Skip to main content

Indiana's religious freedom law

Peter Steinfels asks if there's any liberals left that will protect religious freedom. Sure, to a certain extent. I'm all for allowing some of these things:

They may include refusing to fight in defense of the nation, rejecting certain foodstuffs or medical treatments, discouraging young people from secondary or higher education, honoring celibacy or condemning a variety of sexual practices, sacrificing animals, drinking alcohol, or ingesting hallucinogens for ritual purposes, prescribing certain head coverings or hairstyles despite school or occupational rules, insisting on distinct roles for men and women, withdrawing from friends and family for lives of silence and seclusion, marching in prayer through neighborhoods on holy days, preaching on street corners or otherwise trying to convert others to these persuasions.

I'd be many liberals would be open to allowing them as well. Then he specifically he asks that liberals:

let the question be debated and the legislation framed with as much sensitivity to acknowledging, harmonizing, and balancing the rights on both sides rather than dismissing one set of concerns out of hand.

I'll grant that many liberals have been too quick to condemn Indiana's law and have basically rejected it without giving much of a in depth response. But I think what Peter is asking for has already happened in regard to most if not any discrimination against gay people. The debate is over for liberals. We see no reason to discriminate against gay people.

I'm not sure how much sensitivity we've given to the balance of preventing discrimination and protecting religious freedom. I do take the principle of religious freedom seriously. But you have to have a reasonable argument behind it. And frankly, I don't think any religious reason I've heard for being able to discriminate against gay people makes any sense whatsoever.

If you're talking about the religious freedom to take an hallucinogen, I don't think the argument needs to be very strong. You're probably not hurting others and you might not even be hurting yourself. You certainly aren't discriminating against anyone. So go ahead and practice your religion. But while it may be minor, refusing a gay couple service from your business is a harm. And the reason for it is.....what, exactly?

It seems like the problem is less that liberals aren't sufficiently respectful of religious freedom. It's that the arguments offered up in defense of religious freedom don't merit much respect. And at some point we have to start drawing lines as to what arguments merit respect because we can't allow people cart blanche to do whatever they want in the name of religious freedom.