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The East Texan

Religious freedom masking discrimination

Joseph Alderman, News Editor

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It is becoming a strange and disturbing habit of late for people to try to abuse others in the name of freedom. The most recent and publicized example of this is Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Act, a document authored under the guise of defending the religious practices of residents and combatting the fictional “War on Religion” that rich white Christians invented to protect the status quo. Of course, the real issue at crux here is that the act leaves open the option for Indiana residents to discriminate against anyone for any reason, privately or in a place of business, under the justification of religious belief.

Not long ago, a very similar issue was at debate not far from the A&M – Commerce campus. A local restaurant in nearby Pittsburg, TX made headlines when they refused to serve a homosexual couple. Big Earl’s Bait House and Country Store subsequently received a flood of both support and criticism for their actions, but avoided any legal recourse as Dallas, Austin, El Paso and San Antonio are the only areas in Texas that provide legal protection for gays and lesbians. Texas does have a religious freedom act on the books, signed into law in 1997 following a Supreme Court decision stating that federal protections of religious freedom did not specifically apply to the states. However, the Texas document is far less open in its interpretation, and mainly has been used to protect the practices of religions like Santeria, whose worship includes animal sacrifice, and Native Americans who use peyote. While some Texas lawmakers have been inspired by Indiana to expand our law, there is enough of an opposition of logical thinking people to keep it on the ground.

Already several groups and businesses have pulled out from Indiana, and rightly so. Anyone who does believe in equality should vocalize their opposition to this act and make it clear that Indiana lawmakers are decades behind the times and their antiquated beliefs have no place in public policy. I don’t care in the least if you believe homosexuality is evil or shellfish are abominations or that women can’t be touched during their periods, but your beliefs don’t give you an excuse to impede on the rights of other people. I feel like I’ve said this a million times, but it’s a basic concept of liberty that has become completely lost in partisan attempts to divide the population of the country into predictable voting cells.

What’s worst about this situation is that it shouldn’t even be an issue. It is absolutely insane that we are still trying to prevent the civil rights efforts of American citizens while claiming to be beacon of freedom in the modern world. Almost every single person in America, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or socio-economic status, is struggling in some way to achieve a quality of life that American culture has told us since childhood is within every citizen’s grasp, because the playing field is almost never level. It should be our goal to remove these barriers and put every American citizen on equal standing, but laws like these prevent this from ever happening. It’s pure and simple hate, and it’s not changing on it’s own.

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Religious freedom masking discrimination