Sunday, March 20, 2016

Discrimination Or Religious Freedom?


In 1966, Kentucky passed laws that made it illegal for businesses which provided “public accommodation,” hotels, restaurants, and laundromats for example, to discriminate against their customers based on race or religion. Eight communities in the state have passed local laws that go one step further by providing protection for LGBT customers as well. However, a recent bill, Bill 180, has been brought to media attention as what its opponents call the “license to discriminate.” This bill would undo these laws by allowing business owners to refuse service to anyone based on a “sincerely held religious belief.” This would allow business owners to lawfully refuse service to LGBT people, as well as anyone else they feel violates their beliefs. The bill has recently passed the Senate, but House Speaker Greg Stumbo claims that the bill will not pass the House of Representatives and said that he “took an oath to uphold the Constitution, not violate it,” showing his disapproval for the bill.

Supporters claim that the bill is perfectly fine with regards to its constitutionality. Senator Albert Robinson, an avid supporter of the bill, claims that the bill is not discriminatory at all, but instead seeks to protect business owners from the LGBT community who “are trying to force their beliefs down the throats [of people who have religious convictions against them].” Opponents reject this interpretation of the bill, saying that it only creates a slippery slope of discrimination where anyone could fall victim.

I definitely agree with the bill’s opponents. This bill seems extremely discriminatory. I don’t agree with Senator Robinson who claims the bill protects those with religious convictions against the LGBT community. LGBT people aren’t shoving their beliefs down business owners’ throats by seeking services anymore than non-LGBT people or people with any religious or political beliefs. I also don’t agree that the bill protects the business owners. I don’t believe that you have the right to not be offended, and if someone enters your business that offends you solely based on who they are as a person or what they believe, then I don’t think you should have the right to refuse them service. I agree with opponents that this bill opens a very slippery lope not only for who can be discriminated against, but also who can discriminate. Business owners could claim that serving any group of people goes against their religious beliefs. This could lead to discrimination based on any number of things, from shirt color to sex. How would business owners check for certain groups? Would they be permitted to force customers to confess their sexual orientation, religion, or marital status, or would service only be refused if the topic was talked about in the business? This bill also creates a slippery slope for who can discriminate. With this bill in place, it seems that nothing would stop people from discriminating for personal reasons and claiming it to be religious. If a business owner was racist they could easily deny service to certain racial groups and claim it to be religious. I think that overall this bill is truly just a “license to discriminate,” and could lead to a number of unjust, unconstitutional discrimination and that since religion does not grant people to bypass other laws, laws against discrimination should be treated no differently.

What do you think? Do you think people should be allowed to refuse service based on religious belief? Do you see this bill as opening the doors to greater discrimination?

7 comments:

Rebecca J said...

This case is similar to that of Ralph's Thriftway that we discussed earlier in the semester. Cases like these are particularly interesting because you can look at them from two perspectives. On one hand, you can say that LGBT individuals are being discriminated against by the business owners because of the business owners religious beliefs. The individuals then are being disadvantaged since they do not share the same religious beliefs as the business owner, would could be considered a form of coercion to follow the owners religious beliefs. On the other hand, one could also argue that by accommodating individuals who live lifestyles contrary to their personal religious beliefs, the business owners are being forced to abandon their religious convictions. While I can understand the argument from both perspectives, I agree with Sara that business owners should not be able to refuse service to individuals because of their religious belief. In passing this law, the government would be making a law that disadvantages individuals who do not hold or practice a certain religious belief. I think that doing this is contradictory to why the first amendment was created. The government cannot make a law that favors certain religious beliefs over others or that favors religious beliefs over non-religion. Creating this law would be doing exactly that, so passing this law would be unconstitutional.

Matthew L. said...

I agree with your stance on the bill. I believe that if you let business owners claim religious exemptions from serving customers, you are opening a can of worms that will lead to a slippery slope. I do also understand the restaurant owners may believe that they have the right to refuse service to customers who do not hold the same beliefs as themselves, I believe that this right is abandoned when choosing to open a public service company. Therefore, I do not support this bill as it would allow discrimination against other citizens for no true reason to be shrouded by the veil of religion.

nick paray said...

This is really a matter of superiority in the laws. Currently, there is no protection for LGBT people against discrimination on the federal level--they 14th amendment does not include LGBT as a protected class. Further, the community statutes established in Kentucky that include protection for LGBT members ought to be overruled by a state law--especially a state law invoking a constitutional right to freedom of religion. I am a firm believer in the rights of businesses; the government shouldn't be telling businesses how to operate, especially in the face of religious objection.

Natalie Kawalec said...

I would definitely oppose this bill and would argue that it is unconstitutional because it is not neutral between religions and between religion and non-religion. If a business owner refuses to provide services to someone, how can it ever be proven that it is due to the business owner’s religious belief and not due to some other reason, such as outright hatred of someone’s race, sex, or appearance? The business owner’s actual reasoning for the refusal of services to someone is only known within him or herself, which inevitably opens the door to discrimination that is permitted by the government.

Caroline Vauzelle said...

This reminds me of the discussion we had at the beginning of this course about focusing on one sin. After all, from a Christian point of view, engaging in homosexual activity is just one sin among a lot of others, and moreover human beings are seen as being sinful by nature. I also agree with you that the justification behind the bill does not work. On the one hand, you have a group of people trying to sustain a certain private way of life despite others' beliefs, but without necessarily aiming to challenge those. On the other hand, you have a group of believers clearly trying to impose their beliefs on other people. Finally, I think the slippery slope argument is particularly true here. This is a certain “help yourself” view on the American system of law that I find disturbing and potentially dangerous.

Liz S. said...

I agree with all of the points already made. I think allowing this bill would create a slippery slope of unfair discriminations being hidden under the guise of deeply held religious beliefs- but these religious beliefs can not be proven to be genuine. A store owner could refuse anyone for their own personal hateful reasons and claim that their deeply held religious belief makes them not want to serve these people. Also, I don't think that allowing a gay couple to eat at your restaurant if you are say a strict Catholic who does not support gay marriage will have any affect on your ability to go to heaven. You may believe homosexual relationships are wrong in your religion but refusing to serve a gay couple will not make that couple's sexual orientation change. Also, you may believe whatever you want but by refusing service to someone whose actions go against your beliefs you seem to be forcing your own beliefs on someone else. We often see an action/belief dichotomy and while beliefs always seem to be protected, here the actions are also protected; no one is forcing storeowners to do something against their belief like engaging in a homosexual relationship themselves, rather they are just giving food to another person who happens to have a different set of beliefs. Lastly, how would a storeowner recognize someone as being homosexual? Could they just guess based on the way someone looks or acts? How would the storeowner or the patron for that matter prove that someone is or is not gay, thus allowing for the storeowner to kick the person out? This seems like it would get pretty messy.

Lucy Fishell said...

I agree with you, this is discrimination. In many of the cases that we've discussed the court has decided that discrimination is not welcome in everyday life. This certain bill would make it legal for business owners to discriminate on the basis of a persons' sexual orientation. If this Bill passes what is stopping other people with religious beliefs that could be viewed as sexist or racist to make arguments that if you let one group discriminate you must let us. This is a very slippery slope, which is why I believe that this Bill should not be passed.