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ken_bw.jpg Ethicalego Speaks

Ethicalego (Kenneth Brooks) discusses current events from a critical thinking perspective rarely expressed elsewhere


Misconception about Religious Liberty

By Kenneth Brooks



Religious liberty includes the legal right of Christian business owners to discriminate against same-gender couples. Republican Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Republicans in ten state legislatures assert religious liberty extends to business decisions of business owners based on the religious convictions. Jindal claims a silent war against Religious Liberty in America, because Christian business owners face discrimination charges for refusing to sell product to same-gender couples.

Contrary to the common belief of conservatives and liberals alike, the Constitution denies government authority to protect or to interfere with religious freedom. The First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting any establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof." This means that in the Constitution the people refused government authority over religious expression. No support or interference in religion by government means zero involvement of government. Federal Internal Revenue Service codes granting tax exemptions for religion expression that meets a government standard is a blatant violation of the First Amendment.


This First Amendment exclusion of government authority over religion is a sensible check given the personal nature of religious expression. The free exercise of religion combines the thoughts, conduct, and morality of the individual. In other words, religious convictions are internal qualities of the person and not authority to decide other people's conduct. Therefore, government would not have a real-world standard of law to settle disputes among personal religious convictions.

For example, a bakery refused to make or sell a wedding cake to a gay couple based on the owners asserted First Amendment right of religious expression. However, as discussed above, the First Amendment does not protect an individual's right of religious expression over rights of other people. It only denies government the power to interfere in that expression.

Americans do have government protected human and civil rights including the right to decide their associations. However, government can protect this right only if the person sets out a clear personal standard of associations that someone or some group violated.

The bakery business owner announced a retail policy inclusive of all public members as paying customers when he or she sought a retail business license from the government agency. Therefore, the business owner had no legal grounds to refuse service to certain couples based on the owner's personal convictions about their sexual orientation or other personal traits. The Gay couple only wanted to buy a special cake. All else about them was not the business owners' concern.

Someone may ask if the bakery owner could deny service to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transsexual (LGBT) individuals based on religious convictions if he or she indicated this restriction on the business license application. Rules of logic dictate the answer must be no, because the business owner could not hold those religious convictions and operate a retail business.

Obviously, government agencies, power companies, and business suppliers employ LGBT individuals. Religious convictions allegedly prevent some Christian business owners from associating with LGBT individuals as paying customers. If so, those same religious convictions should prevent those business owners from buying products and services of government and businesses that employ LGBT individuals. Therefore, the practical requirements of retail business operation offer prospective business owners two choices. They can apply their religious convictions only to them. They can apply their religious convictions to other peoples conduct and refuse to buy the services and products their business needs to operate.

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