Friday, September 29, 2017

"Religious liberty" bills discussed at Cato First Amendment forum

At the Cato Institute briefing “The Future of the First Amendment” on Sept. 28, 2017, the second part was called “Religious Liberty in Post-Obama America” (master link ).

The speakers were Walter Olson (from Cato Institute), John M. Barry, and especially Robin Fretwell Wilson, from the University of Illinois Law School.

Fretwell particularly discussed the quandary of resolving two competing interests:  equal rights for all LGBTQ people, especially when considered as individuals, and religious freedom.  She (and the other speakers) pointed out that many religious freedom laws were developed before gay marriage became the law of the land in 2015. 

Fretwell says that states need to develop a nuanced approach to the problem.  Businesses open to the public, as public accommodations, need to be open to all (competent) individuals.  They should work out ways where when a particular associate’s religious beliefs are challenged, another associate can meet the need.  Fretwell seemed to believe that such an approach should be developed at state agencies too (as with the Kim Davis situation in Kentucky).

One problem is that a greater “burden” can fall on other associates.  But this happens anyway.  When I worked for NBC in the 1970s, I reported to an “Orthodox Jew”.  He could not work on Saturdays.  I covered production problems on Saturdays sometimes.  But I never asked for anything back in return, and it was never offered.  This parallels, by extreme analogy, the “conscientious objector” problem for the past military draft (it still happens in Israel).
It was also pointed out that a few small businesses could be devastated.  A wedding cake company cannot simply stop baking cakes and do something else and remain the same business.

There was some discussion of the "bathroom" bills, generally characterized as a diversion by the far right from real issues.  

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