The current political climate might be unfortunately tinged by partisan politics, but that doesn’t mean new points of view cannot emerge. A healthy society needs people who ask questions, challenge the norm and explore new ideas.
The Ohio State Board of Education, although not as bad as some state boards like in Kansas, has had it share of religious conservatives. Most of the time these people try to push a religious agenda into the public schools like creationism. A member from North East Ohio tried to get the board involved in the issue of transgendered people using public school bathrooms. It makes me wonder how someone who distrusts the government so much would want to work for it
Obvious violations of the first amendment in public schools can include a sign with an obvious religious message, a teacher proselytizing, or a school promoted event sponsored by a religious group that includes a sermon or prayer. There are, however, many smaller violations going on all the time that might be harder to see or stop. It takes all of us, checking into our local schools, to police these minor violations and to educate people about the 1st amendment.
In Ohio, Substitute HB 425, also known as the Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act seems to codify rights in state law that public school students currently enjoy from the 1st amendment of the US Constitution and that have been affirmed through various court cases over the years. Why would a GOP majority seem to want to protect religious freedom for students? To give cover to discriminate and bully LGBT students of course.
The next act of religious conservatives against same-sex marriage, after the US Supreme Court decision, included claiming ‘religious freedom’ to justify continued opposition to it and trying to enact laws allowing them to ignore the court decision. Yet when people like me bring up the use of ‘religious freedom’ also being used to oppose the civil rights struggle for blacks back in the 60s, these same ‘Doctors of Theology’ claim amnesia and say the Bible doesn’t support racism. Their amnesia is at least disingenuous if not dishonest.
David Simms, writing at Godless in Dixie, notes:
That’s why it’s so funny (and also disheartening) to see people like Ted Cruz try to weasel their way out of explaining how their ongoing crusade against homosexuality is “totally different” than the fight against desegregation which their political forbearers waged in the not-so-distant past.
Even if Cruz believes that Falwell and Jones were relying on a “misinterpretation” of scripture to support racism, it is entirely irrelevant. What is relevant is that these people had at the time a sincerely held belief that their position was scripturally sound, in the very same way that those who want to discriminate today on the basis of “religious freedom” have a sincerely held belief that their position is scripturally sound.
The arguments are the same.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, in November of 2015, Ted Cruz held a “religious liberty” conference at…wait for it…Bob Jones University. Ted Cruz claims that there is no religious backing for the notion that interracial marriage is wrong. Yet, he hosts a religious liberty conference at the very same university which took their case all the way to the Supreme Court to insist that they have the religious liberty to ban interracial marriage.
The irony is palpable.
Back in 1983, Bob Jones University lost a court case where it claimed “religious freedom” to base racist school policy that prohibited interracial dating. The IRS decided to revoke their tax exemption because of the racism.
“Government has a fundamental, overriding interest in eradicating racial discrimination in education . . . which substantially outweighs whatever burden denial of tax benefits places on [the University’s] exercise of their religious beliefs.”
As long as a government law or policy isn’t forcing a religious group to change its beliefs then the use of “religious freedom” to ignore the law or policy is ethically wrong.
Same-sex people getting married isn’t forcing those who dislike same-sex marriage to like that kind of marriage. You are still free to hate same-sex marriage or hate homosexuality but the tradition of rights in this country is based on a neutral or secular view point.
If you try to get laws passed to legally discriminate against gay couples or other LGBTQ people then you are trying to use the force of the state to force your religious beliefs on others. That is also ethically wrong and anti-American.
The Center for American Progress (CAP) sees the problem with religious freedom after the Hobby Lobby court decision in 2014. Religious freedom is being used as a weapon to discriminate. CAP has some ideas on how to restore the religious freedom balance. They all sound good.