I recently had an exchange on Facebook with someone who supported Trump’s executive order on religious freedom. The claim was that for years the government had forced some people to embrace practices that violate their religious beliefs and Trump’s order was to “re-balance the scales”. To see if I understood the position I commented that since the author had a German surname they would be OK if I, as a business owner, declined to provide service because my religious beliefs forbid me to do business with people of German decent. To be consistent the simple answer would have been yes. Instead the response I got was that “Race and religion are two very different things” that I was “comparing apples and oranges” and then took me to task for ending my recent secular invocation to the Maine House with a “religious quote”.
I beg to differ with their opinion that religious beliefs have nothing to do with how one should treat people of different races. When delivering his decision on the Commonwealth of Virginia vs. Richard Perry Loving and Mildred Dolores Jeter, the federal case challenging anti-miscegenation laws and the basis for the recent movie, “Loving”, Judge Leon M. Bazile wrote on January 6, 1959 that “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
One can argue all they want that Judge Bazile’s decision on race relations was the result of his personally held religious beliefs and not the tenants of the religion he follows, thus absolving religion from teaching racial discrimination, but there is the rub. The premise of Trump’s executive order is that personally held religious beliefs, not religious teachings, supersede civil law. So long as someone believes that their religion teaches them that interracial marriage, homosexuality or being transgender goes against God’s will, they will be able to discriminate against these groups of people and not be “punished for their religious beliefs”.
As for me ending my secular invocation to the Maine House in February with a “religious quote”, the author completely missed the point. I ended the secular invocation with a Buddhist homily, not a religious quote, specifically because it is a statement of how to treat others with the respect everyone expects for themselves that does NOT come from any religion. The point is one does not need religion to live good, moral lives in harmony with those around us.