A new study reports that a majority of adults believe that health care, employment and other services should not be denied to LGBTQ+ people on the basis of a provider or employer’s religious beliefs. This is a fundamental part of living in a free, diverse, tolerant society: You respect other people, even if you disagree with them. You especially respect people’s civil rights.
Of those polled, 84% said medical professionals should not be able to deny care to an LGBTQ+ person based on religious beliefs, 74% opposed the denial of employment and 71% opposed letting businesses refuse service. Most people understand that we are guaranteed basic rights, and we should not be denied those rights on the grounds of someone else’s beliefs. This would be religion-based discrimination.
Belief vs. action
Allowing health care providers to refuse service sets an especially dangerous precedent. Putting people in harm’s way is not covered by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free exercise of religion, and housing or employment discrimination is also not covered in many contexts. That’s because there’s a difference between belief and action; you may believe marriage equality is wrong, but that does not give you the right to take action to deny a same-sex couple their legal rights. Religious beliefs should not extend into the sphere of someone else’s rights, and it’s a monumental constitutional issue when they do.
What if, for example, an atheist refused service to a straight couple? Or a Muslim refused to provide medical care to a Christian? Or a Buddhist refused to employ an evangelical? I’m sure, in all these circumstances, Christian Nationalists would take issue. That’s because they don’t actually believe in the absolute freedom of religion which they profess. What they really want is freedom to make everyone abide by their views; you shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate against Christians, but Christians should be allowed to discriminate against you. These attacks are disingenuous, bad faith efforts to instill Christian Nationalism as a protected and exalted belief system.
A world without church-state separation
The matter of businesses discriminating against folks should be settled, but anti-LGBTQ+ extremists continue to refuse service to members of this community. Think of what the world will look like if we allow religious extremists, or any other group, to violate folks’ civil rights on the basis of belief. We would soon descend into anarchy and hate. We best remember that this is really what’s at stake with cases like 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis. We are duking it out in the courts to decide whether religion gives someone the right to discriminate in secular settings – let’s all hope the answer is a resounding no.