Real 'religious liberty' is not used to discriminate
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Religious freedom is a core American value — not left or right; liberal, or conservative. It is a founding ideal of our nation.  

Unfortunately, some misguided Americans are rallying under the flag of religious liberty in a tragic attempt to divide our nation rather than unite and to give preferential treatment to Christians, whether abroad or here in the U.S.

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True religious liberty does not favor any religion and must not be used to discriminate.  We stand with all of our Christians neighbors and defend their right to worship and congregate as their faith calls them to do. That right is enshrined in the First Amendment, and we hold that right to be sacred.

 

However, religious liberty does not extend to treating others in an unjust, unkind and discriminatory way.  

Three communities are currently at particular risk for unjust treatment under the cloak of a narrow definition of religious liberty.

Muslims in the United States are finding themselves set up for a separate standard of suspicion for violence, and targets of surveillance, bans and potential registries — all in clear violation of the religious liberty afforded to all. This stands in sharp contrast to the kind of pass that has too often been afforded to white Christian nationalists who use race and religion to promote bigotry and violence.

Another community that is clearly a target under the so-called religious liberty mantle are LGBT people, who must be afforded the same basic rights, human dignity and respect for their families as others.

Religious liberty laws promoted by some Christians seek to protect or withhold services to conservative Christians under the guise of religious liberty, when in fact this has nothing to do with religious liberty and everything to do with oppression.  

The other group that is at risk with an abuse of the religious liberty principle are women who wish to exercise their own conscience in the area of reproductive health.

A too-little known fact is that the Southern Baptist Convention signed an amicus brief to the original Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case because they felt that if someone could dictate the conscience of a woman on her right an abortion or contraception, they could also dictate in the area of religious conviction. Today that wisdom is at risk of being lost.

There are two crucial tests of religious liberty at play right now.

The first involves the rights of congregations to declare themselves sanctuary spaces to protect those most vulnerable to draconian immigration policies currently mandated by the White House.

The second clear religious liberty issue at stake is the rights of the people of the Sioux Tribe for protecting against the the violation of their sacred land against commercial interests. Religious liberty is at stake in both of these communities and we support these communities in their struggle to live out their faith in the world today.

The protection of religious liberty offers the freedom for all people to live their lives, worship as they choose and to make moral decisions. Religious liberty is not about privileging and protecting one group, in this case, conservative Christians who attempt to dictate their preferences over and against their neighbors.

Rev. Dr. Katharine R. Henderson is the president of Auburn Seminary. Rev. Paul Raushenbush is the senior vice president of Auburn Seminary.


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