Religious freedom ends when another person’s liberties are denied

Reilly Swennes, Design Editor

After the Supreme Court ruled in a five to four decision declaring same-sex marriage constitutional in June, many people have questioned to what extent we can demonstrate our freedom of speech and religion in the United States. However, many fail to consider the following — religious freedom ends when another’s liberties are denied.

A perfect example of the misinterpretation of this liberty was displayed by Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, who denied gay couples marriage licenses on the grounds that it went against her religious beliefs. Davis, who is an elected official and is expected to abide by federal laws, was convicted for contempt of court soon after her initial refusal. While many say this punishment was fair, there are others who have played her out to be a martyr. Davis is no saint, but after being divorced three times she would know more about “traditional” marriage than anyone, right?

As much as I would like to think there is a separation of church and state in this country, there is a clear Christian influence in the government and many of its proceedings. For example, the religion of politicians is put in the spotlight, favoring Christianity over other faiths. Christian values are often used as a base for laws such as abortion and gay marriage. Moreover, this influence is so great that it has excluded many others from openly practicing their religion without being persecuted and harassed. While Davis has become a heroine for denying someone of their rights, a Muslim girl wearing a hijab is labeled as a terrorist who pushes her religious values on everyone else. According to FBI Uniform Crime statistics, hate crimes against Muslims are five times more common since 9/11. In the U.S., Islam is considered synonymous with terrorism yet there is no uproar against terrorism groups such as the KKK who claim to be a Christian organization.

This influence also extends to the issue of religion and abortion. Although half of the country is pro-choice, religiously conservative lawmakers have argued the concept that aborting a fetus is immoral. They have falsified images of stillborn infants, claiming that this is what an aborted fetus looks like when in reality a fetus (typically removed between six to 12 weeks) feels no pain and is still underdeveloped. This false propaganda has lead to many motions to defund Planned Parenthood, which would result in as many as 650,000 Americans losing access to preventive care, STI testing, cancer screenings and sex education. Quite often the outcry against certain programs for the sake of “morality” has unforeseen consequences. If religious institutions believe they should have a say in social and political issues pertaining to such a diverse population of people, then their exemption from taxation should be removed.

To be clear, the problem does not lie in religion itself, but in people who hijack its teachings and cherry-pick values to suit their own misinformed prejudices. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but when that opinion promotes the gross mistreatment (whether it be harassment, labeling, etc.) of a group of people, that opinion is inherently wrong.