Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"Thou Shalt Fire the Lesbian"

Okay, so Question 1 is a freedom of religion thing. Let’s follow that trail for a while.

If this is a freedom of religion thing, you’re going to have to claim that your religion includes in it a doctrine that says bosses should fire and landlords should evict LGBT people. Only then would the City Council’s additions to our anti-discrimination ordinance infringe upon your religious freedom.

To be clear, since we are talking about an “anti-discrimination” ordinance, the opposite of that would be “discrimination.” So in order for this to be an actual freedom of religion issue, active discrimination toward other people has to be a part of your faith.

Now, the source of doctrine for Christian people is the Bible. So what we’re looking for in the Bible is something that promotes discrimination. Maybe there’s a verse that says, “Thou shalt fire the lesbians among you,” or something like that. Maybe it says, “Thou shalt not rent an apartment to a gay man.” Or you know, some such applicable teaching.

The thing is … it just isn’t in there.

And so if it isn’t in the Bible, the primary source of religious doctrine for Christians, it had to come from some other source of authority. Maybe the doctrine came from a preacher, or a teacher, a denominational position, or some other secondary source. But it wasn’t the Bible. Maybe the preacher, teacher, or denomination is basing the doctrine on Scripture, but it is at best an interpretation.

So if Question 1 is a freedom of religion thing for you, that means you have heard from a teacher/preacher/denominational position that a part of what you are NOT to do in the practice of your religion is employ or rent to LGBT people. This is central enough to your faith that you are willing to propose a ballot initiative, sign a petition, take up valuable city resources on an election, buy a yard sign, etc. It is THAT important to you.

The thing is, all of that is still fine. You can base your religious teachings on anybody’s interpretation of any sacred text. Freedom of religion means ANY religion, and ANY version of ANY religion. Just ask a Pastafarian.

But freedom of religion has limits, and society sets those limits. Freedom of religion does not give you freedom to do harm against another person. And things like taking away someone’s job or evicting them from their home most definitely do harm. So, you can’t do it.

It’s really just that simple. It doesn’t matter if your religion gives you permission to do harm against another person. You can’t. You just can’t.

Even if commandment 73.5 of your sacred text actually is, “Thou shalt fire the lesbian.”

You just can’t.

Society places limits on freedom of religion, and one of those limits is that you can’t do harm to another person. At least that's what I believe, and that's one reason I'll be voting NO on question one.


Art Irish said...

Good article, as was the preceding one.

Steve H said...

Since I don't live in Springfield, I'm not familiar with this ballot issue and it's the first I've heard of it. Regardless, the wording of the ballot question is atrocious. Being a former computer programmer, this reminds me of computer code. How could any average person make an intelligent informed vote based on this wording? I have no doubt that the text, when decoded against the original ordinance, is technically accurate. But a ballot question should be simple and understandable to Average Joe/Jane. It seems like the question was meant to be obfuscating (again, while technically accurate - I assume). My meaningless 2 cents…

Warren H said...

As an attorney, I have spent a significant amount of time reviewing the ordinance. While I tend to be libertarian on such issues, the legislation adopted by the city suffers from fatal flaw of most legislation written by special interest groups in that the devil is in the details. The language of the legislation is broad enough that it could force a congregation that allows non-members to use its church for weddings for a fee to be forced to offer that option to a gay or lesbian couple who wants to marry. No church should be forced to Ethan if it feels it is against their beliefs. Further, the ordinance defines sexual orientation to include the practice of hetrosexual activity. Thus, if an unmarried hetrosexual couple wants to live together in an apartment, the ordince could be construed to prohibit a landlord from denying an apartment to them. Further, a creative attorney could argue that no employer could terminate a straight man who engages in adultery because that man is practicing his heterosexuality. I have seen courts adopt such extreme interpretations with other legislation.
Finally, the ordinance does not merely prohibit discrimination, it criminalizes it, which is unique to the ordinance. Under the Missouri Human Right Act or title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, neither of which include sexual orientation or gender identification, a person who violates the legislation can be held civilly liable, but they cannot be punished criminally. However uner the city ordinance, you can be criminally.
While I can provide a much more in depth legal analysis, suffice it to say that if it remains on the books, it is quite likely to be declared to violate the U.S. And/or Missouri Constitution.