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Freedom and its
limits

Freedom and its
limits

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The Cold War is alive and well, except now the forces of LGBT equality are fighting it against the forces of antigay theocracy. Remember the Cold War? Remember how many Americans believed the Communists were the ultimate threat to our way of life because coexistence wasn't enough for them? Over and over we were told that they wouldn't stop until they'd taken over and destroyed us.

They didn't, of course, but now we have the fundamentalist Christian movement, and as Michelle Goldberg reminds us in her terrifying and essential new book, Kingdom Coming, they don't just want a voice in government. They want dominion. They want their religious beliefs to become law.

And that's why they're just as dangerous as the red menace, if not more so. They tell us over and over that freedom of religion is an essential element of American democracy--and we agree. But when the expression of person A's religion impinges on the civil rights of person B, then freedom of religion has overstepped its bounds in a free and democratic society.

The theocratic menace does not agree, arguing instead that freedom of religion means the freedom to mistreat and discriminate against any fellow citizens they disapprove of--in employment, in housing, in schools, everywhere. Hard-line rapture righters are going to court to sue for what they believe is their constitutionally protected right to express their religion-based homophobia in public, to deprive gays and lesbians of equal rights, and to advertise their vile and misleading "ex-gay" programs. Religion, they say, frees them from the requirements of a civil society, such as bans on discrimination or harassment.

In reality, religious freedom has always had its limitations. The Mormons had to give up polygamy before the United States would allow Utah into the union. And "religious freedom" arguments in favor of slavery, segregation, and the subjugation of women ultimately failed to prevent past strides forward in civil rights.

Fundamentalist religions do have the right to despise and deplore homosexuality, or pork, or whatever. But when they take their hate to the legislature or the courthouse, they must be barred at the door. Fair-minded Americans need to join their queer brothers and sisters in fighting this new Cold War.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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