Redefining Free Exercise

As ridiculous as the Chick-fil-A protest/counter-protest has gotten, the issue is warping into a pro vs. anti gay marriage debate.  But there is a larger issue at play here: the First Amendment issue, which is being ignored by people on both sides of the debate.

In some ways, it makes sense that the debate has crept into a larger debate on homosexuality, but I believe it is important not to get pulled into the name calling and the vitriol that it seems every debate on gay marriage eventually devolves into.

Here’s a question: what did Dan Cathy say that was so hateful?  All he did was to state that he is in support of the traditional two-parent heterosexual family.  He didn’t put down or denigrate homosexuals.   His company has not refused to serve or hire homosexuals.  He has not encouraged anyone to discriminate against or commit violence against homosexuals.

I’ll put it on the line right now by saying that I agree with Dan Cathy.  I’m sure that our opinions diverge on some of the details, but I have yet to meet someone I agree with 100%.

I believe that the traditional two-parent heterosexual family model is the best, most stable family model around.  I am married to my first wife, and we are committed to each other – for life.  I believe our nation would be a lot better if more people felt that way.  I do not support gay marriage, primarily because sexual preference is a government-protected class, and legalizing gay marriage opens up a whole other can of worms on the religious liberty front.  That being said, I do believe that homosexual couples should be offered the same protection under the law as heterosexual couples, including hospital visitation, tax benefits, etc.  I believe that marriage is a holy vow, and it would be better overall if the government would stick to civil unions.

But when it comes to this debate, there are problems with the stance of both sides.  For me, I didn’t really care deeply about the Chick-fil-A issue until government leaders started saying they were going to ban Chick-fil-A from their cities.  In my mind, until government officials got involved, it was just another dumb boycott.  We have a First Amendment in America that gives us the right not only to free speech, but also bars the government from prohibiting the free exercise of religion.  Bottom line: government officials do not have the right to prohibit Chick-fil-A from opening stores because they disagree with the CEO’s statements or religious beliefs.

The Chick-fil-A controversy has brought out all kinds of people who oppose gay marriage, and unfortunately some of those people go beyond opposition to gay marriage and into outright gay-bashing.  That is not acceptable, especially from a group of people claiming to stand up in the name of Christianity.  No matter your position on gay marriage, discrimination and hatred toward homosexuals (or anyone else, for that matter), is wrong.

A friend of mine posed the following on her Facebook yesterday:

For those who don’t know, Seth Walsh was a 13-year old kid from Tehachapi, California who committed suicide after he was bullied for his sexual preferences.

And I agree with my friend’s sentiment, to a limited extent.  There are definitely Christians out there who need to take a step back and look at how they have twisted their faith into anger and discrimination against other people – and I’m talking about ordinary Christian people, not the freaks from Westboro Baptist or anything like that.

If you’re a Christian and hate homosexuals or you are indifferent to discrimination or bullying of homosexuals because Biblical teachings say that homosexuality is a sin, you’re doing the whole Christian thing wrong.

On the other side of that coin, religious people have the right to voice their opinions and vote according to their beliefs.  I am always dumbfounded by liberals who will stand up and fight for an absolute right to free speech, but then think that “separation of church and state” means that Christians should not allow their faith to inform their voting decisions, or that public displays of worship or public references to faith should be illegal.  Free speech and freedom of religion are covered in the same Amendment to the Constitution, and one is equally as important as the other.

But modern liberalism seeks to change the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause, or just do away with it entirely.  From the Left’s perspective, religious worship is acceptable if it is private, quiet, and/or politically correct.  After all, they have no problem with liberal Christians trying to back up politically-correct opinions with Biblical references…but then, tolerance-preaching Leftists tend to be exceedingly tolerant of positions that they agree with, and extremely intolerant of any view that disagrees with their personal opinions, to the point where they are even willing to throw out the Constitution to make their views law.

Religious people have the right to express their opinions and to worship as they choose.  People who disagree have the right to ignore religious people, or try to convince them of why they might be wrong, but government officials have no right to discriminate against any person just because that person doesn’t toe some politically correct line.  They have no right to re-define Free Exercise just because they disagree with it.  That is what the Chick-fil-A controversy is and should be about.

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