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Religious Freedom
A Foundational Concept

May 18, 2015

We want to commend Senator Larry Taylor for being willing to take a stand for religious freedom.  We agree with him that a person should not be forced by government or anyone else to violate their sincere and deeply held religious beliefs.  We would contend that government, using its power to force people to take actions that are abhorrent to them and their religious beliefs violates the spirit of the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution which prohibits the government from “establishing” a religion.  If the government can force a person who offers goods for sale to sell them to buyer who is going to use them for a purpose that violates the seller’s religious beliefs, then the argument can be made that by virtue of the government using its power in this way it has essentially “established” a religion.  Should an Islamic caterer be forced to serve pork at a Hawaiian luau?  We’d say no and the government shouldn’t be allowed to force him to do so.  Neither should the purchaser have a legal right to force such a sale against the will of the seller.

In business law 101, we are taught that a “sale” is where a willing seller and purchaser agree upon what goods and/or services will be provided for an agreed upon price.  The emphasis here is on the word willing.   Just like a buyer shouldn’t be forced to purchase a good/service he/she doesn‘t want, neither should a person be forced to sell a product or service, if by doing so his or her deeply held religious beliefs are being violated.

 A recent example is the Hobby Lobby case where the Administration’s Obamacare rules would have forced this closely-held company to make available certain forms of “contraception” that violated the religious beliefs of its owners.  The Supreme Court found in this case that the government couldn’t mandate or require (“force”) Hobby Lobby to offer such services.

The conscientious objector -- those who claim the right to refuse to perform military service on the grounds of freedom of religion – has been spared from serving in the U.S. armed forces.  This right has been part of our county’s history from its founding.  So the idea of religious freedom trumping the ability of government (or others) to force compliance isn’t a new concept.

The Taylor’s bill says a person wouldn’t be subject to liability for declining to “(1) buy, sell, offer, or provide a good or service; (2) enter a contract; (3) hire a person; or (4) take any other discretionary action because of that person's sincerely held religious belief about marriage as only the union of one man and one woman.”

Nobody should be discriminated against because of race, sex, or religion; but neither should someone be forced to participate in someone else's religious practices, simply because they offer a product or service.  We are champions of freedom and individual liberty.

If Taylor’s bill were to ever become law it would make it clear that people cannot force others to take actions against their religious beliefs.  All of us should cherish our deeply held religious beliefs and work to ensure they are not violated by the government or anyone else for that matter.

Bill, Mark and John