Freedom of religion should not be used to discriminate against others


Graphic Natalie Sadek

Freedom of religion should not lead to the discrimination of others.

Alison Tzianabos, Staff Writer

On October 6, President Trump rescinded an Obama-era mandate that provided essential health care protection for female employees. It is now legal for employers to refuse birth control on the basis of religious freedom. Yes, I understand how important the first amendment is. It’s why the colonists came to America. But I feel like freedom of religion is only convenient when people want to discriminate against a specific group of people.

In the 1950s and 60s, the religious right claimed the government was in violation of the Free Exercise Clause because they were forced to treat black Americans like human beings. Numerous high-ranking members of the Catholic church, including the Archbishop Toolen of Alabama, forbade priests from participating in marches and preached against the integration ordinances.

Within the past twenty years, the topic of religious freedom has been brought up in response to the gay marriage ruling and the steady increase of equal rights for LGBTQ+ Americans. (The classic archetype being a baker claiming they cannot make a wedding cake for a gay couple based on their “strong Christian values”). When historically oppressed groups seek the fair treatment they undoubtedly deserve, suddenly, the first amendment is all people can talk about.

Religion has long been a guise for hate, and we should not lend merit to that. Rolling back this health care mandate is another clear display of dominance over a subservient demographic: women. Birth control is an integral part of women’s health and employers should not be able to “opt out” of providing it if they disagree with a woman’s choices in her personal life. Which, by the way is not always the reason women take birth control. Many of my friends are prescribed it to regulate their menstrual cycles or to help with acne problems, and some transgender people also take it for reasons other than its original intent. It also seems hypocritical to allow employers to deny birth control to people, when they offer Viagra, which only has one explicit use, without blinking an eye.

Regardless, freedom of religion is a vital element of the United States and I would never argue its obvious importance. However, using it to effectively advocate the legalization of racism, homophobia, transphobia, and sexism is not only hypocritical and repulsive, but ultimately irresponsible. So be aware the next time someone claims their religious freedom is being infringed upon. Are they are being honest, or are they merely using the first amendment as an excuse to be discriminatory?