My friend, Leonard Presberg, wrote a letter to the editor last week expressing his displeasure with the Fayette County Commission’s recent resolution in support of the Georgia religious freedom bill.
While he will always be my friend, I disagree with his assessment that Senator Marty Harbin’s bill is discriminatory. In fact, his letter does the very discriminatory thing he complains about, and inadvertently makes a compelling case for the religious freedom bill.
Presberg expressed his gratitude that his religious freedom is protected by the U.S. Constitution and federal law. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993 is one such law.
RFRA is a minimalist law which simply stipulates that government may not infringe on one’s free exercise of religion without a compelling reason. This law was enacted by a Democrat majority Congress and White House. It was introduced by Chuck Schumer in the House and Ted Kennedy in the Senate. It passed unanimously in the House, 97-3 in the Senate, and it was signed by President Bill Clinton.
In 1997 the Supreme Court ruled that the federal RFRA was overreaching, and applied only to the federal government. Each state should decide if they would restrict their state government from infringing on the free exercise of religion. Thirty states so far have adopted RFRA or RFRA-like statutes.
Never in the 25-year history of state and federal RFRAs have they been used to discriminate against anyone. They are not even about discrimination, but merely require government to have a compelling interest before infringing on a person’s religious freedom. This is why RFRA laws are continually upheld as constitutional.
The bulk of states from Arizona to Virginia have adopted a state-level RFRA to protect their citizens from government encroachment, except North Carolina and Georgia. Even liberal states like Illinois, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania have adopted RFRA.
The bill introduced by Senator Harbin, like those in most states, is word-for-word identical to the constitutional federal RFRA bill. If the Georgia bill is discriminatory, then so is the federal law and the state-level laws enacted in the majority of American states. If it is discriminatory, then why has the Supreme Court upheld it? Why did a Democrat congress and president unanimously pass it? Objections about RFRA by progressives seem disingenuous and groundless. So why are they complaining?
Presberg protested that the County Commission “believe(s) people should have a religious right to discriminate.” So?
You see, my friend assumes that there are those who discriminate and those who do not. He also assumes there are those who are religious and there are those who are not.
Neither of these assumptions is true.
Everyone discriminates. No one is completely free of prejudice, bias, and intolerance, not even him. I am intolerant of theft, swindling, child molestation, and many other immoral acts. I believe I rightly discriminate against evil. So does my friend.
In Presberg’s case, he discriminates against certain religious people, their beliefs, and anyone else who does not conform to his progressive way of thinking. His language is clothed in morality, and he shames those who oppose his progressivism.
To most progressives, religious people and non-progressives are the problem with society and must be made virtuous. Virtue is defined by progressive, not Christian, morality. Those who do not conform are shamed, shunned, bullied, harassed, protested, and sometimes more extreme measures until they do conform.
I discriminate on the grounds of my religion, my belief system. So does my friend. So does everyone, and we can’t not do it. This is because everyone is a person of faith … just people of different faiths. Even atheism is based on faith.
No one is all-knowing. If they were, they would be God. There are things we just don’t know. When we reach the edge of what we know and what we don’t know, we have to assume. Even if it is tentative and operational, we all assume something to be truly real – something that “just is.”
Since we are not omniscient, we all make a basic assumption about the nature of everything that exists. The thing we believe “just is” is not questioned and we cannot prove it. Do you believe that the natural, material world is all there is – that nonphysical things like minds or spirits don’t exist? Ultimately, you can’t prove it.
Do you believe there is a Creator who is different from the creation and made everything including us? Prove it! You can’t. You may have some very good reasons to believe it, but you can’t conclusively prove it. It “just is.”
Everyone reaches this edge of reasoning, this point of assuming. We cannot prove what really exists, so we assume it. We do it without questioning, without proof … and we all do it on faith.
Yes, at the level of our basic assumptions, we all are people of faith. Even atheists. I understand there may not be a deity, places of worship, or rituals involved. That’s what atheism means – no god. Yet, we all assume something unconditionally and non-dependently exists – the core tenet of every religion. We are all inherently religious people.
My friend pretends to not discriminate while discriminating against religious people. He complains that religious people are divisive while he divides our Fayette community into various identity groups and pits them against each other. Then he pretends he is not religious, while advancing his own humanist religion.
He does the very thing he complains about. This kind of inconsistency occurs when people are blind to their own basic assumptions.
Presberg wants to be free to practice and promote his humanist religion. He just wants to do this while preventing others from practicing and promoting their Christian religion. This is the very essence of discrimination.
This is why Georgia needs RFRA. RFRA is protection from religious discrimination. Until we have RFRA, it will still be OK in Georgia for humanist progressives, particularly in government, to discriminate against Christians. And, ironically, progressives do it on religious grounds.
Without protection, some religious people will continue to be forced to violate their conscience in the name of belligerent politically correct religion.
I am glad my friend feels free to practice his religion. I would like to feel the same. It is long overdue for Georgia to pass RFRA.
[David Richardson of Peachtree City is America’s leading expert on the powerful assumptions that control everything we do, say, and think. He is the president of the Assumptions Institute and the author of the critically-acclaimed book, “Transparent: How to See Through the Powerful Assumptions That Control You” (www.TheTransparentBook.com).]