Think Gay Couples Are the Only Ones ‘Religious Freedom’ Laws Will Hurt?

conservatives fight against marriage equality, religious freedom and employment discriminatiom, can employers fire for birth control, can any employer fire employee for not complying with religious restrictions

Orthodox Jews do not believe women should wear pants. So could a woman be fired for wearing pants to work in a business owned by Orthodox Jews?

Did your parents or grandparents ever use the term “hissy fit?” If so, you know you’ve been witnessing a bunch of them from Republican presidential candidates over the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide.

Jeb Bush said it is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom. Mike Huckabee said the Court trampled on religious liberty. Bobby Jindal also invoked religious liberty, while Rand Paul wrote for Time magazine that he will “resist any intrusion of government into the religious sphere.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker urged President Barack Obama “to join me in reassuring millions of Americans that the government will not force them to participate in activities that violate their deeply held religious beliefs.” Almost all of the others chimed in, invoking the rights of godly business owners to refuse service to anyone choosing a lifestyle they don’t believe in.

For all the candidates, these references to religious freedom were also references to fundamentalist Christianity. The so-called religious freedom laws Republican wannabees seek are fig leafs for discrimination against gay couples. But should such laws become reality, they would go far beyond the ability of a Christian business to refuse to cater a gay wedding. Adherents of other religions would by definition be accorded equal rights to discriminate based on their beliefs, which go beyond anti-gay tenets.

For example, Orthodox Jews do not believe women should wear pants. So could a woman be fired for wearing pants to work in a business owned by Orthodox Jews?

And according to the church website, Mormon leaders believe women “should be wives and mothers above all else”, and should resist what they call “insidious propaganda” including independence. Would that mean a Mormon-owned business could refuse to hire women at all, because they shouldn’t be working?

The Catholic church condemns birth control. Could a Catholic-owned business fire a woman if she was found to be using contraception?

Equally scary are hard-line Muslim views of women. Females are not to go out without a male relative, and must be covered head to toe at all times. Could a Muslim-owned business refuse to serve any woman without a headscarf, or one not accompanied by a male?

Far fetched? Couldn’t happen in the U.S.? Don’t be too sure.

Hobby Lobby
, the Christian business that has already been blessed by the Supremes when they granted the company the right to discriminate against women by refusing insurance coverage of birth control, has quickly backed the candidates. The company took out full-page newspaper ads nationwide over the July 4th weekend, advocating the marriage of church and state by quoting Patrick Henry: “An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!”

Effects on gay couples and women aside, the so-called “religious protections” for business owners the candidates are advocating would also cover those who believe the races shouldn’t mix.

Segregated lunch counters anyone?

Martha Burk is the author of Your Voice, Your Vote: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Power, Politics and the Change We Need! and Cult of Power: The Inside Story of the Fight to Open Augusta National Golf Club, and How It Exposed the Ingrained Corporate Sexism That Kept Women Down.

Image via Wikimedia Commons/by Vassil/CC License

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