- The Washington Times - Monday, March 30, 2015


Oh, what a tangled web was weaved all because they tried to deceive.

The nattering nabobs of negativism are at it again, having opened wide the doors for hysterical misfits to loudly condemn everything related to Indiana but for Bobby Knight and Larry Bird. (Orville Redenbacher gets a reprieve, too.)

The uproar burst forth after the masses learned that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence put pen to paper so that his state could join the federal government and 19 states with a religious liberty law that says the government cannot burden individuals and businesses for standing on religious footing. Another dozen states are entertaining similar legislation.

The Indiana law, which was fashioned on the federal version, is being called anti-gay and discriminatory against gays, and it has drawn heckles from the likes of NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, ESPN mouth-man Keith Olbermann and former “Star Trek” actor George Takei. The mayor of Seattle wants to prohibit city workers from traveling to Indiana.

In light of that and more, here are five things about religion and gay rights that you need to know:

1) Then-D.C. Council member David Catania and his brethren (no pun intended) deliberately created an intersection of same-sex marriage and religion when he introduced the 2009 Religious Freedom And Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act. The intent was to ensure that men and women of the cloth would be liberated to officiate at gay weddings, even if their church’s doctrine disapproved. The legislation was approved by the council and signed into law by then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in 2010. The signing ceremony was held in a church.

2) Most of the states’ religious freedom laws are crafted similarly to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton in 1993, the law is neither a pawn of what first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton called the “vast right-wing conspiracy” nor an attempt by the much-aligned Bible believers to wipe the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex community (LGBTQI) off the face of the Earth. The movement to bolster religious liberty is, however, part and parcel of the implicit intent of the First Amendment, which, we all must understand, does not defend everything that we say but clearly gives us the right to say it.

3) The No. 1 bone of contention regarding Indiana’s law is that individuals and businesses could use it to discriminate against members of the LGBTQI community — that a baker may refuse to make a his-and-his couple’s cake. In other words, religious freedom can liberate a Protestant minister to perform a marriage for two men, but the same religious freedom cannot allow him to deny service to a gay couple. Another example is houses of worship: When it became clear the D.C. measure was going to pass, a once-nurturing D.C. Baptist church lost much of its congregation because those members did not believe in gay marriage.

4) Individuals and businesses already are exercising their religious freedom. A police officer refused to patrol a gay parade because of his religious beliefs, and an Oklahoma officer made a similar objection regarding a mosque. And in arguably the most noted legal case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the owners of the Hobby Lobby retail chain had legal standing to refuse to pay for its employees’ abortions. After all, the owners even adhered to religious blue laws and kept the doors of their stores closed on Sundays.

5) Barack Obama voted for Illinois’ religious liberty law when he served as an Illinois state lawmaker.

The outrage over the Indiana religious liberty law is outrageous. Critics want the NCAA to deprive Indianapolis of hosting the Final Four men’s basketball championship games, and they are asking reasonably minded Americans to boycott all things Indiana. Theirs are ridiculous propositions based on misleading sound bites, headlines and social media.

Critics and their media consorts are trying to create a victimization plot where none exists.

However, there is something afoot. It is a culture war, and the current battle is against religion and religious-minded individuals. The battle against the religious front began when that D.C. gay marriage law was crafted in 2009.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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