Religious Liberty and Anti-Discrimination

Whether it's bathroom bills or protecting LGBT students on Christian campuses, there has been a recent surge in policy makers working at the intersections of religious liberty and anti-discrimination. Headlines like: "Christians Under Attack" and "No Hate in Our State" tell competing, polarized narratives of the situation. 

A couple weeks ago we put out a survey to learn more about how people think about relationship between these two ideals and if they are inherently contradictory or if it's possible for them to work together. 

Here's our summary of the more than 30 survey responses we received.


The results of the survey are clear: there is nothing clear about the relationship between religious liberty and anti-discrimination. Some suggested that religious liberty is

 
very important, as it is the bedrock of the country

and the reason

 
why we rebelled from England in the first place.

According to this view it seems that the law is meant to protect individuals from religious-based oppression by the government or their fellow citizens.

Yet, it was also suggested that,

 
Religious liberty in itself is discriminatory.
Results from 2016 Level Ground Religious Liberty Survey

Results from 2016 Level Ground Religious Liberty Survey

What are we to make of these perspectives?

Is one wrong and one right? Does the original intent of religious liberty matter in todays complex society which strives to hold together places of worship, religious educational institutions, and a democratic government?

If religious liberty is meant to protect religious institutions from governmental oppression, then what is the purpose of anti-discrimination? At first glance, this seems a very simple principle. One contributor put it this way;

 
No one is allowed to treat me differently because of my race, gender, religion, or social status. Anti-discrimination allows for equal rights under the law.

Another writes that anti-discrimination is the golden rule 

 
treat others like you want to be treated,

enacted into law. Here we see the law protecting individuals from discriminatory actions based on certain qualities or identities. 

With the integration of places of worship and religious educational institutions alongside a democratic government, the most personal aspects of our lives are argued over in the public square. In the case of the recent California SB1146 bill, it seems we are being forced to choose between maintaining the purity of our theological beliefs or supporting the civil rights and protections of LGBT students.

Are we on the side of religious liberty or anti-discrimination? 

Results from 2016 Level Ground Religious Liberty Survey

Results from 2016 Level Ground Religious Liberty Survey

Polarization is often not a helpful or effective way to address complicated, controversial topics. Easy answers are fleeting and unsatisfying. Instead of relying on political power to back one’s opinions, it is necessary for individuals and institutions to practice turning inward to examine their mission, purpose, and posture in the context of a constantly changing world. 


Next Steps You Could Take:

Consider (or reconsider) the original survey questions (see below). Which questions are most difficult for you to answer? Why? What emotions do you feel as you think about this topic? What experiences or beliefs do you think have shaped these emotions?

If you're unsure about your own convictions or how to think about this conversation try writing down some of your own questions. 

Reflect on any assumptions or judgements you may have of people who disagree with your position about religious liberty and anti-discrimination? 

Think about what questions you would have for someone with a different position from you. What would it look like to reach out to this person or have a conversation with them? 

Do some research (see a list of articles below). Explore reading an article from a source would normally avoid. 

 

Original Level Ground Survey Questions:

  1. What do you think is meant by religious liberty? How is it important? 
  2. What do you think is meant by anti-discrimination? How is it important?
  3. Do you think any rights of religious institutions are being encroached upon by LGBT rights? If so, which ones?
  4. Do you think any LGBT rights are being encroached upon by religious institutions? If so, which ones?
  5. Do you believe religious freedom and LGBT rights can co-exist?

Articles For Further Inquiry:


If you have more thoughts, questions, or articles

that you think are relevant and want to share, please email us or comment on this Facebook post.