The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer — hope I didn’t miss any — community believes that the government’s religious exemptions are gutting civil rights protections for minorities.
LGBTQ activists are basing their opposition on “research” done by a triumvirate of the most liberal, most radical groups in America: the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for American Progress, and the Movement Advancement Project.
“The many proposals to allow religious discrimination are consistent with the trend of the administration to undercut civil rights broadly,” Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU, told NBC News. “The administration is taking the position that religious freedoms give you a right to discriminate.”
The White House disagreed. Spokesman Judd Deere accused the organizations of being “a campaign arm of the Democratic Party” that has “refused to credit the President with any action he’s taken to protect LGBTQ Americans.”
Beyond their gross partisanship, these three groups have done more to advance the LGBTQ agenda than any others. They want to advance that agenda at the expense of another minority — devout people of faith. It does violence to the consciences of these people to be forced to accept those whose lifestyles they find sinful.
The Trump administration is pushing back against the charges.
“The President believes in human dignity for all and that no one should be discriminated against, including religious organizations and the LGBTQ community,” Deere said in a statement. “These actions build on President Trump’s longstanding commitment to responsibly safeguard the fundamental right to religious freedom by eliminating unfair and unequal treatment by the Federal government.”
The First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom is not conditional. It is absolute. There is no clearer statement in the Constitution than “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Sometimes, that freedom is uncomfortable. Not everyone accepts a strict interpretation of the Bible or the Koran or any other religious scripture that criticizes or proscribes gay rights.
But Americans have a right to be safe in their beliefs. And that fact trumps any argument that people of faith should be forced to abandon their consciences and be coerced into accepting those they do not accept.
The LGBTQ community wants to use the courts and the government to radically change the culture. They have every right to try. But no court decision or government law will change the hearts and minds of citizens. That’s where the battle should be joined by the LGBTQ people.
But instead, they seek to use the courts and government to force their agenda on other people who may not agree with it. Instead of persuasion — the preferred method to change the culture — we get coercion. Instead of debate, we get name-calling and ridicule.
That is not the way to change minds or influence people.
The director of the Office of Civil Rights, Roger Severino, says that this does not grant the government — or anyone else — the right to discriminate.
Responding to the argument that expansive religious freedom constitutes a right to discriminate, Severino said: “Everyone has a fundamental equality and dignity by nature. In a pluralistic society we are going to have all sorts of views on important issues that affect people, and we have to live together in an environment of mutual respect.”
As long as opponents of religious freedom refuse to respect people of faith, there will be conflict.