Raushenbush on Religion-Based Discrimination


Rev. Paul Raushenbush, a Baptist minister and the religion editor for the Huffington Post, has a very reasonable column about the dangers of allowing discrimination on the basis of “sincerely held religious beliefs.” He asks some of the same questions I’ve been asking and warns his fellow Christians not to go down that path:

For instance, who is to decide what is sincere? Are the religious beliefs sincere if a cake seller will sell a cake to two divorced individuals for their second marriage but not to a same-sex couple for their first? Or does this cafeteria-style approach to Christianity expose a lack of sincerity of religious belief? This raises the question of who will determine the sincerity of a belief. The courts? If so, which religious leaders will advise the courts on that question, as it is clear that religious leaders increasingly disagree on the question of gay marriage and the full dignity of LGBT people?

Also, will the freedom to refuse to serve those who offend “sincerely held religious beliefs” extend to people of one faith expressing hostility toward people of another faith? If a Christian believes that Hindus worship a deity or deities that she finds offensive, will she be allowed to refuse to photograph a Hindu wedding or make a cake for a Hindu holy day based on her “sincerely held religious beliefs”?

And what about sincerely held beliefs that are not religious? At a time when 40 percent of people under 30 hold no specific religious affiliation, and when many of those identify as “spiritual but not religious,” how will the laws address those with “sincerely held spiritual beliefs”? And given the rise of atheism and secular humanism, will those who espouse no formal religion also have their sincerely held beliefs protected?

Religious people should be very hesitant to go down the path of discrimination based on “sincerely held” beliefs, as it could be used against them. What if someone were to claim that their sincerely held belief caused them to not serve fundamentalist religious people? If these bills pass, you can guarantee that the reputation of religious people is gong to take a serious hit.

Laws that say we can pick and choose whom we work with based on our “sincerely held religious beliefs” are dangerous to our society. These bills promote further division at a time when America is already deeply divided, and they encourage self-segregation into isolated communities that only serve people with whom we are “sincerely” compatible…

Bills that encourage communities to rip apart the fabric of America should be seen for what they are: discriminatory and deeply un-American. That is my sincerely held religious belief.

Well said.

Comments

  1. says

    Odinism. Christian Identity. The Creativity Movement, formerly known as the World Church of the Creator. Nation of Islam. There are plenty of racist religions out there, and I haven’t mentioned the MANY sects and movements that espouse racism as a religious belief even while their larger denominations do not.

    And what about the attitude of many Muslim and Hindu men towards women? Anti-Semitism? Islamophobia? Religious animosity between Catholics and Protestants, or Shi’ites and Sunni?

  2. a miasma of incandescent plasma says

    Religious people should be very hesitant to go down the path of discrimination based on “sincerely held” beliefs, as it could be used against them.

    Not a true Crhistian!!

    You see, if I were doing something wrong in how I live my lifestyle I would definitely want someone to come along and correct me. Thankfully, for myself I just happen to be that person that is doing the correcting. See?! Me denying a cake to a gay couple is selfless!

    So all I’m asking for is the right to tell them their life is wrong! Oh and I want the government to back me up with that.

    Why do you gheys want special priviledges?!?!

    Derp!!! Teh religious thinking is unpenentrable!!

  3. eric says

    Religious people should be very hesitant to go down the path of discrimination based on “sincerely held” beliefs, as it could be used against them.

    AIUI, this question does not bother fundies primarily because they are advancing a two-pronged attack. One prong is this discrimination idea. The other prong is the idea that the first amendment only applies to some limited version of Christianity. Thus, in their idea legal landscape, the idea of some heathen using their religious freedom to discriminate against Christians never comes up, because that would remain illegal.

  4. pixiedust says

    “…you can guarantee that the reputation of religious people is going to take a serious hit.”

    Uh, not so much. He overestimates the amount of remaining downside.

  5. RickR says

    If these bills pass, you can guarantee that the reputation of religious people is gong to take a serious hit.

    I’d argue that the very fact that these bills were proposed in the first place has tarnished the reputation of religion, and at least some religious people.

  6. Wylann says

    I am NOT going to read the comments to that article.

    I will, however, let any of you do so (see how magnanimous I am?) and let me be pleasantly surprised.

  7. says

    1a. Discriminating against divorcees getting married again would be ridiculous. I mean, I might be divorced one day!
    1b. Discriminating against gayhomos is fine. I’m not a gayhomo.
    2. Discriminating against followers of other religions is wrong (exempt: the Muslins). Religion is a protected class, which I’m normally against, but in this case it’s okay. After all, it protects me.
     
    And, most importantly,
    3. Demographics never change, so my painfully shortsighted small-minded spite will never come back to haunt me.

  8. grumpyoldfart says

    He … warns his fellow Christians not to go down that path.

    But they will go down that path – by the hundreds of millions!

  9. Alverant says

    There are already laws against discrimination on the basis of religion so those “sincerely held religious beliefs” are just trying to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people. If a non-christian would use the law to avoid doing their job, those same people promoting it would struggle to rewrite their law. We’ve seen it before in LA when a state representative wanted to have tax dollars fund religious schools. When a muslim school applied to get some of that money the person who submitted the bill was quoted as saying, “I thought ‘religious’ meant ‘Christian’!” then tried to get the law retracted.

  10. ambassadorfromverdammt says

    @7 Mudusoperandi

    (except: the muslins)

    Is that a typo, or did you make up a new religion out of whole cloth?

  11. Nick Gotts says

    Bills that encourage communities to rip apart the fabric of America should be seen for what they are: discriminatory and deeply un-American. That is my sincerely held religious belief. – Paul Rausenbush

    The last sentence is clearly an error: it can’t be a religious belief, as it’s based on empirical evidence and rational argument :-p

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