Freedom comes with risk.
The freedom of free speech allows people to say things others might find offensive.
Everyone has a right to vote, and sometimes, they can vote for a lousy candidate.
And the freedom of religion means that people can live out their faith, even when that faith conflicts with generally accepted social conduct.
Freedom is a risk. But it’s a risk that Americans have always believed is worth taking.
But some believe it’s safer to coerce compliance. Stricter laws, free speech zones, safe zones, government mandates – they attempt to avoid the risk of someone getting hurt, or at least getting their feelings hurt. But history demonstrates that in free societies, art, music, literature, and ideas flourish, building a vibrant, diverse culture. Science, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship flourish as well, benefiting society with advances in medicine, architecture, energy, economics, and so much more.
That’s what we risk by reining in freedom – a diverse, creative, vibrant society.
Sadly, some people believe that reining in religious freedom is worth that risk. January 16th is Religious Freedom Day, a day the President of the United States proclaims officially every year. This year, more than any before, we will see a greater need to defend the good that religious freedom provides. Here are just a handful of examples from our cases:
- Five Christian colleges are fighting the HHS mandate that forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception through their health plans under threat of heavy penalties for lack of compliance.
- The District of Columbia Council tried to force pro-life organizations to pay for insurance coverage that covers elective abortions.
- The California Department of Managed Health Care is forcing pro-life organizations, and even CHURCHES and religious organizations to pay for insurance coverage for elective abortions.
- The Stormans family is challenging regulations that force them to dispense the “morning-after” pill at their pharmacy if it’s requested by a customer, even when other nearby pharmacies and pharmacists will sell the product.
- Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, was sued by both the State of Washington and a long-time customer and friend for declining to use her artistic skills to participate in the customer’s same-sex ceremony. Stutzman instead provided the customer with referral to a number of other florists in the area who were willing to fill the order.
- When Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop declined to use his artistic abilities to design a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex marriage, the two men filed a complaint, even though other cake artists were willing to do the job.
- Blaine Adamson of Hands On Originals was sued for declining to print shirts for the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization’s Pride Festival because he did not want to promote the message of the event. Adamson instead directed the GLSO to other printers in the area who were willing to fill the order.
- Kelvin Cochran, former Fire Chief of Atlanta, was fired for writing a book, on his own time, that talked about his Christian views of marriage, despite his 30 years of service and stellar record.
- City officials told Donald Knapp that he and his wife Evelyn, both ordained ministers who run the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, that they were required to perform same-sex ceremonies or face months in jail and/or thousands of dollars in fines.
- Robert and Cynthia Gifford declined to host the same-sex ceremony of two women in their own backyard because of their religious beliefs about marriage, and a complaint was filed against them, even though they offered to host the reception.
- After Phyllis Young declined to allow two self-identified lesbian women to rent a room in her bed and breakfast, where she and her husband live, a complaint was filed against her with the State of Hawaii.
Americans have always found a way to balance competing interests in the past, and, we need to find a way to do so again. Our diverse, creative, and thriving society is worth the risk.
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It has been said that difficult circumstances don’t create character but reveal it. That is certainly true of Jack Denton, a senior at Florida State University.
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Colleges and universities are supposed to promote the free exchange of ideas as they raise the next generations of leaders. When they don’t, courts should hold them responsible.
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The State of California began forcing churches to cover abortions in their health insurance plans in 2014.