The Three Rings of Religious Liberty

The three rings of religious liberty are under assault to make way for new sexual rights. 

The center ring is liberty protections for religions’ core ecclesiastical organizations. The middle ring is liberty protections for religions’ associated organizations, i.e. educational, social service and health care institutions. The outer ring is liberty protections for individual religious conscience.  

Of these three rings, liberties for individual religious conscience are the most vulnerable to attacks by major legal and political forces trying to invade its ring to break down the very protections memorialized by the Founding Fathers in the First Amendment of the Constitution.  With government as its weapon, these forces are purposely violating the outer ring of liberty to marshal new sexual rights through it and into the center ring.

If the outer ring of individual religious conscience liberties continues to be contravened, it will make the other two rings of religious liberty that much more vulnerable. Religious and related institutions are needed to defend liberties for individual religious conscience. Absent their vigilance, all will be lost. Many religious institutions have called on their adherents to protect their liberties, but the more immediate concern is who will contend for the liberties of their adherents?

As an example, in 2008, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declared support for its adherents with this fair and balanced statement on sexual rights: “The Church does not object to rights regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference.”

Recent polls demonstrate a majority of Utahns might favor some specified sexual rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT). Other data demonstrate that as well. For example, 19 municipalities have passed nondiscrimination ordinances extending special protections and rights to LGBT. Combined, these ordinances and polls seem to show that Utahns are fair minded. 

Nevertheless, according to the polls, Utahns are not willing to abandon their own individual religious liberties at the expense of sexual rights. Moreover, when they learn that since 2009, at the time Salt Lake City passed the first nondiscrimination ordinance in the state, there have only been three complaints of sexual oriented discrimination, none of which could be proven, Utahns become more resolute in protecting their own individual religious liberties against attempts by government to arbitrarily interfere with them.

When judges sanction individuals across America because their religious consciences will not permit them to provide services for same-sex marriage ceremonies, Utahns become alarmed over what is happening to their religious liberties in America. When the LGBT community and other interests advocating for them refuse to balance new sexual rights with established rights for religious conscience, Utahns become embolden against being forced to choose between their livelihoods and their faiths. 

Adding to that, many Utahns are insulted when the contest over religious and sexual rights is erroneously compared to the civil rights battles of the 1960s. The truth is the civil rights struggle was to stop Jim Crow governments from robbing Black Americans of their rights previously memorialized ninety-years earlier in the13th, 14th and 15th Amendments of the Constitution, the consequences of a bloody Civil War. Likewise, Utahns become outraged when “governments of repudiation” reject their religious rights memorialized in the First Amendment of the Constitution, the consequence of the Revolutionary War. 

Utahns will support LGBT rights but not at the expense of the three rings of religious liberties, including the outer ring of liberty for individual religious conscience. To violate any one of the three rings of religious liberty for sexual rights will only further divide Utah and the nation—a division that will dismay even those who cavalierly rebuff religion’s role in America.