Religious Discrimination 101

Religious discrimination is a real thing.

In this very moment it is a tragically real and present danger to thousands of Yazidi people who have been targeted for extermination by ISIS -- the terrorist group called "too radical for Al-Qaeda" -- because of their ancient religious beliefs.

History -- both modern and ancient -- is likewise tragically full of examples of times and places where religious discrimination has been the source of persecution, death and destruction. The perversion of religion into a weapon of mass destruction is antithetical to the core beliefs of all the world's great religions. And yet none of those religions have escaped the sad reality that human beings -- given the power to do so -- will use God as an excuse to inflict pain and suffering on other human beings.

Our forefathers knew that. And they brought that knowledge -- that wisdom -- into our Bill of Rights with a First Amendment that begins: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..."

The First Amendment both prevents the government of the United States from privileging one religion over another and protects each and every one of us -- as American citizens -- to believe whatever we choose -- or choose not -- to believe about what God thinks, approves of or blesses. It is what protects our democracy from becoming a theocracy. And, as we watch with sadness and horror the nightly news stories of religious wars and sectarian violence, this guarantee of religious freedom is something Americans of all religions -- and no religion -- should rejoice and be glad in.

It is not something some Americans should distort and exploit to further their homophobic agenda and attack on LGBT families. But that's exactly what's happening.

Last week, Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) introduced a new bill that would allow adoption or foster care providers to refuse service on the basis of their personal religious objections--the consequences of which would be immediate, random, broad and disastrous.

Ironically entitled "Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act" this bill has nothing to do with inclusion or the welfare of children and everything to do with preventing LGBT individuals or couples from adopting or fostering a child. Yet its repercussions extend far beyond the LGBT community.

If passed into law, this bill would allow a religious adoption agency from a non-Christian faith to deny service to a straight, Christian couple. A single parent seeking to foster a child in need could be turned away no questions asked. It is a detrimental piece of legislation that opens the door for discrimination, inequality and prejudice to nearly every citizen of every state. It is nothing less than a flagrant distortion of the ideal of religious freedom into a vehicle for religion based discrimination by those claiming the right to discriminate based on their religious beliefs.

Bottom line: The First Amendment protects your right as an American to the free exercise of your religion. It does not protect your right to use your religion as an excuse to discriminate against other Americans.

And watching the breaking news of the tragic consequences of genuine religious discrimination unleashed against the Yazidi people makes it all the more urgent that we stand together and speak against this bill and challenge those who are supporting it.

Because religious discrimination is a real thing. And this blatant effort to exploit it order to attack LGBT families is a reprehensible thing.