Protecting Fairy Tales

A recent piece in the Chronicle raised the question: What is a sincerely held religious belief? The question was raised in the context of the Legislature’s ongoing efforts to protect religious freedom.  The article offers no answer, but instead illustrates the problems that arise when one attempts to protect fairy tales.

For example, the article states:

Those who support a baker’s refusal to sell a cake to be used in a same-sex marriage are unlikely to be sympathetic if the same baker, quoting another passage of Scripture, refuses to sell a cake to an interracial couple.

Supposedly, refusing to sell a cake to gays can qualify as a sincerely held religious belief, but refusing to sell a cake to an interracial couple doesn’t. It is, as the article states, a matter of “general cultural norms as to what we wish to tolerate at a given time.” Which means, there are no principles involved. It’s simply a matter of what society is willing to accept today. Tomorrow might be completely different.

Justice then, is not a matter of principles. It is subject to the changing passions of society. This subjectivism renders the concept of justice meaningless.

Religious beliefs are equally subjective. The seemingly endless (and often contradictory) interpretations of the Bible are ample evidence of this fact. There are those who say that Jerry Falwell has the correct interpretation and others who defend Jesse Jackson. Some agree with David Koresh and others support Pope Francis.

The issue isn’t which interpretation is correct. The protectors of fairy tales don’t see this. They see the issue as one of religious freedom, and so they are locked in a battle over which subjective interpretation is correct. And their judgment on that matter determines what laws they support.

The entire issue would disappear is they understood the principle of individual rights, including property rights. The right to property means the right to create, use, dispose, and trade material values. If a baker wishes to refuse service to anyone–gay, black, green haired albinos from Latvia–he has a moral right to do so. And his reasons for doing so are irrelevant. Whether he does it because of sincerely held religious beliefs or because he believes that his dog instructed him to do so, that choice is his.

It is not the purpose of government to determine which ideas are sincerely held. Government’s proper purpose is to protect our freedom to believe as we choose, so long as our actions do not violate the freedom of others to do the same. And that includes the freedom to believe in fairy tales.

Comments are closed.