Feldblum and other LGBT activists have historically been clear that sexual liberty would trump religious freedom. And for more than a decade some religious believers have warned that we should take them at their word when the activists said that “nondiscrimination” laws would require discarding Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.
The Background: The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is an independent, bipartisan agency established by Congress in 1957 whose duties include appraising federal laws and policies with respect to discrimination or denial of equal protection of the laws because of “race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin, or in the administration of justice” and to submit reports, findings, and recommendations to the President and Congress. The commission’s latest briefing report is titled “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties” and is intended to examine “the balance struck by federal courts, foremost among them the U.S. Supreme Court, in adjudicating claims for religious exemptions from otherwise applicable nondiscrimination law.”
The basic conclusion of the 306-page report is, “Religious exemptions to the protections of civil rights based upon classifications such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringe upon these civil rights.” (Notice that the report includes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected categories despite those not being included in the commission’s mandate.)
The tenor of the report is an overall disdain for actions motivated by religion. But they make a minor concession in saying that “beliefs” can still receive First Amendment protections (however they say that “conduct” [i.e., acting on one’s beliefs] “should be constrained by statutory law”).
But the best example of the attitude in the document toward religious liberty is found in the statement of the commission’s chairman, Martin R. Castro, which is worth quoting in full:
“The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” — John Adams
The phrases “religious liberty” and “religious freedom” will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.
Religious liberty was never intended to give one religion dominion over other religions, or a veto power over the civil rights and civil liberties of others. However, today, as in the past, religion is being used as both a weapon and a shield by those seeking to deny others equality. In our nation’s past religion has been used to justify slavery and later, Jim Crow laws. We now see “religious liberty” arguments sneaking their way back into our political and constitutional discourse (just like the concept of “state rights”) in an effort to undermine the rights of some Americans. This generation of Americans must stand up and speak out to ensure that religion never again be twisted to deny others the full promise of America.