Monday, March 30, 2015

Freedom

The winning of freedom in the West was hard-fought, and it took several centuries for freedom to become the character of nations. It could be argued that only in the American Revolution did freedom come to be written into the constitution of a Western nation and survive the challenges.But maybe I am premature. Has it survived, even in  this land of freedom? Will it survive the challenges of the future. The answers to those questions are yet to be seen.

One of the challenges to freedom in America is legislation that requires people to act against their conscience and moral principles. Specifically, it is the legislation that requires the approval of  and participation in what many regard as immoral - homosexual relationships. Recent court cases in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Colorado indicate that the courts are ready to punish those who cannot in conscience endorse homosexual marriage.  

That is a serious step back from the freedoms that characterized our country in the beginning.

The argument for these laws is that homosexual individuals should not be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation. And I agree they should not. In America their civil rights should be the same as mine. They should be able to live in this country without fear of discrimination on the basis of who they are. But the laws go beyond that.

The laws require that I not only accept their rights as human beings and Americans but that I accept their behavior. Now, I do not wish to offend, but I need to be clear about the moral convictions that drive me and many others. My conviction is that homosexual relationships are immoral. It is not simply that I do not like the idea of homosexuality. It is not that I hate or distrust or find unclean homosexuals themselves. I have friends who are homosexual. But I do believe that homosexual relationships are immoral.  I believe they immoral in the same way and to the same degree that heterosexual promiscuity and adultery are immoral. I believe those actions to be immoral to the same degree that I believe abortions are immoral. I believe they are immoral to the same degree that I believe cheating on your income tax is immoral or lying when you intend people to believe what you say as the truth is immoral.

I know our culture has changed. I know many no longer believe that promiscuity or adultery or abortion are immoral or homosexual relationships are immoral. But I do. That make me something of a throwback to an earlier age. But it should not label me as immoral. However, that is what the legislation does.

It makes acting on my convictions illegal and it implies that my holding of them is wrong.  That is the modern equivalent of saying that I am immoral.

But I am a realist. I know the culture has changed. And I do not believe my moral convictions must be those of others. I do not believe I must force those convictions on others. So laws that allow homosexual marriage, even though I think them unwise, are nevertheless the law of this land. I am personally still free to act on my conscience - until recently. Now in many states I no longer can act on my conscience. Those actions are label illegal and hateful.

Of course, I and others can simply withdraw from the playing field. We can choose occupations that will not bring us into moral conflicts.Why fight?  And that is what many suggest. But that is to give up a freedom that I not only enjoy but I believe is crucial to continued freedom in America. That is worth fighting for, at least on paper.

If we allow my freedom to act on my conscience to be limited, what freedom will be next? If freedom is redefined in every generation, is there any guarantee of freedom for anyone. If freedom to act on conscience when there is not real harm done to anyone, is constrained is there freedom of conscience at all?

Americans must decide. Will we stand our ground for freedom or give way to the interests of whatever group is currently in favor?  The stakes for our children are great.