who is against interracial marriages. There are perhaps thousands of possible reasons someone could claim sincere religious beliefs in refusing to provide service to someone. Arizona’s governor Jan Brewer recently vetoed a bill written by her states legislators that was written so broadly that it could have been used to discriminate against all kinds of people.

There are still several states with legislation pending to push such laws, mainly targeting same-sex couples, which would allow wedding photographers to refuse their services for same-sex weddings, bakers from baking wedding cakes for gay couples, or perhaps wedding planners from planning gay weddings. These laws could also be used to refuse housing or other types of service that has nothing to do with weddings, to anyone gay or transsexual. Restaurants may be allowed to refuse to serve anyone who appears to be gay and hotels may refuse lodging, citing sincere religious beliefs, and the possibilities are endless.

As a gay man, I do not entirely object to someone, such as a minister, refusing service on religious grounds, as I accept that some people have sincere religious beliefs that can cause a moral conflict with them personally, when it comes to religious ceremonies. However, this is a limit to ministers or any religious ordination particularly, but if those laws also allow someone to discriminate simply because they do not like gay people, then this is where the problem lies.

My family’s pastor is a wonderful person and has been a friend of the family for many years. She is a Pentecostal woman and her religion is very strict. She would never perform a gay wedding, no matter what the law says. If I was going to get married to the man of my dreams, I certainly would not go to her and demand or even ask her to perform the ceremony as I respect her beliefs. She still would give me spiritual counseling, though I am gay or not, if I asked her to, but she would never officiate at a wedding for me to marry a same-sex partner.

As far as wedding photographers and bakeries, I would not personally want someone who found my marriage to be against their religious beliefs to photograph my wedding or bake a cake for my gay wedding. Perhaps there would be a reason to refuse such services if it pertains to taking photos that are sexually graphic in nature, and then it might be considered offensive on religious grounds or asking a baker to create a cake that could be sexually graphic. Undoubtedly, some gays like things a little over-the-top and so with exception, some bakers and photographers may find those things offensive and for good reason refuse, not because it is a same-sex couple but because of the specific nature of what the couple might want. The same sort of thing might be asked by a heterosexual couple and be offensive to a religious person or business.

I do however have objections of walking into a restaurant and being refused service because I am gay, or trying to rent a hotel room and being turned away because I look gay. There is a line where a business or a self-employed person is crossing the line from objecting to serving a gay person because of religious morals and objecting to serving a gay person out of hate and imposing their religion upon that person or persons. There is a slippery slope when religious people are allowed to treat LGBT members or anyone for that matter, differently when it comes to everyday, ordinary services.

I understand that as a gay person, I am not welcome in certain churches. That is up to the leaders and members of that church if they do not understand the true mission of Christ when it comes to opening their hearts to everyone. I have no desire to go to a church I am not welcome in, so I have no problem with that. Yet, when it comes to where I choose to eat or where I choose to live or any other normal, non-religious activity I might participate in as a citizen of this country, I entirely object to being turned away because I happen to be gay.

Perhaps there are religious people who fear that LGBT members will force them to serve them in a way that would cross their religious boundaries. I would hope there could be an understanding that most gay people, at least from my point of view, do not wish to impose themselves upon anyone who cannot accept us for who we are. When it comes to religious ceremonies, it should be a minister’s own prerogative to draw a line in what they will or will not do when it comes to performing a religious ceremony. However, that is where the line must be drawn because any other activities that have to do with everyday life, gay people expect to be treated just like everyone else, and that is with respect, nothing more and nothing less.

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