The other day, I had the good fortune to meet Charlie, the 17-year-old nephew of Andrea, a longtime professional ally of mine. Andrea had lined up this visit for Charlie's spring break, explaining that Charlie would be "over the moon" if we could find some time to talk about church-state separation issues.
I would do anything for Andrea, whose professional partnership over many years has been invaluable. I'm also aware that Americans United members skew older, so I jumped at the opportunity to engage in this focus group of one to learn more about what generates passion for our issues in a young adult!
Charlie began by describing himself as a freethinker and noting that he had found Germany, where he had recently studied as an exchange student, to be more sympathetic than America to his perspective.
I then raised the Masterpiece Caheshop case, which is pending before the Supreme Court. A Colorado bakery insists that it has free speech--and religious freedom rights to refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, despite Colorado's law barring discrimination against LGBTQ people in public accommodations.
I was surprised when church-state separationist Charlie, who by this point had also identified as bisexual, declared sympathy for the baker, in part out of his commitment to everyone's right to their own belief system.
I've thought a lot about Charlie's reaction to this case, especially because this is such a critical moment in our country's battle over what "religious freedom" means. I believe that religious freedom means the right to believe what you want--or not to believe at all--and to practice your religion (if you have one) in a way that enables us all to coexist peacefully in the shared spaces of our intentionally pluralistic society.
Conservative religious groups, however, are attempting to redefine religious freedom to mean the freedom to discriminate against those who don't share your religious beliefs. It boils down to religious freedom for all versus religious freedom for a select few.
If you need proof that there is a concerted effort to redefine religious freedom this narrow way, look no further than Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a self-described Christian legal organization with an annual budget exceeding $50 million. Not only is ADF defending the bakery in Masterpiece, but it has filed over a dozen cases to win a legal right for businesses to discriminate against women and people...