This blog continues a discussion started in my last blog and ties it in with my opinion that the United States risks turning a founding principle – freedom of religion – into freedom from religion.
Religious Freedom is a primary source of the unparallelled ascendancy of the US and of its influence in human affairs. Many seek to exercise this freedom in an effort to align the nation with the Will of God as expressed in the Bible. This anchors one side of the so-called “Culture War” which has been emerging for 150 years, and which in recent decades has given birth to the red/blue state divide.
The rainbow symbolizes two extremes. One side invokes Noah’s flood as described in Genesis 6:5: “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” In the wake of the US Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) decision in Obergefell v. Hodges on same-sex marriage the President turned the White House into a rainbow. Storm clouds are gathering over an epic battle for religious freedom.
Back in 1878 SCOTUS ruled in Reynolds vs. the United States that you can hold a religious belief in polygamy, but you can’t act on it. Why are polygamists jailed while same-sex couples are protected? What kinds of impulses qualify as those which can be acted upon, vs. those which can’t? Are there other cases which shed light on these questions?
In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby SCOTUS ruled that Hobby Lobby can ignore “Obamacare’s” birth-control mandate for religious reasons. “Americans do not lose their religious freedom when they run a family business” they said. A Huffington Post article assures conservatives nothing has changed.
This rings hollow. An Oregon court fined Aaron and Melissa Klein $135,000 for refusing to bake a lesbian wedding cake. Is Sweet Cakes different than Hobby Lobby? Yes, because one was about an offering to all employees, the other about discriminating against certain customers. And Sweet Cakes’ owners acted foolishly and punitively, while Hobby Lobby can be said to have acted wisely, with restraint. Still, to determine the Sweet Cakes fine an employee discrimination case, in which one would expect higher fines, was used. And some believe “militant gays” are using the new state and federal rulings to target a different minority – Christians with anti same-sex beliefs. The outcome of Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Craig (Denver, CO) may shed light or throw fuel on the fire.
To help reflect on this I randomly picked a Virtues Card and came up with Hope – “looking to the future with trust and faith”. Interestingly, the card features the rainbow. Coincidence?
I don’t believe in coincidence and I believe America’s roots tap into divine soil. She plays a pivotal role in the Creator’s purpose and I have faith she will continue to do so. The card says “The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance, but live right in it, under its roof.” This is one of the reasons I chose to tackle this thorny and potentially divisive topic in this blog. I have hope – and I hope that a discussion, a dialogue, will lead to answers, and peace, and reconciliation, and unity. After all, the motto on our great seal is “e pluribus unum”.