What is Religious Freedom, According to the Religious Right?

Gay Christians were overjoyed this week when World Vision, a global charity that does admirable work in helping victims of disaster or impoverishment, announced that it would for the first time allow its U.S. employees to enter into same-sex marriages. Unfortunately, their joy didn’t last long.

First, here’s the background: on Monday, March 24, World Vision announced that while its ban on sex outside of marriage would still stand, World Vision US would now take into account that there are many churches with whom it works that do recognize and consider sacred matrimony between same-sex couples. As such, it would lift its ban on employees entering into same-sex marriages. This was not an endorsement of same-sex marriage itself, which World Vision was very clear it does not agree with, but a recognition of the fact of gay-accepting churches and an attempt at unity.

This was not to last, however. The Religious Right, in a shrill and deafening clamor, condemned the move as World Vision “abandoning” its biblical principles, though no one had lamented the fact that World Vision doesn’t stone desirous women, demand a clean shaven face of its male workers, or any of the other Biblical stipulations to that effect that World Vision currently (and rightly) ignores. No, on gay marriage the line was crossed, and the Religious Right would not have it.

So pronounced was their anger that the Right threatened to divert funds from World Vision to more “biblical” charities — that is, adherents to the Right’s agenda. Within 48 hours of the announcement,World Vision’s board took another vote and then announced in a breathless letter that was a top to bottom apology to all who felt they deserved it including the LGBT community, that the charity would be returning to its same-sex marriage discriminating ways.

Yet with that brief moment of shining good sense sullied, we saw just how ugly the Religious Right has become. So often we hear talk of the right to religious belief being under attack and how the Right wants to help preserve freedom of religion. Yet where is the freedom of religious belief for those within the Church who do support same-sex marriage? Given how loud the Religious Right crows, we might think they are few and far between, but there is an appetite among the religious to accept gay people and even honor gay marriage. For sure, there are many people who identify as both gay and Christian.

Take the recent controversy over the New York St Patrick’s Day parade. The gay community did not, as Rupert Murdoch suggested, “bully” Guinness, who are makers of a fine stout and not a charity (though you might consider the providing of libation a charitable act),into addressing the fact that the organizers of the parade had once again specifically chosen to exclude gay Catholics. Guinness chose to pull its support for the parade when the facts were pointed out. At no point was there a widescale threat of a boycott, and never did the gay community endanger vital work like helping the poor.

No, the fact of that matter was that rather than the organizers of the parade focusing on so much of what they and gay Catholics agree on, they chose to discriminate solely on the grounds of sexual orientation. In effect, for the organizers of this parade it seems religious freedom can be ignored if you don’t believe exactly what they believe.

The same with recent accounts of Church officials denying people Communion, even at people’s funerals for pity’s sake, because they are either homosexual (which isn’t against the Bible even under a staunch fundamentalist reading) or even just support the right to secular recognition of gay marriage.

And this propensity isn’t just confined to issues surrounding gay rights. There are a number of religious organizations which, while differing on whether they believe abortion itself is against their faith, agree that women have the right to determine what they do with their own bodies even if that means terminating a pregnancy.

Yet these groups are called “un-Christian” and apostates for their pro-choice advocacy even though their belief in the moral agency of women is arrived at through their religious understanding of personhood. Where are those people’s religious rights? Why are they assailed as illegitimate?

So too with the rights of other faiths. It seems that when legislators in several states talk about religious freedom, they are really talking in a not so subtle code for the freedom, not privilege,to believe what they believe in — and usually in the United States that means some form of hardline Christianity. This ranges from North Carolina last year attempting to establish a state religion, down to smaller but no less poisonous acts like a child who identifies as a Buddhist being ridiculed by a Creationist teacher in Louisiana.

But here’s why the Religious Right lost when it comes to the World Vision fight.

Nearly one third of respondents in a recent Public Religion Research Institute survey of Millennials (those under 34) said they left their religion not because their religious belief had necessarily waned (though certainly their belief in what the church was telling them they should believehad) but because of their church’s outright bile on the topic of gay rights.

A majority (58 percent) of Americans also said that they believed religious institutions were alienating people with their aggressive stance on things like gay rights and, presumably, the growing appetite to enshrine that stance in legislative stone.

Today, the Religious Right is crowing about its World Vision victory but the Right is blind to the fact that even when it is winning the small petty battles like this, it is still losing the long term game and marginalizing itself yet further with its ugly, reactionary tactics.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock.


Jan N.
Jan N4 years ago

Religious freedom apparently mean they are free to inflict their beliefs on everyone else without being accountable to anyone because of the big book of fairy tales they have interpreted a particular way.

Alexandra G.
Alexandra G4 years ago


BMutiny TCorporationsEvil

According to some Homophobes here, "Religious Freedom" [lack of] means...
"...the cake baker in Washington.... [the] attempted forcing [her] to violate her Religious beliefs and knuckle under and serve a clientele [Gays getting married] she finds repugnant and sinful!"
Okay, and she would then have the same Biblical religious "right" not to serve:
Divorced people
Unmarried women who are not Virgins
Habitual practitioners of ANY non-procreative sexual acts
Sinners of any kind
Non-believers in Christianity
Non-believers in her PARTICULAR brand of Christianity
Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, Pagans, all horrible repugnant Sinners and Heretics
Inter-racial couples, and inter-religiously married couples
Liberals, Democrats, Lefties and Commies.

Gosh {not to take His Name in vain}, how nauseating and "repugnant" to have such polluted and polluting Sinners even come into the store! Best post something in the window so they KNOW they won't be served here...

Chaaht Aggarwal
Chaaht Aggarwal4 years ago

thank you

Tim W.
Timothy W4 years ago

I am seeing in the news all night here in St.Louis that a big push in Illinois to allow guns in churches is under way,

For once I can say I am all for religious freedom in all ways. Let them bring their guns to services.
I just hope for their sake that no one has to much of the communion wines.

Marilyn M.
Marilyn M4 years ago

Thank you.

janet t.
janet t4 years ago

moving around a lot as a kid (my dad was army) I found a lot of schoolmates would not talk to me more than once unless I joined their church. Like it was an obligation. Not one ever asked me what denomination I was; if I wouldn't go to their church, I was off limits. I just thought they were dying to recruit new members. Now I am inclined to think that only one church has a right to exist. As one Jehovah's Witness told me, no Catholic will go to heaven.

Vasu M.
.4 years ago

"Take the recent controversy over the New York St Patrick’s Day parade," writes Steve Williams. "The gay community did not, as Rupert Murdoch suggested, 'bully' Guinness, who are makers of a fine stout and not a charity..."

The gays ARE bullying the straights.

Just ask Matthew Shepard. ;-)

"...it seems religious freedom can be ignored if you don’t believe exactly what they believe," writes Steve Williams. "There are a number of religious organizations which... agree that women have the right to... terminating a pregnancy... Where are those people’s religious rights? Why are they assailed as illegitimate?"

Yes. Can pro-choice Christians dismiss protecting the unborn as unnecessary "work" or "so much garbage" from the Law which the apostle Paul claimed is abolished? Can pro-choice Christians cite Paul's claim that the risen Jesus told him three times, "...my grace is sufficient for thee..." as a license to have an abortion?

If an on-air personality were to say, "You don't have to protect the unborn..." pro-lifers would be up in arms, demanding equal time.

Jeff B.
Lauren B4 years ago

What is religious freedom according to the right? - well duh - It's the freedom to force xtianity on everybody whether they want it or not (Force is keyword)...

Then scream "we're being persecuted. Or this is a xtian nation" when people say stop.

Lynn C.
Past Member 4 years ago