THE BLOG
07/17/2015 02:06 pm ET Updated Jul 17, 2016

Celebrating Freedom of -- and Freedom From -- Religion

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So here's a response to yet-another development in the saga of county clerks in Kentucky refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to yet-another PSA video with earnest people explaining why their religious liberty is being threatened because not everyone agrees with them:

The First Amendment protects your right as an American to the free exercise of your religion. It does not protect your right to use your religion as an excuse to discriminate against other Americans. And there is a critical difference between feeling discriminated against because you're disagreed with and being discriminated against because of who you are. The former sucks -- I mean, seriously: who likes to be disagreed with? But the latter is unconstitutional -- so let's not mix up the two.

Here's the thing: As a priest and pastor, I am protected from being forced to marry anybody. Period. Roman Catholic priests cannot be forced to marry divorced couples. Orthodox Rabbis cannot be forced to marry interfaith couples. None of us can be compelled -- against our religion -- to marry anybody. Period. Clergy already have that protection.

That protection does NOT, however, extend to someone carrying out their duties as a county clerk when it comes to issuing marriage licenses, drivers licenses or fishing licenses.

What if I'm a Muslim and my understanding of my religion is that women shouldn't drive? Can I refuse to issue drivers' licenses to women? Or if I'm a Hindu and a vegetarian -- can I refuse to issue fishing licenses because killing/eating fish is against my religion? Of course not. Likewise, your personal opinions and beliefs about who should or should not be getting married has absolutely no bearing on who you issue marriage licenses to as a county clerk. Period.

Because the Founding Fathers knew what they were doing when they wrote the First Amendment -- and what they were doing was making us a nation founded on the bedrock value of religious liberty that provides both freedom of and freedom from religion -- not only protecting each and every one of us to believe what we choose but also protecting us from discrimination based on the beliefs of others.

So one more time:

It's Freedom OF Religion -- as in believe whatever you choose or choose not to believe.

It's not Freedom TO IMPOSE Religion -- as in confuse your theology with our democracy.

Honest to Ethel, people -- Get a grip!