Tag Archives: religious liberty

I think we must suspect that his ‘conversion’ was largely imaginary. […] Fine feelings, new insights, greater interest in ‘religion’ mean nothing unless they make our behaviour better. — C.S. Lewis

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There is a great deal of discussion about Kim Davis, the clerk for Rowan County, Kentucky, jailed by U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning who found her in contempt of court on September 3, 2015. She defied the court order to issue marriage licenses as required in her capacity as County Clerk. Davis refuses to issue marriage licenses in protest of the Supreme Court of the United States ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015 that made same-sex marriage lawful across the United States. She justifies her refusal to issue marriage licenses on the grounds of her religious objection to same-sex marriage.  As she stated: “to issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience.” (New York Times) The question here is whether her refusal to issue marriage licenses is genuinely a matter of faith and conscientious objection to same-sex marriage or, as many of her critics allege, simply a cynical ploy on her part to draw attention to herself and feather her own nest in the process. Is this nothing more than religious hypocrisy on her part? Continue reading

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If a couple of gay guys want to throw the gayest, most fabulous wedding of all time, the only way it should offend you is if you weren’t invited. ― Orlando Winters

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“No shirt, no shoes, no service,” how often am I confronted by a sign with these words posted when I approach the entrance to a restaurant or shop. There are hotels, bed & breakfasts, resorts and housing developments that refuse to allow children. I remember in 1968 my mother and father were asked by owners to leave their bed & breakfast in Cheltenham, England, because other guests did not like that there were children on the premises. I remember back in 1987 when I was a student at Wilfrid Laurier University trying to find a place to live in Kitchener-Waterloo. It was a very tight market for student housing and for one of the ads I answered was told curtly by the voice on the telephone “we only take girls.” In 1989 back in Ottawa as I browsed ads in the newspaper for shared accommodation I noticed more than a few that included the phrase “straight only.” People discriminate against others in the marketplace for various reasons and in many cases, such as those listed above, it is lawful to do so, while in others it is not. The question is what is the appropriate response if you find yourself confronted with a situation when you think you are the butt of either unjust or unlawful discrimination. Continue reading

Society may no longer define marriage in the only way marriage has ever been defined in the annals of recorded history. Many societies allowed polygamy, many allowed child marriages, some allowed marriage within families; but none, in thousands of years, defined marriage as the union of people of the same sex. — Dennis Prager

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Polygamy is a broad term and when applied to human society refers to plural marriage which means having more than one spouse. Facets of this term include polygyny which refers to a form of plural marriage in which a man is allowed to have more than one wife. Polyandry describes the form of plural marriage in which a women has more than one husband. Polyamory is a form of plural marriage where a family consists of multiple husbands and wives at the same time. These kinds of marriages existed historically in human societies and continue in some societies in the present. However, in the Western world monogamous marriage (between one man and one woman) became the norm and was enshrined in law with the rise of the Roman Empire and the ascendance of Christianity as the dominant faith. In the current controversy over same sex marriage raging across the U.S. critics and opponents of same sex marriage often refer to polygamy as a reason to deny marriage rights to same sex couples. The common assertion is that if monogamous marriage is redefined to allow same sex couples to marry, then people who want to enter into polygamous marriages will demand the right to to so pointing to the fact that same sex couples are free to marry. Is there any merit to this claim? Continue reading

Indiana wants me, Lord, I can’t go back there. — R. Dean Taylor

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Indiana is a state situated in the mid-western United States and is well-known across the rest of the United States and much of the world for the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, one of the most prestigious motor sport races in the world. This week, however, Indiana finds itself in the spotlight because of the the passage of SB 101 the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. Governor Mike Pence signed the bill into law on March 26, 2015 and the law goes into effect on July 1, 2015. The legislation is necessary, as supporters of the legislation such as Eric Miller of  Advance America asserted because, “it is vitally important to protect religious freedom in Indiana […] to help protect churches, Christian businesses and individuals from those who want to punish them because of their Biblical beliefs!” (Victory at the State House) Those in opposition to the legislation such as Democratic Party Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane fear the legislation allows for discrimination on religious grounds. As Senator Lanane stated it is “extremely disappointing that Governor Pence endorses this out-of-touch, discriminatory legislation. Not only is this law unnecessary, it unfortunately has already portrayed our state as intolerant, unfriendly, and backwards; things which I believe most Hoosiers reject.” (as cited in the Indy Star) Governor Pence disagrees, stating “this bill is not about discrimination and if I thought it legalized discrimination I would have vetoed it.” (as cited in the Indy Star) Is religious freedom threatened in Indiana and does this legislation intended to safeguard religious freedom allow for lawful discrimination on religious grounds? These questions merit further discussion. 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