On reading your guest column this week in the Clarion-Ledger claiming that Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill that “aims to legalize hatred”, I was moved to read HB 1523 (Religious Accommodations Bill) for a third time. The tone and content of your column almost seems to suggest the bill was reviving racial discrimination when it is a bill allowing for people of faith to recuse themselves from being forced to PARTICIPATE in matters that are heretical to the religious tenet of marriage being between one man and one woman.
You claim the bill is “hatred” and is “discrimination” and further claim that the bill allows the discrimination against others based on the phrase “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction”; that this language is not new. That it is the same language previously held, by some, that African-Americans are only suited for slavery; that it was the basis of Jim Crow laws; that it was the language for prohibiting intermarriage between blacks and whites, etc., etc.
However, this language you mock and rail against happens to be the very same language that abolitionists used in freeing black men and women from slavery, perhaps even your ancestors. This language, embodying the freedom to exercise one’s conscience formed by Holy Writ, is the same language that occupies a place of paramount importance in international human rights law – and for two reasons. One, our endowment with conscience and reason is the foundation of the human rights system. Second, conscience has also been the engine of human rights activism – from the abolition of slavery to the condemnation of genocide.
However, with due respect you wrongly assign conscience and religious conviction as the cause of the civil rights issues when it was instead that of prejudice. Prejudice prevails in the presence of a masked conscience, or an absent one. Contrary to your point, it was the Reverend King, a man of deeply-held religious beliefs and moral convictions, in his letter written from a Birmingham jail, who appealed to CONSCIENCE, explaining to his fellow pastors that it was only in direct physical nonviolent protest that they, the civil rights activists, could lay their case “before the CONSCIENCE of the local and the national community.” Moved by his own personal religious and moral convictions, it was Reverend King’s appeal to CONSCIENCE that extricated prejudice from hardened hearts.
With respect to the “religious belief and moral conviction” you mock, allow me to bring to your attention the United Nations document, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which outlines in Article 18 that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, CONSCIENCE AND RELIGION; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Yes, I know it’s from the United Nations and the United States makes its own laws. But wouldn’t you agree with Holocaust survivors and others that freedom of conscience is a core human right?
Mr. Johnson, is it your position that the U.S. Army made a mistake last month in giving religious accommodations to the religious and moral convictions of three Sikh-American soldiers allowing them to observe their Sikh faith in uniform attire? That perhaps this accommodation should be revoked?
Is it your position that faith-based adoption agencies, their faith being informed by Holy Scripture that marriage is between one man and one woman, that against their religious tenets they must facilitate the adoption of a child by two men?
Is it your position that men and women should no longer be allowed to use their conscience in seeking and discerning moral truth; that they must subordinate this inalienable right to LGBTQ policies?
Finally, is it your position and those whose views you represent that freedom of conscience is not a core human right, as it has been declared by United Nations documents and agreed to by many nations?
With all due respect your views seem quite reactionary. But if it’s your position, and those that agree with you, that LGBTQ policies should be elevated above the freedom to exercise one’s conscience, prohibiting others from recusing themselves from PARTICIPATING in acts that affirm or PROMOTE behavior that is heretical to their religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman, then the universal human rights system itself will be endangered and people of all faiths will be enslaved to an odious authoritarian ideology. The enslavement of the body is one thing; the authoritarian enslavement of one’s conscience is another.
Our country is at a crossroads, departing from a nation whose laws were once, as planned by our Founders, founded and based on moral truths, to one that has begun to depart from those moorings, resulting in our having to struggle with issues like this one. May it be our prayer that it is God’s Will that we are able to regain those moorings.
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What is there in this life that should make any man contradict the dictates of his conscience, the principles of justice, the laws of religion, and of God?...The circumstances of this trade are now laid open to us . . . we can not turn aside so as to avoid seeing it....