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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 20, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 08
LETTERS: Religious beliefs an excuse for not following the law?
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LETTERS: Religious beliefs an excuse for not following the law?

Religious beliefs an excuse for not following the law?

Editor:

Hatred, bigotry, and prejudice are not parts of any creditable religion. Yet recently we have seen example after example of civilians and religious leaders claiming their "religious beliefs" excuse them from following the law. In Washington state we have Baronelle Stutzman from Kennewick who refuses to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding because it "violates her religious beliefs" - in flagrant violation of the state's laws against discrimination. (State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is prosecuting her under the Consumer Protection Act.) Last week the Mormon Church declared a "softening" of their bias against LGBT people so long as their operations were exempted from obeying the laws against discrimination. The Catholic Church claims exemption from all sorts of laws from discrimination to abortion to family planning to death with dignity - and they are imposing their prejudices on more and more Washington state citizens by buying up hospitals and medical centers. The insidious invasion of religions into the public domain was only made worse by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case.

If this trend continues, anybody can claim a "sincerely held religious belief" about anything and the rule of law goes out the window. In 1960, many Americans feared the election of John F. Kennedy would surrender U.S. sovereignty to the Vatican. Now it appears that anybody can set themselves up as a "pope" and declare their own "religious faith" to promote hate, to violate the law, or even to excuse their children from vaccinations! If somebody mails an envelope full of anthrax to a school, it is considered a crime, but if somebody sends their unvaccinated child to school with measles, why is that excused by a "religious belief"?

The First Amendment of the Constitution declares that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ". This provision has been expanded too broadly. Case in point: Today Rep. Matt Shea (R) from Spokane introduced House Bill 1968, which "accommodates the civil rights of religious objectors to mandatory payments to labor organizations." If my "sincerely held religious belief" prohibits me from paying tolls on the 520 bridge, do I get to ride for free?

When is this nonsense going to stop?!

Janice Van Cleve
Seattle
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