Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. – First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
Unless you have been living the past week on a deserted island, you know that lots of folks are fussing over the new Indiana religious freedom law. There are thousands of news articles about it and analyses pro and con.
However, I’m presenting you with the non-legal, non-technical, non-political, common sense explanation of how to understand this mess.
First, this had nothing to do with the civil rights movement and whether some people have to sit in the back of the bus or can’t get a sandwich at the lunch counter.
Second, this has nothing to do with whether someone can marry someone of the same gender, multiple genders or a tree.
Third, this has nothing to do with imposing my beliefs on anyone else.
What is has to do with is being able to live according to my religious beliefs.
So…rather than debating these in abstract terms, we’ll use an example to show how things should work in a real world that respects religious freedom and individual conscience.
Let’s say, just for the sake of discussion, that I’m a devout Catholic and I own bakery that makes really scrumptious cupcakes. And in the course of a business day, I have a series of customers with whom I have the following interactions:
- Mary and Jane each order a cupcake and after devouring them exclaim, “for sure, these are the best cupcakes ever.” They explain that they are planning a wedding and ask if I could supply six dozen cupcakes with a cute little rose on each one for their reception. I say I would be happy to do that. Then they ask if I could also bake a wedding cake and have a butter cream sculpture of two naked women kissing on top of the cake. To that, I explain that I don’t do butter cream nudes or kissing women, but they can pick anything else from my catalogue. At this point – in a sane world – Mary and Jane would get the cake somewhere else (or realize the cake they wanted lacked good taste – at least in the artistic sense).
- Ralph wanders into my shop and orders a cupcake, takes one bite and proclaims me to be the cupcake master, the boss of batter, the sultan of sugar…you get the idea. He then says he wants to order 500 white cupcakes for his upcoming Ku Klux Klan convention and have me there to hand them out — he’ll be sure to credit me as his supplier. Hmmmm…..well…..I explain that I have no interest in being a part of his convention because what his organization stands for runs counter to my faith.
- Smith enters my shop, buys a cupcake and nibbles around the edges, noting she is watching her weight – but says if she were not counting calories she would engulf the cupcake. She explains that she is having a confirmation party for her daughter and would like to order 50 cupcakes and a big cake with a Christian cross on top. And could I deliver them? I say that would be fine – here is my sample book so you can pick out the cross design you like most.
Three very different customers, but the one thing they have in common is that I graciously served each of them when they entered my shop and asked for something I had for sale. I didn’t ask them to identify their gender preference, racial beliefs or religion. Each wanted a cupcake and I sold it to them.
However, when they asked me to get involved with them in a manner that would run with or against my values, I did make different choices. That is something our constitution allows me to do. There is much common sense in the constitution.