Last week, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, with 54 Democrats and 10 Republicans, voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The Act is national legislation that would extend special civil rights and protections for employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, voted against it with the majority of Republicans.
Among other reasons, Lee said he could not vote for the legislation because it did not provide adequate religious freedom protections to safeguard individual religious conscience. In other words, he voted against a proposed law that would force individuals to choose between their livelihood and their religious beliefs.
Lee is justified in his concern over freedom of religion and individual religious conscience. Today, there are numerous cases being adjudicated to determine whether religion, its affiliated organizations and people of religious conscience will be forced to choose between their educational, medical, charitable or business activities and their freedom of religion and religious conscience.
It is now all too evident that many advancing non-discrimination legislation for sexual orientation and gender identity are hoping to outlaw traditional morality and supplant the “First Freedoms,” memorialized in the Constitution to protect religious conscience, with new “sexual civil rights.”
In response to the concerns over religious conscience, Hatch, R-Utah, suggested that perhaps the legislation could be amended through the legislative process. His response begs the question, if the legislation is flawed why would he vote for it? If, however, Hatch does not believe it is flawed as his vote indicates, we can only conclude that he is willing to replace rights of religious conscience for the new sexual civil rights he is advocating.
Explaining his vote, Hatch declared, “Discrimination is wrong!” As a matter-of-fact, it is not wrong when public policy is intended to uphold moral standards for society that by their very nature discriminate. Every public policy passed into law discriminates against someone or something. The intended discrimination usually reflects the values of society.
If all policymakers followed Hatch’s reasoning, then same-sex marriage, prostitution and polygamy should be legalized. In fact, civil marriage should be abolished altogether, allowing citizens to form whatever relationships they desire. If the goal is to expunge discrimination from the law, then tobacco, drugs and alcohol should not be regulated and all prohibitions on abortion should be eliminated.
The regulation of these particular activities by design discriminates against not only individuals but often classes of individuals. Is Hatch prepared to support legislation that would further outlaw moral standards reflected in public policy because they intentionally discriminate? Or by his vote, is he admitting that he does not believe homosexual activity is immoral and therefore deserving of special protections and rights — rights that inevitably subvert the religious liberties of individuals supporting morality in the law, in their business activities and in society?
Is this our America — an America where we have to choose between our livelihood and a religious conscience that supports morality in society? Does it seem fair that we should have to give up our religious rights and freedoms for the sexual activities of others? Well, some advancing new sexual civil rights want to make sure we do.
In contrast to their objective, President George Washington, the father of our nation, declared: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”
Stuart Reid is a Utah state senator representing District 18.