Tag Archives: free exercise of religion

There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted. — Henry David Thoreau

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“Do you think religion inherently good?” This was a rhetorical question posed to the class when I was a student at Queen’s University in 1986. The class was in a course in the history of Christianity. The question was posed by Professor William P. Zion who was on the faculty of the department of religious studies and the Queen’s Theological College. He was also a Russian Orthodox Priest, Father Basil. We were young students who never stopped to think about this. Professor Zion answered the question for us, telling us, “no, religion is not inherently good.” He cited the fact that historically Christians gathered to watch people burned at the stake as a witness to their faith. Professor Zion had a bit of fun with the class in posing this question, but what made me recall this memory is the fact that the majority of humanity practices some kind of religion. I appreciate and understand the appeal of religion for people. I was a pious Roman Catholic myself for several years. Interestingly, it was Father Basil who supported and encouraged me to accept my gayness and continue practicing my faith. I concur with Professor Zion in that I do not think religion is inherently good. This puts me in a bind at times as I interact with people of various faiths, who view their faith as inherently good, right and desirable, both personally and informally in my daily life. Continue reading

The Lord is my Shepherd and he knows I’m gay. — Troy Perry

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The issues of gay rights, religious liberty and tolerance of religion in Canada and the United States remain contentious. While the destigmatization of homosexuality is a welcome trend in Canada and the United States, it is by no means a fait accompli. Lawful discrimination on religious grounds against gay people remains an issue, notably in secondary and post-secondary education, as religious institutions operate and have sole proprietorship of their own high schools, colleges and universities. The issue of lawful discrimination against gay people on religious grounds and opposition to it from the wider society is highlighted by recent events concerning Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia and Lutheran High North (a high school ) in Houston, Texas. Both schools have moral codes founded on their interpretation of Christianity that bar sexual activity outside marriage and between persons of the same sex. The schools stand firm in their opposition to homosexuality in the face of controversy and maintain they are within their rights to do so. In either case, presumably, a gay student is welcome to attend, provided they abide by the moral codes instituted by the respective schools. This is legal in both Canada and the United States, but is it tolerable and what is the appropriate response for those who take issue with these school policies? Continue reading

The emphasis must be not on the right to abortion but on the right to privacy and reproductive control. — Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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Controversy rages on in U. S. society over the issues of religious liberty and sexuality. The right to marry, the destigmatization of homosexuality and reproductive freedom are issues that, historically and in the present, conflict with deep seated religious beliefs and traditions in U.S. society. While the U.S. Congress and State Legislatures addressed these issues, especially in passing legislation to guarantee religious liberty, disputes concerning religious liberty and sexuality more often are settled by the courts. In 1967 the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled state bans on interracial marriage were unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia. In 2013, SCOTUS struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and refused to hear the appeal of Proposition 8 in California. This removed legal barriers to same sex marriage. Homosexuality was decriminalized in the U.S. in 2003 when SCOTUS ruled on Lawrence v. Texas. Most recently, the decision handed down by SCOTUS in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is generating heated discussion in the media and blogosphere. In this instance SCOTUS ruled on a dispute between the issues of religious liberty and reproductive rights. Continue reading

We are living at a time when creeds and ideologies vary and clash. But the gospel of human sympathy is universal and eternal. — Samuel Hopkins Adams

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Is religious liberty under threat in the United States? This is an interesting question and bears examination. The controversy over the passage of SB 1062 in Arizona and the decision by the Governor, Jan Brewer, to veto the legislation has many people insisting their religious liberty is threatened and determined to stiffen their resistance to this perceived threat. Regarding religious liberty in US society, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, in 1944 (then Federal Council of Churches of Christ), formed the following definition:

Religious liberty shall be interpreted to include freedom to worship according to conscience and to bring up children in the faith of their parents; freedom for the individual to change his religion; freedom to preach, educate, publish and carry on missionary activities; and freedom to organize with others, and to acquire and hold property, for these purposes. (as cited in Wikipedia)

At present, these are fundamental freedoms guaranteed in US law. Is there any reason to believe they are at risk? Continue reading