When a gay person is fired for being gay, we hear from conservatives that "it's freedom of association." However, when a fundamentalist Christian is fired with cause, for misusing their workplace as a pulpit for anti-gay hate, the same conservatives drop the "freedom of association" argument and pick-up the sledgehammer of "freedom of religion."
Apparently "freedom of religion" is so widely interpreted as to justify absolutely anything a fundamentalist Christian does.
There is a double-standard the Religious Right indulges frequently. It's a right when they do it, it's persecution when you do.
Of course, the Religious Right long have been masters of hypocrisy and double standards.
The newest such hypocrisy is the case of Dr. Paul Church who worked at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The urologist thought it wise to use the hospital's internet system to post anti-gay rants to all staff.
Church tried to pretend his concerns were "medical" in nature because the gay "lifestyle" is deadly. Oddly, he accompanied this with quotes from the Bible -- hardly a source of medical wisdom.
In 2011, Church went before a peer review committee for his offenses. He was told sending such material to other staff violated hospital harassment policies and to stop.
Of course, he refused and posted several more anti-gay tirades referencing the Bible. His lawyers, from the anti-gay group Liberty Counsel, claimed that Church "made known his objections in a medical capacity" and was thus free to do what he did. The medical textbook he used... oh, wait, it wasn't a medical textbook, it was the Bible.
His lawyers, Liberty Counsel can't even be honest about with their name -- their version of liberty only applies to people like themselves, not others. They filed an amicus brief to support sodomy laws in Texas. No "freedom of association" there, liberty only applies to people they like.
After repeatedly violating hospital policy, Church's right to practice at the hospital was revoked.
Of course, Religious Right sites were apoplectic about the decision. Lifesite weeped, "A well-loved and respected doctor with a background in sexual-risk behaviors has been expelled from one of the United States' most prestigious and top-ranked medical centers after he raised evidence-based health risk concerns over the center's decision to endorse and celebrate the homosexual lifestyle."
CharismaNews, which generally advocates faith healing not science, claims Church was a "popular doctor" expelled "after he voiced his religious beliefs about homosexuality." At least they saw his rants as "religious views" and didn't pretend he was merely voicing "health risk concerns."
Liberty Counsel, however, is no advocate of freedom of association. They dedicated a whole page of their website to telling fundamentalists how to use anti-discrimination laws in their favor. If worse comes to worse, the Christians can always hire Liberty Counsel to fight against their employer's "freedom of association."
The Religious Right has never advocated freedom of association, or liberty. Such rights, in their minds, are exclusive reserves guaranteed to fundamentalists alone while denied to others, particularly "godless sodomites."
One of the more blatant examples of this "rights-for-me-not-for-thee" view was the attempt by Republican legislators in Washington state. They filed a bill to provide exemptions to discrimination laws for those with "sincerely held religious beliefs."
But, as USA Today noted, "The measure would not apply to the denial of services to people under a protected class under federal law, such as race, religion or disability."
So, what was the purpose of the bill? It would legalize anti-gay discrimination for Christians, but would prevent discrimination against Christians. It would not apply to race, religion or disability, but gays are not a protected class in federal law. They were the target of the bill. It was legislation meant to grant Christians the right to discriminate against gays, but God forbid, gays were never to have a reciprocal right regarding Christians.
Under Washington discrimination law, Christians and gays were both covered. Fundamentalist Christians demanded the right to discriminate as they wish, while simultaneously retaining the privilege of being protected from discrimination. Yet, they accuse the LGBT community of demanding "special privileges."
When Christians start lobbying government to remove themselves as a protected class under anti-discrimination laws -- and only then -- will I believe they are serious about freedom of association. Until then I'll just view it as another self-serving attempt by fundamentalist to twist the law to grant special privileges to themselves, and only to themselves -- all others be damned, literally.