July 7, 2023 By Michael Weymouth
I have several friends and family members who are born again Christians. In the many times they have tried to convince me I will burn in the fires of hell if I don’t give it up for Jesus, I remind them that in fact I am a great Jesus fan. Virtually every word attributed to him is full of wisdom and human kindness, and indeed, I believe that the world would be a far better place if we all took his advice.
It’s all the other religious dogma I have trouble with, not the least of which is the way some people interpret the Bible to fit their world view. When I was in the army in the South, my older brother and his family lived nearby and when I visited on weekends, we would invariably attend the local evangelical church where I sat in silence as the evangelist ripped northern God-less intellectuals apart and recited passages from the Bible that declared that black people were inferior to whites. That sort of rhetoric makes it pretty clear why our country’s founders wanted no part of religion in the Constitution. All too often, were it not cloaked in sanctimonious jargon, much of evangelical doctrine could be classified as outright bigotry.
This makes it all the more surprising that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado web designer who refused to design a website for a gay couple’s wedding based on her religious views. I suspect most of those views emanated from interpretations of the Bible and not from the words of Jesus, who said “Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you.” Had the plaintiff followed the teachings of Jesus, this suit never would have been filed.
But it did not seem to matter to the conservative justices from where those principles emanated. Were they hateful opinions expressed by a religious zealot or some other interpretation of the Bible? Given that the Bible says very little about homosexuality, and gay marriage is not mentioned in the Ten Commandments, did the justices accept her values without delving into how she arrived at them? It is as though all one has to do is claim one’s religious values have been violated and they achieve automatic standing, which elevates the claim above common bigotry. Unfortunately in this case, the Colorado web designer’s religious freedom trumped the freedoms of others. They superseded the principles of inclusion and protection that past Supreme Courts extended to women and people of color during the civil rights and women’s rights movements and most recently in The Respect for Marriage Act.
A common refrain these days when confronted with a moral issue is to ask “what would Jesus do?” Had He been sitting on the Supreme Court, I’d like to believe Jesus would have encouraged the Colorado website designer to embrace those who are different from her rather than to discriminate against them; to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
No doubt this will not be the last such case the Supreme Court will have to deal with where religious convictions are in play. I hope that the conservative justices will closely consider how valid those convictions are before rubber stamping them.
The Founders made their opinions well known about religion’s role in American society: it belongs in the church, not in a court of law, and freedom of religion does not mean religious citizens have the freedom to impose their views on those they disagree with.
It is noteworthy that the plaintiff was never actually asked by a gay couple to design a website. Her case was based on a hypothetical what if. Plus she was assisted by Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious organization that states in its website that “Government officials—including those in the Biden administration—are getting bolder. Together with the Far-Left, they’re trying to create a radically different America.”
That was the same claim made in the evangelical church I attended years ago by a hate-filled, fire-and-brimstone evangelist. Much has changed in the social fabric of our country since then, and if anything, the radical change that has taken place in America is the agenda of the U.S. Supreme Court.