Abusing freedom of religion dangerous to the state (EDITORIAL)

Illustration by Emma Taggart
Illustration by Emma Taggart

Mikaela Reinard, Contributing Columnist

“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.”  – The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Illustration by Emma Taggart
Illustration by Emma Taggart

One of the most important freedoms as citizens of the United States is given to us by the First Amendment: the freedoms of religion and expression. But nowhere does it say we can use these freedoms as a basis for stripping people of their rights.

Originally, the term “separation of church and state” was coined by Thomas Jefferson. Despite this long-lived idea of no crossovers between religious institutions and our government, the opposite is becoming more desirable for some citizens among us.

Those who are content with the government making decisions based on religion have been gaining a voice and are in the process of trying to deny people their lawfully given rights. One recent example is Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage is constitutional.

Davis defied court orders and refused to distributing marriage licenses, claiming that she was acting “under God’s authority.” She was jailed for contempt of court, and during the five days of her detainment, she gained a substantial amount of followers who backed her beliefs and protested in favor of her release.

Among those who approved of her actions were presidential hopefuls Mike Huckabee, who said she should ignore the court’s ruling, and Ted Cruz, who released a statement supporting Davis on his campaign website.

“I stand with Kim Davis. Unequivocally. I stand with every American that the Obama Administration is trying to force to choose between honoring his or her faith or complying with a lawless court opinion,” Cruz’s statement read.

Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, but the imposition of their beliefs on other people is becoming a widespread issue. More and more politicians are building platforms off of their religious views, like Rick Santorum, who has publicly spoken about his dissatisfaction with various Christian businesses being closed down after refusing to serve same-sex couples.

Santorum suggests that this would be having “tolerance” and being “a two-way street” despite the fact that denying service to people for their own personal decisions is certainly not being tolerable in any means. He fully endorsed the original language of Indiana’s highly controversial legislation stating that individuals and businesses were allowed to express their religious beliefs as a defense when being sued by a private party.

Americans pride ourselves on our freedoms. Celebrating the actions of Kim Davis doesn’t honor those freedoms, but rather renders them vulnerable. We are a democracy, not a theocracy; therefore, we should not be fighting for legislation in the name of God or any other deity.

Religious freedom is not an excuse to deny people their rights. It is in place to allow people to individually practice their thoughts and views. It is not meant to infringe on people’s lives because they do not submit to the same views of a certain group of people. Freedom from religious persecution is not freedom to persecute.

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