Category: religious freedom

A Thumbs Up for Religious Freedom or a Sop Before the Same-Sex Marriage Ruling?

By , June 3, 2015 6:30 pm

I don’t know, but the thought occurred to me Monday.

How Important is Religious Freedom?

By , July 21, 2014 2:58 pm

This important.

Why I Post What I Post

By , March 3, 2014 1:17 pm

In light of my recent posts on Arizona SB1062, the bill that Gov. Brewer vetoed the other day, I feel I need to be clear: I don’t hate gays or lesbians. I am not a homophobe. As the saying goes, I have friends (and relatives) who are gay or lesbian. I wish them well and, for the most part*, support them in their quest for equal rights. My religion challenges me to love all people. I try to do that. Most of the time I succeed.

No, my posts—and posts like them on other subjects—come from a deep-seated belief in the value of religious liberty and from an ongoing frustration with those on the left who label my side, the conservative/religious side, “haters,” “deniers,” “misogynists,” “fascists,” “homophobes,” and “racists,” among other things. I know in my heart that I’m none of those things, and I’m confident that all or the vast majority of the conservatives/religious people I know are not. Thus, I’ve made up my mind to push back whenever I see those on the other side of an argument cavalierly throw around such evil epithets posing as reasoned argument.

I want to stress the word “cavalierly.” I am not a Pollyanna. I realize there are people–people on both sides of the aisle–who are, in fact, haters, deniers, misogynists, fascists, homophobes, and racists. When they act out on those traits, they should be called out. That said, it seems that the best way to do that is on a case-by-case basis rather than to label an entire groups of people unfairly and, generally, for political purposes.

That is all.

*I support traditional marriage, again not out of any animus towards the LBGT community but out of a belief in the nature and purpose of marriage that I won’t go into here. I do support civil unions.

Cross posted to

Court or Steamroller? When Rights Conflict

By , March 1, 2014 4:27 pm

I don’t care which side you are (were) on in the recent outcry over Arizona’s SB1062, but I assume you are interested in the facts of what the bill did and did not do. From what I’ve read, the bill was badly misrepresented. And in the process, its proponents were labeled haters and homophobes, while Jon Stewart called the bill repugnant–even though SB1062 did not even mention same-sex marriage or homosexuality and even though it essentially copied laws that are already on the federal books and on the books of 18 states.

In fact, the proposed law would have come into play if, say, the government attempted to force a small business to provide birth control. It would have applied to a government’s attempt to compel a business to pay for abortion services for its employees. If you can think of a case where the government–state or federal–might impose a burden on someone’s sincere religious belief, the proposed law would apply. Yes, it could have come into play had a baker refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

But the bill WOULD NOT have decided the case. The bakery would still have to pass GO. The owner would still have to demonstrate that he or she was acting out of a sincere religious belief. The same-sex couple would still be able to argue that the baker’s belief was less than sincere and did not justify refusing them service. And a court would ultimately have to decide between the two parties—based on the rules set out in the proposed law. In other words, the bill did not create an exception, so religious people could discriminate willy nilly. It simply sets the standards by which a court would adjudicate such a case.

Don’t believe me? Here, for your reading pleasure, is the best description of the proposed law I’ve read. It’s written by 11 prominent law professors, some of them Republicans, some Democrats; some of them support same-sex marriage, some don’t. Nine of them felt that Gov. Brewer should have signed the bill. Two were unsure. Among the 11 are Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard and Michael McConnell of Stanford, two of the brightest lights in the legal academy.

You can read what they wrote at the link–without any filtering by the press or Comedy Central or by me. The following are three key paragraphs:

SB1062 would amend the Arizona RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] to address two ambiguities that have been the subject of litigation under other RFRAs. It would provide that people are covered when state or local government requires them to violate their religion in the conduct of their business, and it would provide that people are covered when sued by a private citizen invoking state or local law to demand that they violate their religion.

But nothing in the amendment would say who wins in either of these cases. The person invoking RFRA would still have to prove that he had a sincere religious belief and that state or local government was imposing a substantial burden on his exercise of that religious belief. And the government, or the person on the other side of the lawsuit, could still show that compliance with the law was necessary to serve a compelling government interest. As a business gets bigger and more impersonal, courts will become more skeptical about claims of substantial burden on the owner’s exercise of religion. And as a business gets bigger, the government’s claim of compelling interest will become stronger. (Emphasis supplied)

A few paragraphs later, the 11 law professors summarize the bill’s impact as follows:

So, to be clear: SB1062 does not say that businesses can discriminate for religious reasons. It says that business people can assert a claim or defense under RFRA, in any kind of case (discrimination cases are not even mentioned, although they would be included), that they have the burden of proving a substantial burden on a sincere religious practice, that the government or the person suing them has the burden of proof on compelling government interest, and that the state courts in Arizona make the final decision. (Emphasis supplied)

Did you catch that? Those who are refused service by a business can still sue. Those who are sued can assert the defense of sincere religious practice. And the courts get to sort it out–just like they would have done prior to the bill becoming law. The only difference is that the evidentiary rules governing that courtroom exercise would be codified.

And that’s repugnant? My eye.

Cross posted to

Let’s Just Cut Down Some of the Trees. One Tree Actually. That Big One Over There.

By , December 31, 2012 12:40 pm

Is “Giv{ing] Up on the Constitution” on your list of resolutions for 2013? It’s on Louis Michael Seidman’s.

I get his point, and I disagree with it. I like that the Constitution has been a drag on powerful presidents, finger-in-the-wind senators, a sometimes capricious judiciary, and an often fired-up citizenry. It had its flaws in the past, has others even now, but the Constitution also has mechanisms to correct those problems. It’s also worth mentioning that the Constitution has little or no bearing on much of what passes for law nowadays. In other words, not every legal issue is a constitutional issue.

In any case, to Professor Seidman, I’d respond with the words of Robert Bolt–through the mouth of Sir Thomas Moore–in his play A Man For All Seasons:

More [to his soon-to-be son-in-law William Roper]: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?
This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down (and you’re just the man to do it!), do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

Even Mr. Seidman acknowledges some good things in our Constitution: free speech, equal protection, things like that. He’d like to keep them. And so would I. But how secure would those rights be without a Constitution? Not very, I worry. They’re under attack even now. Fish in a barrel they’d be if we amended the Constitution out of existence.


By , August 1, 2012 10:32 pm

So what do we learn from the recent Chick-fil-A controversy and protests? Well,we learn that

1. We’ve turned 1/6th of our economy over to people who think it’s fine and dandy to use the considerable power of government to shut down speech they personally don’t approve of;

2. Many on the left has no scruples about maligning the right’s motives;

3. The Tea Party and other like-minded people will be out in force on Election Day (below, the line today at Chick-fil-A in Orem, Utah);

4. And thankfully, some on the left still believe in free speech.

About that free speech thingy, go here and read what the Volokh Conspiracy of law professors has to say about it. Eugene Volokh is one of the nation’s top Constitutional law scholars.

UPDATE: The author of the Facebook rant referred to in #2 pulled his post.

Fair Questions. Difficult Answers.

By , March 8, 2012 3:31 pm

I support Romney. And I’ve tired of the ridiculous questions about his religion. Most I’ve read have betrayed more about the questioner than they ever will about Romney or his Mormonism. That said, there are legitimate questions. Sarah Posner, Senior Editor at Religion Dispatches, has an article at where she asks some of them. What about Blacks and the Mormon priesthood? What about Mormonism and feminism, particularly in the 70s and 80s? And so on. Sarah’s tone is generally fair, as are the questions she asks. I’m interested in how Romney would answer them. Judging by what I’ve already heard about how he felt about the priesthood ban and by what I’ve read in stories like Peggy Stack’s 2008 article for the Salt Lake Tribune, I think he’d do just fine.

That said, the questions do present a problem that Posner fails to acknowledge. Responding to even these appropriate questions involves going deeper into Mormon belief than even the most interested journalist may be willing to go. And that might result in a poor, even unfair story being written by a reporter who tuned out as soon as she heard the bit she wanted to hear. To me, that’s one reason Romney may be reluctant to talk about his religion. Like me, he surely holds his beliefs sacred. Like me, he probably would rather that people understood how the Book of Mormon impacts how he deals with some of these difficult issues. Allow me to give an example of what I’m talking about.

I grew up in the 60s and served my mission in the Brazil North Mission from June 1971 to June 1973, before the 1978 so-called Revelation on the Priesthood. I supported the practice of not extending the priesthood to Blacks. Now, stop there, and I’m a racist. But that’s not even close to the truth. The truth is, I wasn’t a member of the Church because of the ban; I was a member in spite of it. And even that statement just scratches the surface of the story of me and the priesthood ban.

So imagine you’re a reporter, and you want me to go beneath that surface. Do you have the time and interest to hear me explain what I mean by what I just said? Are you ready for me to go into what the Book of Mormon means in my belief system and how it affects so much of what I do? Are you willing to listen to, then write fairly about, what the idea of living prophets means to me and why that belief would affect how I dealt with the priesthood ban? How receptive will you be to the evidence I would muster to demonstrate to you that I have always–always–treated people of color with love, that I have never condescended to them, that I’ve tried to treat everybody everywhere as equals, and so on?

If I were Romney and I could be sure that I’d get a fair hearing and that the writer would report my responses fairly, honestly, and without any mind reading, I’d jump at the chance to talk about the priesthood ban and any other Mormon questions they might have. But like Romney, I have doubts that would happen, and so I hold back. My sacred and deeply held beliefs don’t fit on bumper stickers. They aren’t made–aren’t appropriate–for 15 second sound bites. They just aren’t. Unfortunately, the political public seems to thrive on a diet of gossamer statements truncated to fit on the rear fender. And there’s the conundrum.

JFK Speaking in the Salt Lake Tabernacle

By , March 2, 2012 9:50 am

Without comment:

The Temple and Baptism for the Dead

By , February 22, 2012 11:47 am

I want to thank Daniel C. Peterson for pointing me (and you) to this video:

In turn, I’ll direct you to his blog where he discusses baptism for the dead. Petersen, by the way, is an Islamic scholar and teaches at BYU. You might be interested in his short book Muhammad: Prophet of God.

The Mormon Practice of Baptism of the Dead

By , February 15, 2012 10:21 am

I get the initial concern, even the outrage, over the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’s (the Mormons) practice of posthumous baptism of the dead. What I don’t get is the outrage after the practice has been explained, time and time again. But with hope in my heart, I’ll give it another shot:

1. Nobody, not even the dead, is forced to join the Mormon Church. Yes, we perform proxy baptisms in our temples on behalf of those who died without baptism, but it is part and parcel of our belief that those on the other side retain their free will and can accept or reject the baptism.

2. In response to complaints from the Jewish community, the Church had long ago stopped baptizing Holocaust victims, except in rare instances. In fact, “the policy of the Church is that members can request these baptisms only for their own ancestors.”

3. Mr. Weisel was never baptized.

4. Bottom line, the doctrine of proxy baptism is a doctrine of love and certainly not one of force. Moreover, the Church has bent over backwards in its efforts to explain the doctrine to concerned individuals and to accommodate those concerns without repudiating a core doctrine of the Church.

I hope this helps.

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