Comments about ‘In our opinion: Protecting rights of conscience’

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Published: Sunday, Feb. 12 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

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Joe Bauman
Salt Lake City, UT

Religious freedom is a valid concern, but it only applies within the a private context, that of religious practices. It does not give individuals the right to discriminate in a non-religious context, such as the photography dispute cited in they article by Ms. Israelsen-Hartley's that is mentioned in the editorial. If a realtor was a member of a white-supremacy group calling itself a religion -- and there have been such groups -- he would not have any right to refuse to sell a home to a black person. Religious freedom is irrelevant as a basis to refuse legitimate services to others, in a business context. In another false comparison brought up in the article, a Methodist church opposed gay people using its pavilion -- when the pavilion had what the article calls a "state-provided tax exemption for public areas of recreation or conservation." Notice the word "public" -- notice the fact that the tax break is financed by every taxpayer in that state, gay or straight. If the church did not want the pavilion to be open to all members of the public, it should not have accepted the tax exemption for its use as a public place. Because it chose to discriminate it lost that exemption. This has nothing to do with freedom of religion. The Methodist church can continue its discriminatory practices but has to do it on its own nickle, without the public subsidy. What makes this country so amazing is that we are supposed to guarantee freedom for all; we publicly acknowledge that all people are created equal. It's not just all whites or all men, it's everybody. All are endowed with equal rights to the pursuit of happiness in the pubic setting. The same rules do not apply in a strictly religious -- that is, private -- setting, as with events within a church. But they do apply to business, housing, public property and all other public purposes. The Deseret News should not confuse this emotional debate by conflating religions freedom with a claimed right to discriminate in a non-religious setting.


Brilliant editorial. I loved every word.

Salt Lake City, UT

Your privately held religious beliefs do not excuse a violation of other peoples' constitutionally guaranteed rights.

If the wedding photographer mentioned in your main piece on this subject today had refused to photograph a black or a Jewish couple's wedding, would this newspaper champion racial and religious bigotry as a "right of conscience?"

The parallels between discrimination against people because of their race or religion and the discrimination described today against people because of their sexual orientation is exact.

Moreover, the fact that the _only_ defense offered for these discriminatory behaviors is religious speaks volumes about the intellectual emptiness of their position.

The simple fact is that no rational basis exists for treating gay and lesbian couple as second-class citizens. What this newspaper calls a "right of conscience" is in fact nothing more than a claim to a right to ignore reality and the Bill of Rights to the detriment of other American citizens.

That is a morally and legally doomed position for this newspaper to take.

Roland Kayser
Cottonwood Heights, UT

The appellate court's decision is actually quite narrow. The ruling applies only to states that have already made same sex marriage legal. It says that the states cannot rescind that right unless they show a compelling legal reason to do so. Simple dislike of homosexuality was not considered to be a compelling reason.

Clearfield, UT

What's sad is that this exact same editorial could have been written and published 40 or so years ago, only the subject of the "rights of conscience" would have been mixed race marriage and racial segregation. We were wrong then. Have we learned anything? It sure doesn't look like it.

American Fork, UT

The definition of marriage has no effect on religious freedom. Rights of conscience are, as religion should be, individual. Not group. If your church wants to marginalise gays fine, but don't expect our society as a whole to buy in. That gay people have been getting married and are married has in no way affected my marriage.

salt lake city, utah

"Honoring procreation and conjugal acts of unifying love as sacred, churches have long played a central role in solemnizing marriage,"..but not the only role. In fact even in order to have a reckognized marriage in a church one needs a license from the state so..marriage is in the end a state function. Why then does the state need to bow to the definitions of the churches.

I don't think a church should be forced to perform a marriage they don't approve of because it is a sacrament..however a church should not be able to define who gets married outside the bounds of their believers.

Ultra Bob
Cottonwood Heights, UT

Adult American citizens should have the right and freedom to do and be anything they please so long as they do not infringe on the rights and freedoms of others.

When religious people seek to impose their beliefs on the general population many of whom do not wish those beliefs, the religious people are overstepping the bounds of the American creed and thus the protection of the first amendment for religious freedom does not apply.

Bountiful, UT

We've always had the tension between religious freedom and "rights of conscience" in this nation. Whose rights are predominant when a child is seriously injured in car accident and needs blood transfusion... but the parents are Jehovah's Witnesses and are opposed to that medical treatment because of their religious beliefs?

The first child abuse cases in our country were prosecuted using animal cruelty laws, because society was opposed to interfering in intra-family concerns, it was outside the role of government.

Rights of conscience were at issue when the Civil Rights Act was debated and passed, and certainly when interracial marriages were banned. Who was right - the interracial couple that wanted to be married, or the principled wedding vendor or hotel owner who refused to provide his public service to them?

The great irony is seeing so many Utah conservatives eager to exercise their rights of conscience against gays, after the US government directly outlawed a sacred LDS institution, one that was proclaimed to be God's law, an everlasting covenant, etc.

Which way is it?

Salt Lake City, Utah

Whoa there. Now hang on Ultra Bob. Think about what you are saying about not infringing on the rights and freedoms of others.

Don't you think that imposing one's will regarding religious-based morals cuts both ways here? How is it okay for a proponent of same-sex marriage to foist his or her will upon somebody that is religiously opposed to such a marriage? Isn't that an example of infringing on religious freedom?

Let's make it clear here: nobody is humiliating or browbeating or physically beating or maiming or killing those with same-gender attraction. Those with religious convictions opposing same-gender marriage are doing so out of conviction and adherence to their religion, and out of the inherent desire to protect the sanctity of marriage.

And here is my argument to your opinion that the protection of the first amendment for religious freedom does not apply: my opinion is that it does apply.

These are opinions. Don't go rendering your opinion as though it were a statement of supported and accepted fact. Constitutional principles will be argued and interpreted through time immemorial. Let's not confuse opinion with fact.

Thanks for your opinion.

a bit of reality
Shawnee Mission, KS

Living in a pluralistic society always entails compromise, and the way it works is that individuals need to either comply with the law or suffer the consequences of conscientiously objecting. Allowing people to be exempt from the law because of religiously-motivated disaporval of the law is a slippery slope towards lawless anarchy.

For example, my deeply held religious convictions dictate that war and the mercenary military industrial complex that profits from it are wrong. Yet, every year THOUSANDS of the tax dollars that I myself pay finance these endeavors. If the Deseret News isnât furious about my conscious being violated over the government forcing me to finance a war machine, itâs hard to take them seriously when theyâre indignant about the government saying a professional photographer has to occasionally accept work taking photographs of a wedding ceremony of which they donât approve.

Holladay, UT

I compare this and the specific instances cited in the other article to the claim of consciencious objection to serving in the military. How is it right for the government to allow one to exempt oneself from military service, and then on the other hand compel one engaged in his/her own private business to provide services to someone who violates their conscience?

Mr Bauman mentions the impact of public subsidy in the case of the wedding pavilion. I can see that as being somewhat relevant (although I personally think it violates the separation clause...), but the New Mexico photographers are receiving no such subsidy, and so should they not be allowed to conduct business with whomever they choose, at their own peril or profit?

Sticky issue to be sure.

Henry Drummond
San Jose, CA

It seems the Deseret News is confusing the public sphere and the private sphere. Here are some examples:

1. Marriage:

In the private sphere there is a ceremony to "solemnize" civil marriage. In the Mormon Church it is very difficult to qualify for such a ceremony known as a "Temple Marriage." In fact, up until 1878, blacks were forbidden from having a Temple Marriage under any circumstances.

In the public sphere marriage is a contract providing legal benefits. Nobody would think of denying someone a civil marriage just because they did not qualify for a Mormon temple marriage. Likewise it would be improper for the public sphere to dictate who the Mormons should invite to their temple ceremony. And in fact, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 notwithstanding, nobody eve forced the Mormon Church to perform temple marriages for blacks.

2. Adoption

The Deseret News has repeatedly told the story of how the Catholic Church in Illinois was required by law to provide adoption services for homosexuals. They consistently fail to note, however that the Catholic Church was taking state tax dollars to run their agency. That made them a public adoption agency, not a private adoption agency. The Deseret News also fails to note that LDS Social Services in Illinois and other states, does not take public money. As a private adoption service they have never been required to place children with homosexuals, non-Mormons, or others who they would have to accommodate if they were a public adoption agency.

3. Weddings
The Deseret News has continued to run the story of a religious organization in Ocean Grove, New Jersey that was told they could not refuse to make an open air pavilion available to a homosexual couple for a marriage ceremony. Once again the Deseret News fails to note the organization was given special tax exemptions by the State by agreeing to make the site available to the public. By forgoing these public benefits, they are now able to reserve the pavilion for whoever they wish.

4. Public Services
The Deseret News has published stories of how business owners were fined for refusing to provide their services to homosexuals. They fail to note that businesses that provide public services operate in the public sphere. By doing so they receive tax deductions for the cost of operating their business and qualify for other benefits. In return they have follow the rules of the the public sphere that include health codes, building codes, and non-discrimination laws. Do you really believe for one minute that this newspaper would defend an Evangelical Christian for refusing to rent an apartment to Mormons because it offended his religious sensibilities?

What is really at play here is that the Deseret News wants to mix the public and the private sphere when it suits their purpose. They not only want the public sphere to support their definition of marriage, but to enforce it as well. They claim it is the private sphere that is intruding on their religious rights. When you look at all the facts however, it appears the exact opposite is the case.

J Thompson

The issue is not equality under the law, as some would say, but the morality of the people who demand that their acts be sanctioned by government.

When the morality of a people declines to the extent that marriage between a man and a woman become fodder for 3% of the people to demand that marriage be redefined and that the institution of marriage be annulled so that they can feel good about their own actions and activity, then that people has become so degraded and so corrupted that the conscience of that people no longer guides them to know right from wrong.

Children have to be taught to pick wrong over right. Instinctively, they choose to do the right thing. They are taught to be selfish. They are taught to be unkind. They are taught to self-gratify themselves sexually. They are taught to do those things by ADULTS who have lost their moral compass.

Now, supposed adults constantly tell us that marriage is not sacred, that children can be indoctrinated in a same-sex household, that anything goes, as long as they can find a judge that agrees with their views.

Moral people do not behave immorally.

Ultra Bob
Cottonwood Heights, UT


If a man uses a hammer to build houses and another man uses hammer to make shoes, does either man have the right to say the other cannot do so? Does the use of a hammer of either man take away the from the usefulness of the hammer to the other?

If two men call their union a marriage, does that change or limit the right to a religious man to hold the marriage of a man and women as sanctified by his God?

If a man chooses not to believe as the religious man believes, how does that limit or control what the religious man is able to believe.

If a religious man demands that all men must believe as he believes, is freedom of religion promoted or diminished?

And as my body begins to fail, this mental jousting is all that is left. Cheers for the DS and internet for allowing opinions.

Florien Wineriter
Cottonwood Heights, UT

The separation of our religious life and our secular life has been an intense issue in our nation since the confederation was disolved nd we became a Federation. Most of the conflicting views have been about the intrusion of organized relgioous views into our secular lives. The most obvious was prohibtion. We do need continuous vigilence to keep government and religion from interferring with and/or invading each others jurisdiction.
Early in human history marriage was souly a religious ceremony. Other marriages were simply the mutual agreement of people to cohabitate and raise a family. As society became more complex marriage became both a secular law and a religious ceremony. Too often religions have imposed their will on government to make the marriage ceremony and marriage laws primarily religious. It has been an asidious venture to impose religious authority in our secular lives. Continous vigilence is the price of liberty from both civil authority and religious authority.

J Thompson

Have religions imposed their will on government? Has the government in America been directed to donate "tithes and offerings" to a state church, as is done in most of the countries of Europe? Does the "King" receive council from the "Priest" as has been the way governments have operated for centuries in Europe?

Too many times, those who have no use for religion make absurd claims that have no basis in fact. They want anything that is found in both religion and in government to be abolished, either from religion or from government. They want churches to be taxed, but they still want churches to feed, clothe and house the poor. They want hospitals to be forced to provide abortions and to provide contraceptives and abortifiacants to patients and to employees, but they still want establishments of religions to fund those hospitals to heal the sick who have no means to pay for that care.

Establishments of religion do not dictate to the U.S. Government except when the U.S. Government refuses to acknowledge that the U.S. Constitution forbids the U.S. Government from interfering with establishments of religion.

Henry Drummond
San Jose, CA

The editorial calls for exemptions for religious people from having to follow discrimination rules. Hasn't that already happened? The Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not force Mormons to accept blacks into their priesthood or to marry them in Mormon temples. Neither will gay marriage laws. Many of the incidents the editorial and accompanying article refer to involve public funds. Why should people of conscious be allowed to discriminate in how they spend tax dollars? I find it very disappointing that the Deseret News is so reluctant to deal with the full story. Everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinion, but everyone is not entitled to their own set of facts.

Ultra Bob
Cottonwood Heights, UT

J Thompson asks: Have religions imposed their will on government?


On our money, In God We Trust.

In many public, government meetings and sporting events, with an opening prayer.

Exemption from some taxes and some laws.

Religious advertising in the public square, buildings and highways.

Religious participation in the ownership and control of business activity. Religious hospitals charge for their service. Religious retail outlets sell donated merchandise .

Paid political lobbyists.

More, most probable.

Mike in Texas
Cedar City, Utah

Did the DMN editorial staff listen to the president? The notion that he backed away from the original program is just right wing political spin. You just let your right wing bias out of the bag again DMN. The president said that the intent was always to modify the program over the next year to insure that religious sensibilities were not unduly compromised. The DMN news editorial staff once again is bird flying with only one wing. The one on the right.

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