Depends on who you ask.
Last week, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a report entitled “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties.”
It analyzed the balance struck by federal courts in considering claims for religious exemptions from nondiscrimination laws, the report reads. Yet, many freedom-loving Americans were none too pleased to find that the document claims the term “religious liberty” is sometimes code for discrimination. (It really hammers this point home because the word discrimination is used over 700 times).
The commission argues that religious freedom is being used as a “weapon” just like in the days of slavery and Jim Crow. Religious liberty, the report reads, is being used to “undermine” the rights of American minorities.
The article goes on to quote Sen. Orin Hatch, who is no fan of the report.
Hatch concluded that the commission get a better understanding of the meaning of religious liberty before filing any more reports.
The report comes out against the ‘religious freedom laws’ which are being written across the country. (The link is to the report — a big pdf file.)
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. (page 5, Letter from the Chairman)
We will need to work out the balance between religious liberties and civil rights. Can a Christian, Mormon or Muslim civil servant refuse to marry gay citizens? Will people of faith be driven from civic life because of these issues?
If a court decides that gay marriage is a right, can local justices of the peace or judges effectively force gay couples to drive to another county or state for a marriage?
And am I the only person who thinks the federal government’s own commission should tread lightly as state legislatures write religious freedom laws?
I’ve said before, these are dangerous times for the faithful. I pray the answers come through mature debate. Calling folks bigots is not the answer.