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Letters to the Editor

Letter: Religious exceptions

February 27, 2014

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To the editor:

In conformity with the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment, America has a history of granting exceptions to law because of a person’s sincerely held religious beliefs.

State law requires that each school day begin with students standing and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. We excuse Jehovah’s Witnesses from such observance because of their sincerely held religious beliefs. Likewise, since World War I, whenever there is a military conscription law in place, we permit pacifists to perform alternate service to their country because of their sincerely held religious beliefs. Whether or not Jehovah’s Witness hate America or pacifists have bigoted views of soldiers is beside the point. We allow such “discrimination” against our fellow-citizens because the First Amendment protects not only religious belief, but also religious practice.

Surely our Legislature can produce a law that will guard all citizen’s rights codified in the First Amendment. Courts should not have the power to deny free exercise of religion to those of us who have sincere religious beliefs about the nature of marriage.

Comments

Abdu Omar 7 months ago

Mr. Upchurch, while I agree that a person should have the religious freedom to decide for themselves their own belief and practice system, but on the other hand, what right do they have to force it on others? You may not agree with same sex marriage and that is your right which means only that you don't marry someone of the same sex. But to prohibit others from excercising their own belief system is and should be unconstitutional.

When we start to discriminate on the basis of religious belief systems, and sincere people following their own traditions, are we then stepping on the rights of others? That is what is wrong about the anti gay bill before our legislature. If this passes, who then will feel the hammer of discrimination come down on them?

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Richard Smith 7 months ago

But if the bill is to keep those who believe in gay marriage from forcing those who do not believe it from having to provide services for it, then the bill was/is an attempt to keep one group from forcing itself on others. The freedom for a business not to have to serve at gay marriage ceremonies without the fear of being sued is not an attempt to discriminate, but is in reality an attempt to stop discrimination.

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James Howlette 7 months ago

Please name one successful lawsuit in the state of Kansas against someone who refused someone else services solely because they were gay.

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Chris Golledge 7 months ago

No, selling a cake is selling a cake. It is not an endorsement of whatever event that cake might be used at.

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James Howlette 7 months ago

But the Bible clearly said that Christians should never never sell gay people pastries. Or maybe it was turning the other cheek and offering kindness to your enemies? One of the two.

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Robin Jones 7 months ago

Great letter Mr. Upchurch. You're not alone in your thinking!

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Terry Thatcher 7 months ago

Unfortunately, the thinking of both you and Upchurch are wrong, completely. School is a government run institution, not a private business. Businesses have NO right to discriminate. Enjoy.

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Richard Smith 7 months ago

One can also argue that governments have no business intruding upon private businesses having the right to serve those whom they please and rejecting those whom they please. The government has no right to tell a person that they have to violate their Christian conscience in their own private busines. As far as the very concept of discrimination goes, one can define that in several ways as well.

Even if your example is correct, the other point by Mr. Upchurch had to do with pacifists and the military. The government and the law at that point allows the religion of the person to be seen as a way out of keeping a particular law. Whether it is the government or a private business, the issue is the law. The First Amendment says this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

A person has the right not to serve particular people when it infringes on the free exercise of their religion. This is as much a part of our rights as is freedom of speech.

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James Howlette 7 months ago

So do you think a business should be legally entitled to refuse to make wedding cakes for interracial couples?

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Dustyn Polk 7 months ago

So it would be okay for restaurant to refuse service to someone simply because they have tattoos?

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John Middleton 7 months ago

But it happens every day, Terry. There are pharmacies that refuse to carry the "morning after" pill, hospitals that refuse to perform abortions, and Ob Gyn doctors who refuse to treat patients who want an abortion. Some even refuse to prescribe birth control pills. You may have the legal right to all of these things, but there are health care providers who refuse to help you do so.

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Rick Masters 7 months ago

If you're over 21, you also have the legal right to buy a six-pack of Budweiser; that doesn't mean the liquor store is required to carry it. You're not talking about discrimination at all.

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Seth Peterson 7 months ago

Actually, you're not talking about discrimination. John is.

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Rick Masters 7 months ago

You're right, I wasn't talking about discrimination. I was talking about how the market is free to pick and choose what goods and/or services they may carry/carry out (as John was doing), and how that is different than discrimination against a group because of their sexual orientation. His example doesn't work because it's a different argument. A movie theater that chooses not to show NC-17 movies isn't discriminating against people who like edgier films; they are deciding that that's not the direction they want to go with their services. You can't sue the theater for refusing to show "Henry and June", but you can sue the theater if they refuse to let you in because you're Hispanic.

What the supporters of this bill don't take into consideration is that they could very well end up being the target: Are you divorced? Then your strict-Catholic waiter doesn't have to serve you. Having a post-Confirmation pizza party? That atheist Chuck E. Cheese doesn't have to let you in. The mere idea that they are claiming that providing services to homosexuals somehow threatens their ability to have religious freedom is a smokescreen to their intolerance of people who don't walk the same paths as they do.

I may believe that left-handed people are the scourge of the earth, but that doesn't mean I get to ignore them when their houses are on fire. They'll rewrite the legislation and try to dress up the pig a bit, but it will still be mired in the concrete shoes of pure intolerance.

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Wayne Kerr 7 months ago

I totally agree Abdu. As the letter writer makes clear, there are "those of us who have sincere religious beliefs about the nature of marriage," and those people should simply abstain from marrying someone of the same sex. Ok, now that we have that cleared up, let's get back to the more pressing and important issues facing our nation like ending poverty, fixing the economy, saving our fragile environment, and ending war.

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Bart Johnson 7 months ago

OK. So there are some people out there that don't like gay people. Here's the government solution: we should put a gun to their heads and force them to deal with gay people. That will surely change their minds!

Of course this won't work at all, and it will only cause bitterness and create new justifications for their dislike. It is also immoral to use force against someone because they discriminate. Two wrongs don't make a right.

The libertarian solution is to use peaceful, non-violent methods. First of all, there is the tool of rational persuasion. A lot of times people get their beliefs as a kid from their parents or wherever and they don't really understand or have any strong connection to them. A Muslim friend of mine from Asia was once saying that he thought Jews were bad people. I asked him why he thought that and he had no answer. It was just something that he had been brought up hearing. When he put some thought into it, he realized he had no rational reason for holding such a belief. There are a good amount of people like this. Putting a gun to their heads and using force will do nothing to change their minds. All it will do is make them angry for being forced to do something and give them an actual reason to feel the way they do.

Other methods include boycotts/ostracism. This can be especially effective today with facebook, twitter and all the other social media's capability to costlessly spread information. So any establishment that discriminated could be added to a list of places that are known to do so and they would lose not just their gay customers, but other customers that are against such discrimination. Such social pressure could also be brought to bear on their employees and suppliers. Most people want to be seen as good people, and imagine if your name was being spread around to everybody that you work at a place that discriminates. You certainly wouldn't like that.

The point is, using the government to violently force people to do things is not necessary. Peaceful, voluntary and non-violent methods are available and effective. And people have a right to freedom of association, which means a right to discriminate. Of course this also means that we have the right to not associate with such people too.

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Jim Slade 7 months ago

Allowing lawsuits to take place because of alleged discrimination now equals "violent force by the government". Noted.

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Bart Johnson 7 months ago

My kids play that same game, where they pretend not to know something. That won't work on me, buddy. You know quite well that at the end of the day, laws are enforced through violence or threats of violence. Be a grown-up please, the kiddy act ain't working for you.

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Seth Peterson 6 months, 4 weeks ago

You should listen to your children more then.

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Julius Nolan 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Wonder whose gene pool the kids came from.

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James Howlette 7 months ago

If you already have the right, why do you need the law? The state didn't have to pass a law exempting JW from saying the Pledge of Allegiance, so why do they have to pass a law here?

Kansas doesn't consider homosexuality to be a protected class. You're already free to be a bigot here. Enjoy.

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Wayne Kerr 7 months ago

What if I think people who have blue eyes or people who use cell phones or people who drive large trucks are sinful? Do I get a religious exception from treating those people with kindness, too?

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 months ago

You have the right without any reservations to exercise your religion as you see fit.

You DO NOT have the right to exercise hatred, predjudice , and bigotry on others disguised ad any sort of religious practice. I so not know of any religion that has as core valules hatred, predjudice, and bigotry.

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Phillip Chappuie 7 months ago

When one is obligated to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and utilize the phrase, "under God", it is a direct violation of the 1st amendment as that use infers directly that government is establishing religion. Frank Bellamy did not write that part. It was added later in 1954. Can we pass a law to not say that so as to provide me freedom from whatever religion that may be?

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Chris Golledge 7 months ago

It isn't hard; your rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness end where someone else's begin.

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Chris Golledge 7 months ago

The other thing I would say is that I do not think it is a good idea to conduct business in a place of worship, or vice versa.

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Nancy Hamilton 7 months ago

I have already posted this, but here goes again. The problem with bills such as the recent "anti gay bills" is that they are promissory notes to back up the discriminatiort act with the force of the state. As I understand it, the "establishment clause" does not constrain the behavior of individuals, it constrains the behavior of the state to behave in non-discriminatory ways. In other words, the state cannot be compelled to eject an LGBT person/couple from a restaurant any more than it can be compelled to force someone to say the Pledge of Allegience, salute the flag, or serve in the military.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, constitutional or otherwise. If I am wrong, I will stand corrected.

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Terry Thatcher 7 months ago

If businesses are allowed to discriminate in this way, they should post this information on their front door, as well as each register. This will allow the those that disagree with the beliefs of the business owner to make sure not to patronize that business. Want to be hateful? Pay the price of less profit.

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Mark Stone 7 months ago

There seems to be two distinctly different types of laws being discussed and they should not be confused. The first is a law acknowledges that the right of same-sex couples to marry is equal to that of opposite-sex couples. This type of law does not favor or promote homosexuality. This type of law does not create a special designation for same-sex couples, they do not get more rights, it just recognizes that their right to marry is equal to that of other couples. This corrects discriminatory laws of the past that singled out same-sex couples, who otherwise meet every qualification to get married, and affords them the same right enjoyed by opposite-sex couples.

The other type of law does create a special exception for one particular group of people, Christians and others who believe homosexuality is a sin and would like to deny service to homosexuals based on their personal religious beliefs. This is certainly asking for special treatment from the government, to become a protected class codified in law. The difference in this case and that of the Jehovah's Witnesses and conscientious objectors is that this group, which would deny services to homosexuals, singles out a particular segment of society, then disadvantage those citizens. That is the definition of discrimination and they want the government to protect them while they are doing this. You might argue that the JW and CO abstention from a particular activity is discriminatory toward everyone else, but at least it is applied across the board. I don't see a good enough argument that the government should protect this group just because they believe homosexuality is a sin, the government is not in the business of saving souls and it is silly to think that it should be.

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Rick Masters 7 months ago

Please stop being rational about this. It really takes away from the whole argument about people ordering swastika cakes at the bakery.

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Jim Slade 7 months ago

"We allow such “discrimination” against our fellow-citizens because the First Amendment protects not only religious belief, but also religious practice."

Umm... I hate to point this out, Mr Upchurch, but not having to say the Pledge isn't discriminating against anyone. Neither is allowing pacifist to not fight.

Discrimination would be denying voting rights to pacifists because they didn't fight. Discrimination would be denying a job to a Jehovah Witness because they refused to say the pledge.

Discrimination is denying homosexuals legal recourse when they are discriminated against. Discrimination is denying marriage rights to same sex couples.

See the difference?

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dale thompson 7 months ago

actually the supreme court ruled in 1943 that no one can be forced to say the pledge of allegiance, so there is no state law requiring it. His second point has a problem also, since being a pacifist is not a religious belief. Pacifists have been awarded the medal of honor while serving our country as corpsman, so I would not call them bigoted against soldiers either. Mr Upchurch's intolerance towards homosexuals does not seem to have any rational basis.

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