Here’s why ‘religious freedom’ is not a license to discriminate

The recent Supreme Court decision for the baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple has me thinking. According to the Constitution, what exactly is one’s right? Do we all have equal rights or not? 

There seems to be an overwhelming need to be right in society today. Is that need to be right really an attempt to control things?

Suppose you came into the emergency room where I was working and you needed CPR or life support to save your life, but it was against my religion to use artificial means to save a life? Would I refuse and let you lie there and die? 

Of course not. It is my right to continue to believe the way I believe about artificial life support, but it is also the right of the patient to have artificial life support. 

Suppose you go to the store and the Catholic behind the register refuses to sell you birth control because it is against her religion. The Muslim behind the register refuses to sell you an Easter ham because it is against their religion to eat pork. The Mormon behind the register refuses to sell you Coke because it goes against their religious belief. The Jehovah’s Witness refuses to sell you a birthday card for the party you’re attending. 

No one wants to be forced to do anything that is beyond their religious belief, but where do we draw the line?

I’m not asking the Muslim to eat the ham. I am only asking him to ring me up at the register. I am not asking the Jehovah’s Witness to celebrate or attend the birthday party with me. I am only asking her to sell me the birthday card. The gay couple was not asking the baker to attend the wedding and celebrate with them. They were only asking him to sell them a cake.

Is this where we are headed?  Anyone can refuse any service to anyone else based solely on the fact that they do not believe the same things?

It’s time we all look past our nose and stop the judgment. It is not anyone’s place to refuse service to another based on beliefs. That is called judgment. You are judging another by refusing service. You are saying they are wrong. You are taking away their rights so you can practice yours. 

So you believe in the Bible. Does that give you the right to refuse service to someone who doesn’t? Forget that the Bible forbids judging others in the first place. Jesus sat down to dinner with the scribes and Pharisees. They were considered the chiefs of sinners, but he didn’t deny them their right to dinner because they didn’t believe the way he did. He instead showed them love, kindness and respect. 

We all deserve equal rights, but what happens when you use your rights to deny me my rights? It all comes down to respecting and loving everyone, regardless of belief.

All the religions in the world are man-made and often used to divide us. Wars are waged based on them. Court battles are forged in them. Something about fighting in the name of God just doesn’t seem right to me. 

I have come to realize that I am only responsible for me. I love a quote from the Bible that says, “Let every man work out his own soul salvation.” It does not say for you or I to work out another’s belief. 

Let's work together to ensure that everyone enjoys the same rights. Allow each individual to live the life they love. It is their right. 

Vince Shifflett is a critical care Registered Nurse and popular blogger living in Atlanta. Read more of his work at vinceshifflett.com.

This feature originally appeared in Q magazine. Read the full issue below, and pick up your copy at LGBTQ venues around town every Wednesday.