The Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, or RFRA’s, that the states are adopting, pell-mell, have the right idea, and I want in.
A RFRA is a vital piece of state-level legislation that strengthens the constitutional protection of religious exercise, because the constitutional protection of religion has become an eighteenth-century coot, grown so toothless and old that these days it spends most of its time staring out the window at the begonias and muttering about the old mare, and just can’t forbid like it used to. A RFRA is like a young, ripped, aviator-glasses-wearing enforcer who isn’t really given orders by the old prune at the windowsill, but just knows what needs to be done.
And what needs to be done? Religion needs to be protected from the creeping toxin of not-religion, to the tune of legislative guarantees that religious people will not be prosecuted for treating not-religious people like the fake citizens they are.
Never mind that the not-religious could be religious, after all. RFRA’s are not really concerned with religion, but with the right religion. If you don’t do religion right, you don’t really do religion, obviously. A religious person who approves of same-sex marriage—or, heaven forbid, is in one—has got to be pushed to exercise genuine religion by way of good, old-fashioned shunning. We need RFRA’s to make sure that real religion wins in this country over all that phony-baloney spirituality, or whatever the kids are calling it.
And there’s no need to get all bunched up over the risk that all this RFRA stuff amounts to the establishment of religion in this country that was built to fix the problem of establishment. Back in the olden days, the problem with a national religion was just Catholicism and Anglicanism. RFRA’s aren’t about to make those religions the law of the land. They’re only shaking down state legislatures to grant special privilege to perfectly good, American religions like Pentecostalism and Baptistism. Anyway, special privilege hardly amounts to establishment.
Yessiree, those RFRA’s have got the right idea. It’s been increasingly difficult here in the land of the free, recently, to count on protection from prosecution for treating people who are different like they aren’t real people at all. The RFRA’s are a big sigh of relief that I can just pass my neighbor by, and maybe sneer a little, just like Jesus said.
So, I’m excited. Following the RFRA model, I’ve got big plans. Why stop at strengthening the protection of the exercise of religion, when there are so many articles in the Bill of Rights that could use strengthening?
My own business of writing, for instance, could use some state-level legislation that recognizes that the constitutional protection of speech is just not enough, nowadays, to ensure that I can write whatever the hell I want.
When, for instance, I write, “Mike Pence wears pink panties”, the estimable governor of Indiana, who signed a RFRA into law earlier this month, can sue me for libel. But with something like a RFRA for writing—a Speech Freedom Restoration Act—I could argue that the state owes me protection from prosecution. Not only because my right to write should not be infringed, but also because, after all, I do believe he does wear pink panties.
Oh, yes, I should be free of the fear of fines (or of incarceration, since I don’t have any money) for expressing my genuine, heartfelt belief that Mike Pence wears pink panties, in the same way that a bakery in Indiana shouldn’t have to fear a discrimination lawsuit for expressing its religious belief that same-sex couples should not eat cake.
And think of the further possibilities of strengthening basic constitutional protections at the state level. We could pass, state-by-state, all sorts of supplemental legislation to shore up the basic constitutional protections that are increasingly failing real citizens.
The constitution protects us from the burden of paying excessive bail. Recognizing that any expense is excessive, a good, state-level Bail Freedom Restoration Act would mean that real citizens needn’t pay bail at all.
The constitutional guarantee of a right to a trial by a “jury of the vicinage” could be strengthened by a state-level Jury Freedom Restoration Act to guarantee that real citizens get to choose their friends as their juries.
And since the constitution allows people to own guns, we obviously need state-level legislation that protects the free exercise of guns. So stay tuned for the next legislative strategy to drum up money and votes: a Gun Freedom Restoration Act that protects real citizens from prosecution for shooting people.