This week the Supreme Court refused to hear a case about World Vision, a religious group that was being sued for alleged discriminatory job practices. The story has kicked up a bit of controversy over whether religious groups should have to follow the Civil Rights Act or if they can discriminate against LGBT at will.
Now, in this specific case, the four-year-long court battle was not LGBT-related but had to do with World Vision firing all non-Christian workers. But there are plenty of other cases and scenarios where LGBT people find themselves discriminated against by religiously affiliated businesses and finding that there is no recourse. There are also broader examples where religious groups claim government discrimination, such as Catholic Charities in Illinois, which is upset over the recently passed gay adoption bill, stating that they will go out of business because they will refuse to grant children to same-sex couples, even though they receive public tax funding.
We all know that freedom of religion is important, but so is freedom from religion, so where exactly do we draw the line? Religious groups should be free to practice their beliefs without persecution from the government, and individuals shouldn't be subjected to unfair business practices.
In Utah, it's an extremely hard battle to fight. Within the past two years we've seen 11 cities and municipalities pass non-discrimination ordinances, protecting LGBT people from workplace and housing discrimination. However, the religious right is now fighting back, attempting to pass additional laws stating that discrimination should be allowed as long as the business owner or landlord claims "religious beliefs" as their motivation.
For those of us who face these problems on a daily basis, it seems that the line in the sand should be fairly clear. Evicting a tenant or firing an employee from a private business or home simply because you disagree with them on a religious or philosophical basis cannot be the sole requisite standard. By that same token, a religiously-affiliated business that receives monies from the state or federal government should also be required to obey all laws, including the equal-opportunity employment. It is only fair that a religious group should have to abide by all non-discrimination practices as long as it is being funded by the general public.
However, on the flip side, it seems that the logical argument would be that a private business owned by a religious group that does not receive any public funds should be free to operate within the confines of that particular religion's dogma.
Seem reasonable? I like to think so, but it's a little scary how rarely this basic logic seems to actually become written into law.
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