I am a strong advocate for freedom to religion, and I really enjoy attempting to understand different faiths’ basic traditions and how they mold the ethical dimension of their followers lives. However, I am also a strong proponent for freedom from religion as well. Therefore, when somebody’s right to religious freedom infringes on another person’s access to basic human rights, a line is being crossed. This is why I was baffled by the bill that was trying to work its way through Arizona’s senate that would allow religious institutions to discriminate (basically) against homosexuals. I was happy to hear the bill was vetoed by Arizona’s governor, but I still couldn’t believe it had made it that far.
We have come a long way in promoting both religious justice and human rights and I feel even the proposal of such a bill is regressive in both areas. The “religious justice” reasoning seems like an excuse to ignorance rather than an advancement of a people. Rather than spreading acceptance of religion and religious freedom, this to me is a cop-out in this situation. Since religion ranks up there in topics that make people feel uncomfortable, crying “religious freedom” acts as a third rail that policy makers do not want to touch. When the religious freedom excuse is used in situations to oppress other people it de-validates other efforts in the advancement of acceptance of all faiths.
This promotes an interesting issue in today’s society as to what is hindering a person’s first amendment rights? Many different theorists, theologians, anthropologists and various other scholarly people have different definitions of what religion really is. The difficulty to define religion makes it that much harder to determine when the “religious freedom” excuse is really justifiable because what might have religious significance to one person, could be bologna to someone else, and who’s to determine religion from bologna?