Good people the world over, throughout history, have found strength and solace in various religious faiths. That’s why a freedom to follow one’s chosen religion is prominent in both the founders’ Bill of Rights and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms.
But no religion returns the loyalty of its devoted followers if, instead of helping them negotiate the challenges of a changing world, it makes them the false promise that change will not occur. Not only will large numbers of the faithful be in for a crushing disappointment, they also risk being shunned by the rest of society as resisters of progress.
Meanwhile, though, those who advocate for specific forms of social progress have to allow for the fact that those who do not find such changes acceptable will only intensify their resistance if they feel the world is spinning too fast.
It is a balancing act that never ends.
President Obama, whose own views on the issue have so publicly, so rapidly, and so in tune with public opinion, "evolved" over the last few years, is going awfully fast in the eyes of many as he moves to favor and, where he can, order the full equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people before the law.
The latest act came Monday, when the president used his own authority to command that all contractors doing business with the federal government follow a non-discrimination policy toward LGBT employees and applicants.
It is a mostly symbolic move that applies only to those seeking to make money by doing business with the taxpayers. That is, they expect to be paid with the taxes of all Americans, straight or gay.
To the disappointment of many, including Utah’s senior U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, the order does not include an out for anyone who might claim to be exempt on the grounds of religious freedom.
Hatch correctly notes that such carve-outs have been common and that they are encouraged, if not required, by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that he and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy authored 20 years ago.
But Hatch owes the fellow members of his LDS faith, as well as those who follow other religious traditions, both the truth and his wise counsel.
Equality for LGBT Americans is a train that has left the station. And Obama’s order, affecting only those who receive federal money, is not that onerous. Fighting the policy will not protect religious belief, but devalue it in the eyes of a rapidly growing number of Americans.
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