Prejudice, bigotry, discrimination, and hate crimes are becoming more public. When our nation was founded, many colonies had theocratic laws that discriminated against “other” religious beliefs in government. Massachusetts and South Carolina prohibited non-Protestant office holders. New York prohibited Catholics. Maryland prohibited Jews, freethinkers and deists. Delaware prohibited anyone who didn’t believe in the Trinity.
Our founders wisely devised a secular constitution that protects freedom of and from religion. Being religiously neutral made our government radically superior to any before it. The Constitution says “no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust . . . .” Federal officials may be sworn into office by oath or affirmation to prohibit requiring a person to swear to a deity to hold office. These provisions, and omitting the word “God” from the constitution, were wise choices.
We are now moving dangerously in the wrong direction. A conservative Supreme Court majority decided that a public bakery could discriminate against a gay couple based on the business owner’s sincere religious beliefs. (What would an insincere religious belief look like?) Now an Arizona court has decided a public printing company may refuse to create wedding invitations for a same-sex wedding. Because these public business products are considered “art,” they are termed free speech. Even hate speech is legally protected, yet hateful behavior is not, even if it is motivated by “sincere beliefs.”
The Supreme Court decided 140 years ago that the right to believe in polygamy was protected but the right to practice polygamy was not. Many people use to have a sincere religious belief in slavery, but the practice was eventually prohibited. Public businesses should not have the right to discriminate because of an owner’s religious dogma. We must not become a theocracy. Shariah is not the only danger.