Freedom of Conscience

preacherThere’s a group in our country who wants what they want. They communicate these wants through their leaders.

So, what do they want?

One example is something they want is atheists out of America. We know this through messages (called sermons) from official representatives of their organizations (called churches) led by official spokespersons (called preachers). Further, we know these messages are official because the membership (called congregations) has indicated support by voting (called money) for these representatives.

Another example (as if we needed more) is elected representatives (called Republicans) trying to control other human beings (called legislation) extending the “rights” of some to the detriment of others. These are the so-called Freedom of Conscience laws.

A few attempts have failed so far, including the one in Arizona just this week, but make no mistake about it. More are on the way. This will continue until one becomes the law of the land, at which point it will be appealed (at great expense) where it will finally be decided by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Now, I know that this combative group isn’t representative of all religious, conservative, Republican folks out there. There are lots of good, sincere and well-intentioned people on both sides of most any issue. (Even if one side stubbornly refuses to admit it.) But these types are supported by enough people that their messages often have as much power as a gathering storm.

The Freedom Of Conscience strategy represents a shift from the time-honored traditions of “abomination” and “you’re going to Hell.” One thing about the Culture War: It never ends and scouts are always being dispatched to probe for weaknesses along enemy lines.

There’s something about power structures. They do not go willingly into that good night. Change, when it comes, is very much a matter of degrees, and is fought at each and every turn with tooth and nail. When one tiny piece at long last is whittled away it’s quickly replaced by a slightly different flavor of the same thing that maintains the status quo for a few more decades. (I’ll be dead. Let the next generation deal with it.) There might be times when change rips through a society like wildfire but usually it clings to life inch by terrible inch. For fun bonus points, check out racism, currently enjoying its umpteenth bonus round.

In the culture war the strategy is amazingly calculated. For a long time the enemy concentrated fire on the high-value target of same-sex marriage. (Since it’s a war I figure use of military jargon is apropos.) But then something happened. They started getting their asses kicked. Yes, they were determined and bravely fought on in the face of defeat, but eventually it began to become clear it was a losing effort. Judges were using alarming phrases like “civil rights” and populations were increasingly in favor of the fairness of the idea. Now that front is basically just cover fire as they retreat and shift focus on a different enemy flank.

“Freedom of Conscience” is that flank. It’s the all new and progressive way to take the fight to the enemy. We can’t fight ’em in the traditional halls of marriage, so let’s fight ’em Over There. It’s the fight of the future.

The idea of FOC is fiendishly simple: I shouldn’t have to compromise my “sincerely held” religious beliefs. After all, freedom of religion is a right in this country, right? Unless it deviates from mine, of course.

So simple. What reasonable person could ever possibly argue with that?

We’ve already seen many forms of FOC. We’ve seen members of the Catholic clergy (I hope that’s the right word) refusing holy communion to politicians in their congregation based on how they’ve performed their jobs. You took a pro-choice position? Let’s see you get into heaven without your precious body and blood of Jesus Christ! Ha ha! See how beautiful the concept of FOC is in every day practice?

A bakery accepted an order for a wedding cake. They made the cake. Then, on the big day, with the blessed event only hours away, they discovered the couple was, gasp, same sex. “Not in my house,” they said. “No sale!” They were literally willing to eat that cake rather than let it fall into the wrong hands where it might be used (in an abominable way) to further happiness and love. No way!

You got a few hours before the ceremony. You have the right to go buy a wedding cake from someone else. Perhaps there are some other folks out there going to Hell that you can associate with? Try the “bakery” in the godless grocery store down the street. Good luck! Mwuhahahaha!

freedom-of-conscienceI don’t care who you are or how you slice it: That’s a mean asshole thing to do. FOC or not.

The premise of FOC is that religious people shouldn’t have to compromise their principles. Perhaps the most famous example is a business person forced to engage (against their will) in the act of commerce with a gay person.

After all, selling a box of Chiclets gum at a grocery store counter is tantamount to endorsement of everything that person does in private, right? That’s sound logic.

They argue they have the right to opt-out of that act of commerce based on their sincerely held religious beliefs.

If we logically extend this argument, we quickly get to a very desolate place. Imagine a world where certain members of society, based solely on opinions of other people, are denied, by extension, the right to exist. It’s the modern version of shunning. Based on my religious beliefs I can deny you education, food, housing, clothing, medicine, police protection, firefighting, etc. Ultimately the argument being expressed with FOC legislation is: “I don’t like you. Please go die.”

“Hey, Mr. Cobbler. Will you fix my shoes? My feet are bleeding.” Here, fill out this form. We’ll make a religious assessment and get back to you with a yes/no decision. Please note that we’ll have to run a background check (which we love for everything except guns). Is your Clerical Score at least 650+ with no abominations? We can often get you shoe repair decision in minutes – while you wait.

Judgements stay on your record for seven years. Bankruptcies may remain up to 12. Abominations are forever. They become a permanent part of your record.

Sure, the Constitution of the United States says that we all have the right to believe what we want. That’s undisputed. It’s a right. By the same token, though, we can kill you for it. See how fun this is? Hallelujah! Amen.

A point I’ve made on this blog in the past deals with “religious right of refusal.” The idea is simple. The religious want special powers (the right of refusal) to pick and choose what laws apply to them. For example, maybe they don’t like that contraception dealio. (But make sure circumcision is covered, because modifying the perfection of what God has created is important.) All they want is the right to pick and choose what applies to them. Which, by the way, is a right enjoyed by no other class in our society. All they want is special privileges.

They are always careful to frame the discussion as one about “sincerely held” religious beliefs. Well, I’ve got a shit ton of sincerely held beliefs, too. Where do I sign up to get the special powers that enable me to project my beliefs on other people?

My “sincerely held” beliefs include, but are not limited to:

  • No smoking in public places
  • People shouldn’t smell like sweat socks
  • No cell phones in movie theaters and restaurants
  • Death penalty for texting and driving
  • The right to refuse religious folk who object to gays while breaking 90% of the commandments themselves (the lesser sins)

So sorry, atheist-going-to-Hell scum. Your beliefs, while (perhaps) sincerely held, are not based on religion. We made a special exemption for that. Only religious “sincerely held” beliefs qualify for the special powers. You literally get nothing and you’ll like it.

Let’s say FOC comes to pass. How will it work? Obviously the owner of the business has got his/her rights. They can refuse a wedding cake to a same-sex couple. That massive societal problem is finally solved!

What about employees, though? Don’t they have a right to FOC, too? What if the owner and the employee disagree in their “sincerely held” religious beliefs? What then? I propose the Ecumenical Court, populated with priests, acolytes, prefects, cardinals and the like. They can tackle these situations on a case-by-case basis and translate God’s will into our daily lives. I’m pretty sure that’s what the founders of our Christian nation had in mind.

Somehow I can’t help but imagine that all of this acrimony and infighting pleases God and Jesus and that Third Fellow. I remember that They implored humans to love each other so I imagine they are smiling as they watch all this unfold. If the creepy gays and atheists get killed early in Their names then it must be Their will. Perhaps that’s just God’s way of calling them Home early for special prizes. No doubt good times will be in store for those folks in the afterlife. They must be special.

It all makes so much sense. It just sounds so right. Who could possibly object to any of this?

12 responses

  1. Gosh. You think a lot. Thoughtfully.

    And, take heart: this is happening—http://brianmclaren.net/archives/blog/q-r-you-rob-bell-don-miller-and.html, paradigm shifts among the more extreme perps.

    Aslan is on the move, but the fundy dwarves don’t like it, call heresy.

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    1. As always, I fretted before publishing. The writing process usually concludes with a period of self doubt and loathing, followed by “who gives a shit?” then, in an act that is equal parts desperation and defiance, the PUBLISH button is clicked. That was very true in this case. I’m grateful that you took a look.

      I read your link. I’m glad that fellow followed his true conscience. He sounds like a thinker and a good person.

      Aslan was, among other things, compassionate towards others. I wonder if he would call customers out on their sin and refuse to sell them the bare necessities of life?

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      1. Word.

        Oh, and “that fellow” was their spokesperson. He was a Billy Graham heir-apparent, almost. There are big name church leaders opening minds and hearts. So that’s good, there’s hope on that front, which will bleed into politics. I hope.

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      2. Oh, and. I’m with you the death penalty for texting drivers. Especially the ones on the interstate, during rush hour. Cuz, golly.

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  2. I thought we had all agreed to just worship the almighty dollar…

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  3. And here I thought FOC stood for “Fuck Off Challengers.”

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    1. It’s a miracle! It means both. Wow. I feel like I’ve been touched by an angle. Congruence.

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  4. I was amazed at how the tone of the conversation in AZ started to change when it was brought to peoples’ attention that “Religious Freedom” meant that a MUSLIM might refuse a CHRISTIAN on religious grounds. WHAT!?!? Wait — that can be used against US?!!? What an awful law!

    FOC off, indeed.

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    1. In my opinion the establishment clause in the First Amendment would make illegal any law that attempts to qualify FOC on a religious basis. My prediction is that any such law would end up being tested in the courts and eventually by SCOTUS.

      If they are forced to leave out the religious element, then laws based solely on “sincerely held beliefs” would open a whole whoop ass can of worms. The bottom line is such a law would fail to achieve their true objective, namely the persecution of others based on religious beliefs.

      Of course by then they’ll be long gone fighting battles on some other flank we have yet to perceive.

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  5. I’m packing my bags, though I’ve yet to figure out where I’m going.

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    1. You could try staking out a claim in an undiscovered land, leaving behind the shit that you hate, then becoming exactly what you left behind. I hear the weather there is nice.

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      1. You make it sound so appealing! Maybe I’ll skip the luggage and just rough it.

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