Americans haven’t talked this much about religious liberty since the Puritans defined it as worshiping the right God (and making sure their neighbors did too). A few examples:
Creationists are building Noah’s Ark in Kentucky. Per Juanita Jean:
“They feel that it will be a great tourist attraction. Who knows? People go to Dollyworld. Need I say more?
So, they set themselves up as a non-profit and applied for $18 million in tax incentives from the good people of Kentucky.
One problem. They will only hire you to work there if you are a fundamentalist Christian.
It turns out that the state will not grant incentives to companies that discriminate in hiring. Ken Hamm, the creationist applying for Kentucky tax dollars, says the state’s refusal to fund him is persecution–that the governor is attacking his religious freedom and persecuting his organization “because of our Christian message.”
Meanwhile, in Ohio, there’s a guy facing legal action if he doesn’t take down the Nativity scene he erected at his own expense on his own property, because it features zombies instead of traditional biblical characters.
Jasen Dixon told WXIX that he manages 13 Rooms of Doom haunted house, so he already had the zombies, including one resembling the baby Jesus.
“I wanted a Nativity scene and I worked with what I had,” he explained.
Town officials claimed that Dixon was breaking rules that limited displays to no more than 35 percent of the yard. Needless to say, more traditional displays with equal proportions have not been cited, and Dixon had displayed the same size installation at Halloween on the same property with no problems.
And back home again in Indiana, State Senator Scott Schneider intends to “shore up gaps in Indiana’s religious liberty framework.”
“The focus has been on same-sex marriage because that’s the hot topic right now, but it goes far beyond that,” he said. “It’s important to have some religious freedom and protection.”
The “freedom” Schneider wants to protect is the freedom to discriminate against gay customers and citizens on the basis of (his preferred) religious doctrine.
Let’s cut the pretense. What people like Schneider and Hamm want is preferential treatment by government for their particular beliefs.
Hamm wants to use public money to promote his religious literalism; Schneider wants to allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT patrons. At the same time, they and other “religious freedom” theocrats want to use the authority of the state to shut down private religious displays or observances of which they disapprove.
Here’s the deal: thanks to separation of church and state (and yes, Virginia, the First Amendment may not use those words, but separation is what the religion clauses do) you have a right to believe anything you want. You also have a right to practice much–but not all–of what you believe. (You can’t sacrifice your firstborn, or beat your children senseless, or use illegal drugs in the name of your particular God).
Religious liberty does not mean you have the right to use other citizens’ tax dollars to promote your religious beliefs.
And Scott Schneider’s definition of “religious liberty” to the contrary, the First Amendment does not give businesses that rely on publicly-supported roads, sidewalks, transport, snow removal, garbage collection and the like the right to pick and choose which members of that public it will serve.