We are told by LGBT advocates and their media allies that the Indiana bill to protect religious liberty was discriminatory and unjust, and we should all be very concerned and very afraid. Connecticut and Washington governors banned official state travel to the Hoosier state.
Seattle and San Francisco mayors did the same for their cities. University of Kentucky Coach John Calipari and the other three Final Four coaches signed a joint statement condemning discrimination of all forms.
Discrimination you say?
In the purest sense of the word, each coach practices a high level of discrimination. Those too short, too slow or incapable of putting the round ball through the hoop don't make the cut. Their peers in academic departments discriminate between honors students and those not making the grade.
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But when we talk about an individual's moral conviction and freedom to live it out — whoa call in the National Guard.
If the underlying intent of Religious Freedom Restoration Act is equivalent to Duke's Mike Krzyzewski officiating a UK game, then there's a problem. However, the legislation, if anything, balances the scales toward individual rights rather than tipping them in anyone's particular favor.
That's why Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer co-sponsored the federal RFRA, which forces the government to make a strong case before it infringes on someone's religious liberty. The federal law was a response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made it easier for the government to win over an individual's religious freedom claim. It passed by near unanimity by both Houses of Congress in 1993 and was signed by President Bill Clinton.
Twenty states, including Kentucky, have RFRA laws on the books. Ten more have other RFRA-like protections through the courts. According to University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock, RFRAs are about "churches feeding the homeless; sometimes the city or the neighbors object. They are about Muslim women wearing scarves or veils. They are about Amish buggies. They are about Sabbath observers. They are about church bells. And usually, the government wins. These laws have been under-enforced, not over-enforced."
Unfortunately, the RFRA debate has devolved into a media referendum over whether people can make a moral judgment on human sexual relationships and whether people of goodwill who honestly disagree on moral issues can coexist without government coercion that violates their values.
This has happened in part because religious freedom has been caricatured as code for bigotry. Consequently, conscience protections for religious belief in the public square are being swatted down like a blocked shot from Willie Cauley-Stein.
This sideshow over RFRA has detracted from serious discussion about what religious freedom means in civil society. Perhaps it is providential that this discussion took place during Holy Week, just before billions celebrated the historical event where the greatest act of intolerance met the greatest act of love and changed the world.
True tolerance is a tough road to travel in a pluralistic society. But it's the Emmaus Road each of us must walk in order for religious freedom to flourish.