The recent events in Arizona regarding “religious freedom” have left me offended, angry, and even somewhat confused. How can someone read the New Testament with such a narrow mind that they miss the entire message? But that is not what this post is about. I want to try and understand what religious freedom means.
We do have the right to hold the religious beliefs – or non-beliefs – of our choice, and we have the right to act upon them, as long as they do not impede, harm, or otherwise encroach upon the rights and wellbeing of others. This is where it gets a little “sticky”.
We live in a complex civil society where we are all inter-connected in so many ways, many of which we are unaware. Every one of us, directly or indirectly, contributes to the support of everyone else. My taxes pay for the civil infrastructure that businesses and individuals utilize: they pay for the medical safety net we provide for everyone: my taxes enable the tax benefits that are offered to private enterprises: my taxes contribute to the utilities that churches and houses of worship utilize.
We have many freedoms in this country, but with them come RESPONSIBILITIES. We have a responsibility to maintain the fabric of our society where we respect and treat one another fairly and without prejudice. This means understanding that the freedom to hold religious beliefs exists today because of this very fabric, and if that becomes shredded we devolve into social anarchy.
We are not a Theocracy. We are a Democracy, a country governed by civil laws, and our freedoms must conform to those laws. We can believe anything we want, but we cannot do anything we want.