There is an unsettling process underway in our country that prides itself as a model of democracy. Even as we fight to uphold democracy in the Middle East and soldiers die for the rights attached to it, we operate against those principles by how we are legislating ourselves. Supposedly, we have freedom of speech and religion that allows for a range of views to be held in our culture. That practice is rapidly changing and going away, selectively.
Look at some laws that have been passed or are under consideration in our country recently. If you bake a cake for weddings or sell flowers but will not do so for a same sex couple that targets you to make the point (when there are florists or cake bakers who would do this for such couples), then you are a criminal, subject to fine or imprisonment. Even courts have upheld this kind of law. You are liable for your ethical choice, even when it is rooted in a religious or social belief and even though the suing couple can go elsewhere to get their cake or flowers from someone comfortable doing this. If you are an organization that chooses to hold to moral standards that have been held for centuries, then laws target you to remove your non-profit status. Non-profit status is being overseen in such a way that freedom of belief or speech or religion is not being sustained. In one state, if you claim your gender is different than your biology, you are free to choose what bathroom you use. Sexual identity is only a choice now. Our legislation now reaches beyond our biology. Many of those defending such laws used to complain about this type of thing being done against them in the past. Those who disagree with them are not the beneficiaries of the same rights they pursued. Is turn about fair play? That is not democracy, where a range of views are allowed and not legislated.
What does this mean? It means we are moving in the direction of a kind of secularism being established as religion that drives our laws. Democracy tied to the principles of religious choice is disappearing, because secularism is being established as a religion in key pockets of our society. I say this not to complain but to observe. I am asking us to reflect on whether in trying to swing a pendulum back, we have now let it swing too far in the other direction. Are we establishing a religion in secularlism because we argue it is not a religion? Does its non-religious status protect it from contributing to a healthy democracy.
Our legislatures now are saying we will make you pay for how you think. There is no act of violence involved in those who are being called criminals. They just hold a position out of personal conviction and that is good enough to qualify for jail. So the same people who claimed the state should not come into my bedroom to tell me how to live now support the state to tell you how to think and live. The state has no business in one area but do have the right to enter your mind and tell you what to do. Do people in our democracy have the right to refuse to act because of their beliefs? That inconsistency reflects a theology of thought police. It is the antithesis of what democracy was designed to allow. Maybe we should rethink some of this. Is where we are going really reflective of democracy? Perhaps we should allow a return to what many of us hope for in a pluralistic democracy. A genuine democracy permits us to refuse to act out or support something out of conviction when such a service is available in our society. Is that a democracy worth defending and pursuing for all of us?