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Our Religious Freedom: North Carolina and Mississippi

Constitution

We are free.

In these United States, we enjoy freedoms that many in a variety of nations and cultures do not. Our Founding Fathers labored arduously to create a system whereby a nation of states could co-exist under the umbrella of a republic, a system that allowed for self-governance through elected representation to ensure that everyone could enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I’m afraid, though, that the fabric of this nation is being torn to shreds, this due to an infantile mind-set of extreme self-gratification. We have become a people who have become so self-righteous and pompous and self-important that I’m afraid we are like the moth circling ever-closer to the flame.

The biggest casualty? Our freedom.

A Free Conscience

The fundamental right that we have – that absolutely no one can diminish – is the right to think. And, from that right to think is the right to express our thoughts. Short of yelling “fire” in a movie theater, we can pretty much say whatever it is we’re thinking.

Alongside our freedom to think and express our thoughts is our conscience, a morality that is planted deep within us and guides our actions and our worldview. Our conscience – our morality – is part and parcel of our freedom to think, to express. I doubt that one could exist without the other, and I’m sure there is a deep-seated relationship between thinking, expression, and conscience. None can exist without the other.

Boycott the States

Recently, North Carolina and Mississippi passed state laws which guaranteed protection to those who object to certain flash point situations regarding LGBT actions. In North Carolina, it’s the “bathroom law”, and in Mississippi, it’s protection for those who, by conscience, do not want to participate in same-sex unions, be they clergy, religious institutions, or government employees. These states have recently recognized that these particular people and institutions cannot be forced to participate, or fined, for following their conscience, a way of thinking they feel compelled to express. They are free to express their conscience without fear of fine or penalty.

Yet, many corporations have called for a boycott of these particular states because of the protection they are providing for those who cannot in good conscience partake in such behavior. Celebrities, too, have taken the high ground and cancelled concerts – Bruce Springsteen in North Carolina, and Bryan Adams in Mississippi.

Oddly enough, they are following their conscience and boycotting people who are, well, following their conscience. Each side of the argument has developed their own line of thinking, and they’ve expressed it – which they are free to do.

One side of the argument is hypocritical, while another side of the argument is being punished, in hopes that their thinking and expression and, ultimately, their conscience will change.

The Transparent Hypocrisy

Much has been said in the public sphere.  In “If Christians Can’t Discriminate, Neither Can Bruce Springsteen,” Matt Walsh states,

The irony here is so thick I might choke on it. These are people and companies choosing not to provide services to a group of people as a means of protesting a law that allows people to deny services to groups of people. They are following their conscience and boycotting to overturn a law that allows people to follow their conscience. They are exercising their First Amendment rights in order to make a statement against First Amendment rights. They are discriminating in response to “discrimination.” What’s next? Will they fly a private jet around the world to lecture people about the dangers of fossil fuel?

In “Liberals’ Double Standard on Bathrooms, Boycotts, and Religious Freedom,” Ryan T. Anderson laments the hypocrisy of it all. He begins by saying,

If it wasn’t for double standards, some liberals would have none at all. That seems to be the lesson from the past few weeks, where liberals have displayed three distinct forms of hypocrisy.

Rod Dreher, in “Religious Liberty in Mississippi,” is trying to make sense of why the new laws are so objectionable to some. He states,

The problem is that gay rights and religious liberty really are a zero-sum phenomenon in most ways. That is, the advance of one comes at the expense of the other. Nobody can have his way completely without causing the other side some loss. The problem for social and religious conservatives is that the other side either doesn’t understand the compromise it demands from the religiously dissenting minority, or it doesn’t care — and with the rare exception of places like Mississippi, the other side holds most of the power.

Andrew T. Walker, in “3 Reasons Why Religious Liberty Laws Don’t Discriminate,” gives clear evidence that these are not cases of discrimination, and he is clear about the end-result if there can be no respect or tolerance. He says,

Supporters of religious freedom laws are not interested in discriminating against persons. What many find objectionable are participating in services that have an overtly sacramental meaning. Once you understand the true face and nature of discrimination, you’ll see that religious freedom laws in no way commit the type of discrimination defined above.

Respect and tolerance are essential qualities of a free society. But they require reciprocation. True diversity requires respecting individuals with a religious belief while also allowing for goods and services to be available for those who seek them. Better yet, a pluralistic civil society ought to allow for peaceable disagreement without resorting to accusations that one side is dehumanizing the other.

Finally, the National Conference of State Legislatures provides a table of religious exemption statutes regarding same-sex unions. Ironically, many of the states that seek to boycott North Carolina and Mississippi provide for religious exemptions.

The hypocrisy of the progressive left is stunning. Using influence and money to coerce individuals and law-making entities stands opposite of what this nation was founded on. We are free. Free to think, free to express, and free to act without fear of penalty. I applaud those those who take a stand for religious freedom.

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