Religious liberty: Jeff Jacoby’s column of 12/31/08

Background.  Jacoby writes that an important issue for the year is “the drive by gay activists to punish religious believers whose faith forbids homosexual relationships.”  Rather that deal directly with the issue of gay marriage (which I support), my letter to Jeff puts the conflict between religious freedom and secular laws in a broader context.

 

Dear Jeff,

Your column laments attacks on religious freedom by those supporting gay marriage. It’s easy to take a position in favor of religious freedom when the religious view coincides with your own.   It’s much more challenging when the religious view is different from your own.

Here are some other questions concerning when religious freedom trumps laws. I’m curious where you come down on these issues.

1.     In the past, there have been religions that believed it wrong for two people of different races to marry.  Would you have supported their freedom not to perform weddings or take pictures at weddings?

2.     Do you support Christian Scientists who refuse to give their children antibiotics for serious illnesses such as pneumonia?

3.     Should an online dating service be permitted to refuse matches for people of different religions?

4.     Do you support the rights of pharmacists to deny patients the right to a morning after pill if they believe it to be immoral?  How about birth control devices?  How about condoms?

5.     Should public schools permit Christian prayer?  If so, under what precise conditions?  And what should happen if a school does not honor the conditions?

6.     For those who believe that abortion is murder, do they have the right to refuse to carry out those parts of the job that relates in any way to the abortion?  Should clerks be permitted refuse to handle the paperwork?  Is it acceptable for a staff member in a newspaper refuse to print an ad for a clinic?  If a policeman believes that abortion is murder, can he refuse to arrest those who illegally harass those at abortion clinics?

As for myself, I am ambivalent in the case of Christian Scientists and in the case of the on-line dating service.  I support voluntary prayer in school, but believe that “prayer in school” leads to a hornet’s nest of issues, and often leads to bad behavior on both sides.  In each of the other cases, I do not believe that religious freedom trumps other laws.

As a final note, it is not apparent to me why religious views should be treated in a different legal manner than deeply held philosophical views.  But that is a matter for a different blog post.  Regards, Jim

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