A few years ago when the LDS church announced that they were supporting legislation prohibiting discrimination against others in housing and employment based on sexual orientation, while preserving the right to do so as a church, I was dumbfounded. I wrote a paper on it, exploring the question of why, if it is immoral for business to discriminate based on sexual orientation, it is not immoral for a Church to do so. I didn’t get it. Of course my feeling was that since homosexual conduct is immoral, like pedophilia or other crimes, then discrimination based on the immorality and harm it causes is always permissible, by any entity. Try as I might, I was never able to understand the Church’s position….. until last night when I watched the Church’s latest news conference. Now I get it, and morally agree with its position. However, to understand that position required acceptance of some basic premises.
Premise One: Discrimination by itself is not immoral, as long as there is a rational basis for that discrimination. For example, the Air Force discriminates against blind people, by not allowing them to be accessioned into the Air Force as pilots for high performance aircraft. Further, in spite of the ADA, paraplegics are still not allowed to become Navy Seals. These acts DO constitute discrimination, but since they are founded upon a rational basis, they are neither illegal nor immoral. Similarly, society discriminates against pedophiles by jailing those who engage in it, and refusing to allow past offenders access to children in day cares or schools. We see that such treatment of pedophiles is in fact discriminatory, but find a rational basis for it and so do not deem it to be immoral. Thus the Church’s position is that discrimination based in hate, fear, bigotry, control, or other immoral reasoning lacks a rational basis and thus may be legislated against. However, discrimination which is based in a deeply held, love centered, and sincere religious belief, is founded on a rational basis and is therefore not immoral and should not be made illegal.
Premise Two: Freedom of conscience and religion are core principles of our basic rights since the beginning of this nation and rights that are preserved in the constitution. In fact, the same rights that the LGBT community are clamoring to obtain, are already guaranteed to the religious in both common and civil law. As with abortion, where any honest analysis eventually comes to the core issue of balancing the mother’s rights, with the rights of the fetus, even so in the area of LGBT rights, the issue will become the balancing rights of the homosexual to live as they feel best, while preserving the rights of the religious person to live as they feel best and to be free of what they see as the destructive influences of the LGBT lifestyle upon all they hold dear.
Premise Three: LDS opposition to homosexual and other orientations and actions, is truly founded in core religious principles, which are neither hate based nor motivated by bigotry. Rather, LDS opposition is based in the absolute knowledge, as revealed by God, of the harmful effects of such actions-(combined with a loving concern for their families, their states, and their nations). LDS desires in all areas of LGBT rights, is to try and help those who have chosen to live contrary to God’s will to see it as sin so that they may be saved, and to help society reinforce to the still undecided that all such choices actually hurt individuals and societies. Thus to the sincere LDS person, the idea that they would be forced to rent a precious and prayerfully dedicated home to a couple acting in gross violation of God’s laws, would be just as hurtful and mean spirited to them, as it is for a LGBT adherent to have their rights violated. For government to force an LDS baker to make a cake for a celebration of a union they find to be repugnant to all God has decreed, is just as oppressive and discriminatory as if that same government forced a homosexual to live a heterosexual lifestyle.
Premise Four: Government determination of what constitutes deeply held religious convictions, and allowing for disparate treatment based on that determination, are NOT new concepts.
1. Hobby Lobby: This recent Supreme Court case gives some credence to that position. In that case the religious convictions of the business owners and founders, led them to disagree with providing certain contraceptives to their employees based on their deeply held religious convictions as to the immoral nature of such actions. The courts actually upheld the company’s right to discriminate in such a way, and the basis for that decision was the general availability of the medical product, and the underlying religious reason for the company’s objection. It cannot be doubted that if the company was BP or some other entity, and their only basis for not providing the service was financial, the court would not have upheld their objection. The courts in that case, and through history, have recognized an elevated standing and right for cases of religious freedom and conscience.
2. Conscientious Objectors: Similarly, for many years it has been the law that soldiers, who found that service in the military violates their deeply held religious beliefs, were allowed to receive an honorable discharge from their military service, while those who simply did not like the hours, being bossed around or the dangers of their job, were offered no such protection. The beauty of the military system is that it was organized with guidelines and procedures to help the organization (the government) determine what constituted real, sincere, and deeply held religious convictions. That demonstrates that the government has already engaged in the task of determining when such convictions really exist, and when they do exist, allowing for disparate treatment based on those convictions. Thus the coward has to stay in the military and fight, while the true believer is allowed to go home.
Summary: Thus if sincerely and deeply held religious convictions are the basis for discriminatory actions, of organizations, businesses or individuals, then they are founded in a rational basis and are to be allowed, and protected as with other allowable discriminations. The Church seems to propose that in a rush to remove oppression of the rights of the LGBT community, governments must not then turn and oppress the rights of the religious communities. Two wrongs do not make a right, and never will. It really is beautiful in its conception and seems to be a morally acceptable way to preserve both the rights of the religious and the rights of the LGBT adherents. From my perspective the latest press conference, which is consistent with all past church actions, indicates:
1. That in the Church’s view homosexual conduct is immoral, and constitutes sin that will, if un-repented of, lead to the everlasting harm of the individuals who engage in it and the societies that support it. That doctrine has not changed and in fact informs the sincerity of LDS beliefs.
2. The Church is, based in the loving teaching of Jesus Christ, against all baseless discrimination, oppression, hatred and usurpation of the rights of individuals. However, they maintain that religious organization deserve the same consideration as the irreligious, and that the conscience of the religious person is just as valuable and worthy of preservation as the consciences of the LGBT supporters. Thus while laws which prohibit baseless discrimination are to be supported and sought out, discrimination with a legitimate basis is also to be preserved and respected by law.