Rev. Paul Raushenbush, a Baptist minister and the religion editor for the Huffington Post, has a very reasonable column about the dangers of allowing discrimination on the basis of “sincerely held religious beliefs.” He asks some of the same questions I’ve been asking and warns his fellow Christians not to go down that path:
For instance, who is to decide what is sincere? Are the religious beliefs sincere if a cake seller will sell a cake to two divorced individuals for their second marriage but not to a same-sex couple for their first? Or does this cafeteria-style approach to Christianity expose a lack of sincerity of religious belief? This raises the question of who will determine the sincerity of a belief. The courts? If so, which religious leaders will advise the courts on that question, as it is clear that religious leaders increasingly disagree on the question of gay marriage and the full dignity of LGBT people?
Also, will the freedom to refuse to serve those who offend “sincerely held religious beliefs” extend to people of one faith expressing hostility toward people of another faith? If a Christian believes that Hindus worship a deity or deities that she finds offensive, will she be allowed to refuse to photograph a Hindu wedding or make a cake for a Hindu holy day based on her “sincerely held religious beliefs”?
And what about sincerely held beliefs that are not religious? At a time when 40 percent of people under 30 hold no specific religious affiliation, and when many of those identify as “spiritual but not religious,” how will the laws address those with “sincerely held spiritual beliefs”? And given the rise of atheism and secular humanism, will those who espouse no formal religion also have their sincerely held beliefs protected?
Religious people should be very hesitant to go down the path of discrimination based on “sincerely held” beliefs, as it could be used against them. What if someone were to claim that their sincerely held belief caused them to not serve fundamentalist religious people? If these bills pass, you can guarantee that the reputation of religious people is gong to take a serious hit.
Laws that say we can pick and choose whom we work with based on our “sincerely held religious beliefs” are dangerous to our society. These bills promote further division at a time when America is already deeply divided, and they encourage self-segregation into isolated communities that only serve people with whom we are “sincerely” compatible…
Bills that encourage communities to rip apart the fabric of America should be seen for what they are: discriminatory and deeply un-American. That is my sincerely held religious belief.