The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts everyone’s right to “freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” as does the U.S. Constitution in different words.
One controversial manifestation of those freedoms is that of the conscientious objector. Sovereigns traditionally require citizens and aliens alike to fight wars, good or bad. Conscientious objectors, rather than violate their conscience, have endured social rejection, confiscation of property, imprisonment and even death. Eventually, civilized nations accommodated their consciences.
Still, some folks see conscientious objectors as unpatriotic, cowardly or even treasonous. Some in the “culture wars,” too, are determined to allow no neutrality.
Bakers in Oregon and Colorado, a photographer in New Mexico and a florist in Washington, among others, were sued because their religious beliefs forbade participating in a same-sex wedding or its equivalent.
The lawsuits were aimed to force them to violate their beliefs or to punish them for not doing so.
Slate.com columnist Mark Joseph Stern labels these people’s beliefs – the vast majority view just a few years ago – “hatred of gay people so vehement” that seeks “never, ever have to provide a gay person with a basic service.”
I’ll sell tomato plants to anyone. I work with, write about, do business with, am friends with and kin to homosexual people. But as a photographer, baker or florist, I, too, would seek conscientious objector status regarding same-sex weddings.
The historically Christian belief that marriage is between a man and a woman is the same position Bill Clinton signed into law and that Barack Obama espoused when he was first elected president.
Some rend their garments in horror at the new Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act and declare its supporters “discriminatory,” “bigoted,” “homophobic” and worse.
Its offending language says, “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except … if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person … is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and … is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”
That’s pretty mild language.
Slate columnist William Saletan supports gay marriage but not running roughshod over others’ consciences.
“I’m disturbed by what I see today. We’re stereotyping and vilifying opponents of gay marriage the way we’ve seen gay people stereotyped and vilified,” he writes. “This is a deeply personal moral issue. To get it right, we need more than justice. We need humanity.”
We need to allow for conscientious objectors.
Contact Daily Journal reporter Errol Castens at (662) 816-1282or firstname.lastname@example.org.