Your Religious Freedoms Are YOUR Religious Freedoms

Gay marriageThe SCOTUS decision on June 26, 2015, is that marriage is a right that can be carried out between any two individuals who elect to marry and that this right cannot be denied based on color, creed, or gender.

And there was much rejoicing, and in my hometown of Dallas, a pair of gentlemen who have been together for 55 years were the first to get hitched.  It was a beautiful and momentous occasion.  I teared up, I was just so blissfully happy for them (and even now, I gots a little feel in my eye), and then I turned on the radio.

NPR is having wall-to-wall coverage on the topic, which is totally fantastic and I wholeheartedly support, and then this minister from some town in Texas came on and basically said that he was going to fight this, tooth and nail, because SCOTUS was sending the message that he could no longer discriminate against his employees for being gay without risking the loss of his tax-exempt status.

I’m not kidding.  I wish I was.  It was the ultimate WTF moment for me as I was driving down the highway, until he said, “And we’re going to do our best to find a candidate that will repeal this decision and defend religious freedoms.”

Then that became the ultimate WTF moment.

There are two things about this that completely blow my mind.  The first was that this pastor of an allegedly love-based religion was essentially saying that he loved the gays, except for the fact that they were gay, and therefore felt it was his religious right to be able to fire them if they came in all “gay-married” one day.  This was the actual example that he used as the justification for his vitriol, that he wouldn’t be able to fire someone for being gay-married.

The second thing that nearly caused me to veer off the road was when he suggested that discriminating would endanger his tax exempt status.

Now, before I pick this apart, let me first say that I have founded and run not one but two non-profit organizations with specialized tax status.  While I was establishing that specialized tax status, I learned a lot about what could and couldn’t be done with various types of statuses.  The fact that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts seems to think that if churches refuse to perform the marriage ceremonies of people who are gay that they will endanger their exempt status just goes to show that this guy has no clue what he’s on about.

Churches refuse to perform marriage ceremonies for people all the time.  In fact, that’s one of the best things about marriage being a civil liberty that it can be carried out by a Justice of the Peace – churches are optional.  Catholic churches at least used to not re-wed people who had been divorced, Mormon churches will not perform ceremonies for people who are both Mormon, and the list goes on.  In fact, any minister, pastor, priest, or other officiant who does not feel in their bones that a union between two humans is a good idea is more than welcome to not perform that ceremony.

I myself have refused to unite several couples because I just didn’t feel like it was a smart match, and I’ve usually been right.  It had nothing to do with the shapes of their nether bits.

Now, back to the tax exempt thing.  In all fairness, churches could continue to reject the performance of gay unions (and miss out on the cash cow that some of those gorgeous weddings would be), and it won’t matter one bit.  In your own house of worship, you can be as hateful and snotty as you like.  Since the licensing was really the important bit, and that’s now firmly set as a right that the individual states cannot deny, then this part becomes kind of silly.

However, what will endanger your tax exempt status is “political campaign intervention”, such as officially advocating, endorsing, or otherwise supporting any candidate in an election.

Gasp!  Shock!

And that guy just said that he was going to find candidates that would repeal this decision!

That sounds like intervention with very specifically stated intentions!  (Get his number, we’ll get to him later.)

Here’s the thing about religious freedom:  it’s your religious freedom.  It’s not “yours and everyone else’s as long as their religion is the same as yours”.  Religion is a personal thing.  It’s not genetic, it’s not even particularly endemic, and it’s not compulsory.

Religion is a choice.

People change religions all the time.  People convert, leave the church, go back to a different church, start their own… and they have the right to that because our nation protects religious freedom.

BUT, religious tenets do not under any circumstances supersede the law.

Let me say that again:  RELIGIOUS TENETS DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES EVER SUPERSEDE THE LAW!!!

If SCOTUS says that people of the same gender can marry, then they can legally marry.  They don’t have to religiously marry – and, frankly, with as horribly as so many of them have been treated by churches, I don’t know why they would.

And let’s get down to the real “Christian issue”.  The popular attitude (according to Leviticus, in the OLD Testament, by the way, before the Christ came along up UPDATED THE LAW) is that homosexuality is not natural, that it’s a lifestyle choice.  They said the same thing about left-handed people, incidentally.  In much the same why that they learned the left-handed people weren’t demonic or touched by the devil or anything like that, science has indicated that homosexuality is not only completely natural but actually aids in evolution of the species.

MORE GASP!  MORE SHOCK!

Those who fight this have to know that they’re on the wrong side of history.  They have to know in some part of their being that to stand in the way of the happiness of so many people is completely counter to what their god tells them.

They have to know this.

Please, let them figure this out.

Any religion should really start as a solitary practice, a means of exploring the depths of one’s own soul.  Even the Big Guy himself said not to judge, and yet…

Maybe if they actually followed their religion, they’d know where their freedom is.

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