LETTER TO THE EDITOR: For every step forward, how many steps back must we take?

Over 200 years ago, a group of enlightened freethinkers that history has come to call America’s “Founding Fathers” set forth to establish a nation conceived with such principals of the rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and so many other freedoms that made this nation unique at the time and still serve to make this nation great.

Now let’s fast forward in history to a time when when discrimination was far more rampant today and could be seen on public display in almost any public setting.

It was not uncommon in some parts of this nation to see signs in shop windows saying “Help Wanted. No Irish Need Apply.” Signs above public water fountains proclaimed that they were for “Whites Only” or “Coloreds Only.”

Some towns in the Western region of this great nation had signs as you were entering city limits warning people to “not let the sun go down” go down on them if they were black or Native American. We as a nation, decided through a national discussion and through such other means as Supreme Court decisions, that such discrimination and such signage was not only wrong but also illegal.

Now fast forward again to 2017, our Supreme Court is once again hearing a case that pits the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion against an anti-discrimination law.

In Colorado, a baker refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. There was a law in place that said if you own a business, you can discriminate against customers based on gender, race or sexual orientation. The baker maintains that this law violates his constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

I pose to you that similar arguments have been used to defend discrimination against blacks, Native Americans and just about any other minority groups who have faced discrimination in this nation’s history. Every time, those arguments have been found moot and invalid.

What I find so disheartening is that while arguments in this latest case were being heard, a representative from the United States Department of Justice actually said that it would be acceptable for a baker to display signage in his shop window proclaiming that he wouldn’t bake cakes for gay customers.

Let me ask you this? If it is unacceptable to hang a sign in your shop window that says “Help Wanted! No Irish need apply!” or “Whites Only,” then why would it now be acceptable to display signage that proclaims “No Gays!”? For every step forward we take as a nation in bringing us to the nation our founding fathers envisioned, how many more steps backwards must we take?

I would like to remind readers of something that was written in the 1988 Supreme Court decision of Employment Division V Smith. I believe it was written by Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative and a Ronald Reagan appointee to the court;

“Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious beliefs? To permit this would make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect permit every citizen to become a law unto himself”.

Given what I know and have read about our founding fathers, I believe if we were to hop into Professor Peabody’s “Wacky Wayback Machine” to ask the founding fathers about this issue, they would agree that one’s religious liberty is not and should not be used as a license to discriminate. Furthermore, if a state has ruled that a business cannot legally discriminate bases on gender, race, or sexual orientation than the law of the state must be followed.

If we as a nation continue to instill carveouts in our laws for one person’s religion over another, where do we draw the line? DUI? Speeding? Illegal and illicit drug possession and use? Murder? We must all be careful of slippery slopes when it comes our rights and the law.

Ricky Shehorn

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