Some of the anger expressed about the RFRA in Indiana is antagonism with the whole idea of protecting religious liberty. Other issues result from specific elements of the legislation. It is highly disturbing to an observer in the forum of ideas to see that legislation supposedly produced as a consequence of thoughtful discussion of principles can be so readily discarded by supposedly principled leaders and rewritten by the cacophony in the streets. Outraged comments about the RFRA in Indiana included this observation: “the Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business to assert a right to ‘the free exercise of religion.’” The author of this comment regards the protection of the religious liberty of a for-profit business to be a problem.
It is time to defang a couple of prominent terms in public discourse:
The term for-profit is expressed with only slightly less distaste than if the speaker had just drunk a bucket of swamp water. I beg to invite more respect for businesses that operate for profit.
Further, I invite respect for the human beings who operate them, because without any human beings, there would be no businesses. A business is one possible expression of a human being. Some businesses are expressions of individual human beings–sole proprietorships. Other businesses are the expressions of hundreds of human beings who share the risk and the profits of the business–corporations. Recently there has been a huge push from certain circles to think of a business as if it could exist without being the expression of a human being. Respectfully, I assert that this concept is not possible. That is why the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court is tremendously important. That decision recognizes and records for posterity the truth that businesses are human.
The fact that humans engage in enterprise in many different ways is normal and common. They do it in order to earn money. The money earned from a business activity is profit. People need money to be able to support their families. There is nothing hideous about earning a profit.
The bottom line is that a for-profit business must earn money, and earning money by making a profit in a business is not more vile than earning a paycheck while working for a business. Think! Where do paychecks come from?
The second term, homophobe, is spoken with extreme self-righteousness and with great assurance of moral rectitude. I am not sure why. I have yet to see it applied appropriately. A phobia is an unreasonable fear or hatred, and the word homophobe is used as a label to accuse someone of unreasonable fear and hatred of homosexuals. There may be people who fear homosexuals, and for some of them, the fear may be unreasonable. However, I see the word regularly applied to people who neither fear nor hate homosexuals. The word homophobe is, for example, applied to people who refuse to participate in a ceremony designed to allow homosexuals to pretend that they are married. The people who refuse to participate are not trying to interfere with the homosexuals doing what they want to do. The people who are labeled homophobes simply refuse to participate in behavior they believe to be sinful. They do it, because they accept the Bible as a guide for faith and life, and they accept the Bible’s teaching that they should refuse to participate in sin.
These individuals are often people who engage in for-profit business. The LGBTQ political activists want to define for-profit business as a purely secular activity, unrelated to religious faith. They could not be more wrong. The business of making a living is part of human life, and the Bible is relevant to everything about human life. Many of the proscriptions against sin in the Bible have to do with integrity in business transactions. People who believe in God and try to live by the Bible are admonished to remember that they are under God’s authority whether they are selling eggs or praying. This is why people who make their livings providing goods and services for weddings take their faith into consideration in the decision to engage in or to refuse to engage in a business transaction. They believe that God judges their business actions the same way He judges all their other actions.
This is the reason that other comments made in the course of arguing that RFRA is not about religious liberty say things such as : “Being required to serve those we dislike is a painful price to pay for the privilege of running a business; but the pain exclusion inflicts on its victims, and on society, are far worse than the discomfort the faithful may suffer at having to open their businesses to all.” The author of this statement believes that when a Christian baker or photographer refuses to participate in a ceremony called a wedding between two persons of the same gender it means that the baker or photographer does not like the people who do participate in the ceremony. This author, like many other people, does not understand that the rejection has nothing to do with liking or disliking the people. The people are not the problem. The ceremony is the problem. The attempt to redefine marriage is the problem. The behavior consecrated by such a ceremony as if it were the legitimate foundation for a family is the problem. People who believe the Bible live according to a moral code that rejects homosexuality as sin and forbids them to participate in such sin. People who believe they must obey the Bible’s teachings will refuse to participate in sin, even though they may love the participants very much.
The people who founded the USA believed that every individual has an obligation to follow his conscience as God leads him. Their intent in the First Amendment was to protect that God-given right and obligation to the fullest. They never wanted someone to feel pressure from the government to act against conscience. That is the intent of the First Amendment, and had government always complied with that intent, the federal RFRA would never have been necessary. State RFRA would not be necessary. All these acts are about assuring the protection of religious liberty intended to be promised by the First Amendment “free exercise” clause. The failure of courts properly to apply the First Amendment is the background of the passage of the federal RFRA.
Maybe the real problem is that too many people have so little regard for or understanding of religion that they do not understand that participation or rejection of participation in religion is a fundamental human right, granted by God and protected by government. Religious liberty is not a privilege of the religious few. Religious liberty is the fundamental right of every person. The Founders of the USA found it necessary to express the importance of protecting this basic human right, because many of them had experienced life under governments that ignored this right. They designed the government of the USA to protect the fundamental right of every human being to choose his religion or reject his religion and to act in accord with the moral teachings of his religion.
The legislatures of Arkansas and Indiana have chosen to abandon religious liberty in favor of politically correct speech. They have allowed the LGBTQ activist agenda to override their vigilance to protect religious liberty in a nation where it is a founding principle. In Iran homosexuals are executed for being homosexuals. The penalty in Indiana for refusing to participate in homosexuality is not yet execution, but one wonders when that will change. There is still hope that other states will stand strong for religious liberty.