Defibrillating the First Amendment

The First Amendment protects five rights:

  • Free Speech
  • Free assembly and protest
  • Free petitioning of grievances
  • Free press
  • Free religion

I’m not going to talk about how some elements of the left are attempting to undermine the principles of free speech, or how recent regulations in conservative states pose a threat to the right of people to peacefully protest. These things are problems, but I feel that other people have addressed them. Nor am I going to discuss the freedom of the press, or how many people have misinterpreted Trump’s antagonism of the press as a bad thing and as heralding the end of a free press; quite the opposite, the press of a free country should not be in bed with politicians. We want an adversarial press that attacks politicians and goes after them, and we want politicians to get pissed off about it. This just means that things are working as intended. For too long, the press and the government were sleeping together, and I’m glad to see that coming to an end.

Instead, I’m going to talk about the death of free religion, especially for Christians.

I’m an atheist. I’m not just an atheist, though. I reject everything supernatural as unsubstantiated. I believe in no gods, no souls, and no afterlife. I wasn’t always an atheist, however. In fact, I was born to a fundamentalist Christian family that was, as I stated in this unscripted video, as fundamentalist as fundamentalists get. What did you do for the year 2000 celebration? I cowered with my family who expected the Anti-Christ to use the computer binary code of 666 to exploit the Y2K bug and take over the world, ushering in Armageddon.

I’m not kidding.

Rather than repeating all of that, if you want to know all the details, just watch this:

When Mississippi passed its Religious Freedom Bill, I was initially behind it. I was misled by an attorney friend into thinking that the bill merely allowed Christian businesses to discriminate against people whose lifestyle choices they didn’t approve of. In reality, the bill did allow that, but it also prevented anyone from discriminating against Christians in retaliation. Upon learning that, I immediately dropped support, because… No, this has to go both ways. If an employee is going to discriminate and refuse to fix a gay person’s computer, then I need the right to discriminate against employees who refuse to do their job because of their religious beliefs. It has to be a two-way street, and what Mississippi’s law attempted to do wasn’t reassert the right of religious people to act in accordance with their religious beliefs; it was to do that and to protect them from any and all consequences of that.

Iron cross at mountain top in alp. Cross on top of a mountains peak as typical in the Alps. Monument to the dead climbers

But it should never have been necessary in the first place for Mississippi to pass a law stating that religious people can conduct their lives in accordance with their religious beliefs, and go ahead and get used to that phrase; I’m going to repeat it a lot. Because we all know that the First Amendment guarantees everyone the right to believe whatever they want. The problem arises because a lot of people don’t make the connection between “what a person believes” and “how that person acts.” In many cases, there is no connection. But in other cases, especially among fundamentalists and other types for whom religious beliefs are most important, there certainly is a connection. In fact, the more important a person’s religion is to them, then the more their religious beliefs inform their behavior.

The First Amendment doesn’t just protect a person’s right to believe any religious thing they want. It also protects their right to act in accordance with those religious beliefs. There are limits, of course. A person whose religious beliefs tell them that it’s okay to have sex with their children, for example, won’t be allowed to act in accordance with their religious beliefs. And I’m going to avoid that minefield by simply pointing out that “children”–that is, at minimum people under ten years of age–do not lack the ability to make decisions of consent without at least implicit coercion, and as such sex with a child would be inherently coercive and wrong. We can extend that age if we want; it’s not important. I’m just pointing out that this is a religious belief that involves immoral behavior–demonstrably immoral behavior, because, all other considerations aside, it is wrong to coerce people into things.

Strictly speaking, the Bible states that Christians should kill homosexuals. Pastor Steven Anderson certainly loves pointing that out. On numerous occasions, he has expressed dismay that the transgender teen suicide rate isn’t higher. And while there are certainly some Christians out there who agree with him, and probably some who would like to kill homosexuals, society would not allow them to do so, because violence is obviously wrong.

South Dakota recently passed a law that allows Christian adoption agencies to deny children to atheists, gay couples, and single people.

This should never have been necessary, and it just goes to show how terribly far from the First Amendment we have gotten. I can’t believe any sane American would demand that a Christian adoption agency be willing to turn children over to atheists; it is an appalling disregard for the Christians’ religious beliefs, and their right to act in accordance with those religious beliefs. They believe in a deity, and they believe that children should be raised to believe in a deity. As they understand things, turning a child over to an atheist is highly likely to result in that child being raised as an atheist, which means that child will go to hell one day, and the responsibility for that will ultimately fall back on the adoption agency. How can we demand they set all those beliefs aside to pander to people who are defined by their lack of belief in that?

So if an atheist in South Dakota wants to adopt a child, clearly they can’t go to a Christian adoption agency. I fail to see the problem. Are all the adoption agencies in South Dakota Christian organizations? If so, then adopt from a different state. If the person cannot afford to go to a different state to adopt, then the person probably shouldn’t be adopting in the first place, don’t you think? Ditto for gay couples and single people.

This reminds me of what Trump said about abortion and states in an 60 Minutes interview. He said that he wanted abortion to go back to the states, so that each state could make up its mind. Of course, the interviewer asked, “Well, what about when Texas outlaws abortion and a woman needs one?”

“She can still have one,” Trump pointed out. “But she’d have to go to a different state.”

And that’s not good enough for this sort of liberal mindset. They don’t think that women simply have the right to an abortion; they think that women have the right to a convenient abortion, and damn anyone whose rights get trodden in order to make it convenient for them. It’s the same thing here in South Dakota. Atheists, gays, and single people could still go to other adoption agencies, or even go to different states, but that’s just not good enough, is it? No, they won’t allow any inconvenience. If they want something, you have to give it to them. Period. If you don’t, then somehow you’re the fascist.

I’ll give you the right to have an abortion. But I can’t give you the right to have a convenient abortion. No one can.

I’ll give you the right to adopt children. But I can’t give you the right to have a convenient adoption process. No one can.

We shouldn’t be so self-centered that we’re willing to rampage right over people’s Constitutionally protected rights just because we want everything to be convenient and just because we don’t think someone should be able to tell us “No” about something. And that’s the mindset that this all rises from. “How dare they tell me ‘no!’ They can’t do that! That’s a violation of my rights!”

What about their right to say “Yes” or “No?”

You don’t get to tell other people what to do just because you want something.

And just because religious beliefs aren’t important to a lot of us doesn’t mean they aren’t important to a lot of people, and we should respect that. No, I don’t think that a Christian adoption agency giving a kid to an atheist will result in that kid going to hell fifty years later. But they do think that. If we want them to respect our right to be transgender, gay, and atheists, then we have to respect their right to be straight and Christian. And just as we might act in accordance with our right to believe that transgenderism is okay by being transgender, so must they be allowed to act in accordance with their belief that Christianity is the correct religion by being Christians.

3 thoughts on “Defibrillating the First Amendment

  1. The problem with the whole “going to another state” thing is that it’s just not viable for many women to do that, as many simply cannot afford to travel the hundreds of miles to get to an abortion clinic, so that’s why people are calling bullshit on Trump’s tone-deaf response on 60 Minutes. Abortion HAS to be convenient for women, they shouldn’t have to risk losing their job by having to take days off to travel hundreds of miles to get an abortion.

    Do you think the Boy Scouts have a right not to allow gay leaders? As someone who was forced to be in the Scouts, i’m really glad i’m not with them anymore.

    I don’t think asking states to not shut down all abortion clinics is in any way “fascist”

    I personally don’t see a problem with asking Christian agencies to be willing to give kids up to non-christian parents, that whole law really paints Christians in a bad light and makes the ones who actually are tolerant and not homophobic and transphobic shitheads look bad by proxy. There are many Christians who are outraged by that law, it’s not just non-christians.

    I have my own set of problems with it.

    • Well, no… States outlawing or allowing it isn’t a good solution, either. But it’s less bad than forcing everyone to allow it. In reality, the matter is between the woman and her doctor. There’s no reason for the government to get involved one way or another. If a doctor is willing to do it, so be it. If a doctor isn’t, then so be it. We can’t force the doctor to do it (and lots of doctors are pro-life), because becoming a doctor doesn’t make them our slave to be commanded around.

      No one has the right to an abortion. But a woman has the right to ask a doctor for one, and the doctor has the right to perform whatever medical procedure he’s willing to do. California shouldn’t force the doctor to do it, and Mississippi shouldn’t forbid the doctor from doing it. The reason I brought up abortion was solely that the left isn’t willing to compromise on that point, because they start from the idea that the woman has the right to a convenient abortion, and what we see on the adoption thing is the same thing: people have the right to a convenient adoption. They don’t, because free will and personal agency are still things.

      The only thing that really matters is whether the adoption agency is willing to turn the kid over, and whether the doctor is willing to perform an abortion. If the answer is yes, then okay. If the answer is no, then okay.

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