Freedom of Religion is not a license to discriminate against others

September 4, 2015

I received the following comment regarding my article yesterday titled, Kim Davis, Clerk of the Rowan County Circuit Court, held in contempt and ordered into custody.

I mean is she really wrong? What im saying is , we tend to fall asleep until let’s say some stupid politician makes some law that insults or could harm our life or may be our children’s future. And like Kim, it awakes us. I mean let’s be real. I don’t trust politicians. But I understand her. It probably frighten her . to give or contribute to an abomination. Its frightening.

The comment posted to my pending file because the person had not previously posted a comment and been approved. For reasons that will become clear, the comment offended me and I felt compelled to respond to it. Here is my response.

I think your comment is offensive. I do not believe that same-sex marriage is an abomination, mostly because I have known many gay males and lesbian women during my adult life. For example, when I moved into Seattle to be closer to work in the early 80s, I rented an apartment on Capitol Hill that was within walking distance to downtown and the state and federal courthouses where I practiced law. I soon discovered that I was living in the heart of the gay and lesbian community. I was the only straight male in my apartment building. Over the next week or so, I ran into quite a few lawyers and several judges in the neighborhood whom I knew from work. They lived there. I suddenly realized they were homosexual. They weren’t quite sure what to make of me since I was obviously straight, but since I was on their turf by choice they figured I wasn’t prejudiced. They welcomed me to the neighborhood. They made no effort to pretend they were straight and within a short period of time they began to introduce me around to their friends. I was a little uncomfortable at first but I got over it quickly They were good people and they showed a genuine interest in getting to know me. I ended up forming many lasting friendships.

It didn’t take me very long to realize that gay males aren’t sexually interested in straight males, just as straight males aren’t sexually interested in gay males.

As time went by, I got to know their significant others, people they would have married. but for the fact that the law did not allow it. All of this was happening during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s. Several people I knew died of AIDS. This was a terrible time that I will never forget. Many of their families had long ago rejected them and they only had themselves to turn to for comfort. That really pissed me off. Often a sick and dying person’s partner could not even visit their dying partner in a hospital or obtain any information about their condition because the were not “family.” Eventually, hospices were created on Capitol Hill to permit them to pass in dignity with their partners and friends present.

As a result of these experiences, I have been a firm supporter of equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people for many years. Yes, indeed, I support same-sex marriage and proudly so. I celebrated and shed more than a few tears when the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided <em>Obergefell v. Hodges</em> back in June. At long last, the SCOTUS held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians. Therefore, laws that prohibit same-sex marriage violate the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Freedom of Religion Clause of the First Amendment is misunderstood by most Americans. It prohibits Congress from making any law regarding the establishment of a religion. Many of our Founding Fathers were atheists who wanted a prohibition in the Constitution prohibiting the government from endorsing any religion or religious view. This prohibition is the basis for the doctrine of separation of church and state. People who claim nothing in the Constitution authorizes the separation of church and state are absolutely wrong.

Freedom of religion means that a person can hold any religious belief they desire. They can even claim a religious basis to hate on blacks, women, Muslims, lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, Latinos, the poor, and any other person or group they don’t like. However, that does not mean that they can assault, murder, enslave or discriminate against them, even if they can point to some passage in the Bible that approves of doing so. For example, the Bible says God told Moses and the Israelites to slaughter everyone in Jericho and all the Canaanites. A person in this country today is not going to be able to beat a murder charge for killing a Palestinian living here on the ground that the Bible condones what he did. Similarly, a person cannot claim a religious exemption to a murder charge because they believe in the Old Testament <em>lex talionis</em>, an eye for an eye and killed someone in an act of revenge.

Kim Davis is the elected Clerk of the Rowan County Circuit Court. Issuing marriage licenses is one of her duties. If she truly believes her religious beliefs won’t permit her to do that, then she should resign her position.

Instead, she claims a religious right to discriminate. As I said, the Freedom of Religion Clause only applies to beliefs. It cannot be used as a sword to justify doing something that the law prohibits or refusing to do something that the law requires. Therefore, she can’t discriminate against same-sex couples who want to get married by refusing to issue them a marriage license.

In addition, while I do not pretend to be a Biblical scholar, I do not believe homosexuality is forbidden. Homosexuality has been around forever and in ancient Egypt it was accepted. Same thing in Greece. Alexander the Great, a military genius and fierce warrior who conquered the known world (Egypt, Persia and India) around 330 BC was a homosexual and no one thought any less of him for that. Nevertheless, even if God supposedly called it a sin, which I seriously doubt, that still does not give any person a right to discriminate against gays.

She took her best shot at convincing a judge that she was right. She lost in the United States District Court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The United States Supreme Court declined to consider her appeal. She has exhausted her legal options and now she is refusing to do her job while selfishly imposing her religious beliefs on other people. She also wants to become a martyr.

Kim Davis is not a hero and she is definitely not a martyr. She’s a bigot imposing her deeply held prejudices on others and for that reason she deserves no sympathy. She is literally contemptible and deserves to be exactly where she is: the Rowan County Jail.

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