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Surprise! Religious freedom laws are used for… religious freedom

January 30, 2014

Tennessee congressman Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) called it “unfortunate” that religious freedom laws recently passed in Tennessee allow religious freedom for religions he doesn’t happen to be very fond of.  From this article:

“Unfortunately the Tennessee Religious Freedom Act, passed by the TN General Assembly, may have played a key role in allowing this cemetery to be approved,” the two-term representative wrote. “There is a difference between legislation that would protect our religious freedoms and legislation that would allow for the circumvention of laws that other organizations comply with on a daily basis.”

The problem is exactly that: there is no difference.  The only difference DesJarlais seems to refer to is that, to him, “our” religious freedoms means “our Christian beliefs”.  Therefore if a different religion uses “religious freedom” as an approach to “circumventing laws”, it’s bad, but when a Christian group does it, it’s fine.  He seems to be joining the large group of legislators who call for passing “religious freedom” laws, but then express complete surprise when these laws are used by people of faiths that are different from their own.

This is why Americans United for Separation of Church and State opposes so-called “religious freedom” laws that do nothing but allow religious belief to be used as a flimsy excuse to not comply with the law of the land, whether it’s about a cemetery or women’s healthcare.

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