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-Should Freedom of Religion Cases Turn Toward Free Speech as a Defense?

by Dr. D ~ February 15th, 2018


Is freedom of religion a lessor right than free speech? Not according to the Constitution but in the last 9 years or so religious freedom has been assailed and attacked on so many different fronts that it may seem like it is a civil right that is far more limited in its scope than freedom of expression.

The Obama administration promoted their HHS Contraceptive Mandate as a value which superseded religious freedom. The Supreme Court did not agree in several cases but lower courts have and cases are still in the system on that issue. Then there was Obama’s push for a four walls ‘freedom of worship’ substitute for the traditional interpretation of religious freedom.

Then case after case, LGBT folks have assailed religious freedom on issues of same-sex marriage, gay rights, and on transgender bathroom issues contending that those rights trump any freedom of religion concerns. It many cases they have boldly claimed that religious liberty is nothing more than an excuse for discrimination and far too many judges and government administrators have agreed with them along with the media.

Plus atheist groups have tried to limit religious freedom in the public square and have had one success after another in the courts and in intimidating government and school administrators.

So free speech has gained in the process as a go to right which is beginning to substitute for religious liberty in some case where expression and religious conscience are both at issue. I recently posted about the baker in California who won her case on the basis of free expression. Even though her lawyers presented their case as a violation of freedom of religion the judge ruled on the basis of freedom of expression.

Here’s another case on this same issue. Some LGBT activists are saying that they actually support the Christian printer who refused to produce gay pride T-shirts citing free speech as the basis since they would not want to be forced to print anti-gay shirts. The Christian printer-Hands On Originals won their original case on the basis of religious liberty but the government is appealing it. Nevertheless, the printer’s lawyers are now contending that it is unconstitutional to force someone to print a message that goes against their conscience. Therefore adding free speech along with religious freedom to their defense.

The problem with relying on free speech in religious freedom cases is the fact that both need to be protected and freedom of religion should never be allowed to be perceived as a ‘lessor’ right.

Another problem with the free speech tactic is that freedom of expression is also under attack on many different fronts. Colleges in America are limiting speech and containing free expression to official designated spots on campus while outlawing it in other ‘safe zones.’ Also there is a huge push to eliminate ‘hate speech’ which is in the eye of the beholder. Many progressives view conservative and Christian views as needing to be limited and contained. From the perspective of some Muslims, any writing or speech against Islam should be designated as blasphemy and Islamophobia. Then there is the push by LGBT activists to designate all folks that do not agree with same-sex marriage and transgender bathroom rights as ‘haters’ whose speech need to be limited and eventually eliminated.

Point is, free speech is not a substitute for religious liberty and conscience. Both are under attack in America, Both are equally represented by the First Amendment, and both need to be defended.             *Top

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