Tag Archives: Religious freedom

Is it gut-check time for the NFL?

The National Football League needs to re-evaluate a few priorities.

A young man is trying to find a spot with one of the NFL’s professional football teams. He’s a pretty good quarterback. He once led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013.

Then he did something foolish, perhaps even stupid. He decided to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem at the start of football games. Colin Kaepernick was protesting the plight of African-Americans. He decided to make a political statement by declining to stand for the Anthem.

He’s been vilified ever since.

Why the NFL re-evaluation? Well consider a thing or two. The league has allowed actual convicted felons to play football. They’ve been convicted of spousal abuse, sexual abuse, illegal dog fighting, drug peddling. Why, one of the game’s all-time greats — retired linebacker Ray Lewis — once pleaded no contest to a charge in connection with the murder of an individual. He retired recently and has been feted as one of the game’s giants. Huh? Yep.

Kaepernick has been convicted of nothing. He has committed no crime. He merely chose to make a political statement. Yes, I wish he hadn’t done it that way. But that is his prerogative. It’s in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees him the right to do what he did.

Kaepernick was waived by the 49ers. He wants to keep playing football. General managers, team owners and head coaches are afraid of fan reaction, I suppose.

Check out John Feinstein’s excellent column on Kaepernick right here.

Do you remember when a young boxer declined induction into the U.S. Army, citing his religious objection to the Vietnam War? The late Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title in 1967 and then denied the opportunity to fight for a living. He was deprived of more than three prime years of his career. Then in 1970, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Ali had been denied his constitutional right of religious freedom.

Ali returned to the boxing ring and, well, the rest is history.

Colin Kaepernick is facing much of the same recrimination. It is unjust. It’s gut-check time in the NFL.

Pence to revisit religious freedom act

A friend of mine posted this tidbit on Facebook, so I thought I’d share it here.

“So who needs a religious freedom law anyway. Last time I checked, you could go to any church you want. You can even go to one where they wave snakes around if that’s your thing. Or you don’t have to go to any of ’em. You can go to a mosque, a synagogue, a cathedral, a tarpaper shack. Or you can stay home and watch re-runs on MeTV. Ain’t nobody need no law on religious freedom. Oh, but if you’re in business, you don’t have a right to discriminate. Religion stops when you invite the public to your door. Got it?”

His target? It’s the Indiana law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.


Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has been taking it on the chin since signing the bill into law. He’s now seeking to amend it to ensure that businesses cannot discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation.

It’s the sexual orientation element that’s gotten so many folks riled up.

The stated intent is to protect people’s religious principles. The effect in the eyes of critics has been that the law now gives business owners license to discriminate against gay individuals or same-sex couples.

Gov. Pence has been on the defensive ever since signing the bill. He’s now seeking to fix the law and I give him credit for recognizing the need to protect his state’s residents from undue — and illegal — discrimination.

I won’t question his motives for seeking to change the law. I do feel the need to point out that Gov. Pence is considering a run for the Republican nomination for president of the United States.


State using religion to discriminate?

Indiana seems like a nice enough place, with nice people motivated to do nice things to and for others.

Why, then, does the state’s legislature send to Gov. Mike Pence a bill that allows people to possibly concoct a religious belief in order to discriminate against others?

Pence this past week signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prevents someone from suing, say, a business owner from doing business with you based on the business owner’s religious beliefs.

Pay attention here: The bill is aimed squarely at gays and lesbian who could be denied service from those business owners.


Reaction to this law has been furious. Business owners across the nation have declared their intention to cease doing business in Indiana as long as the state sanctions discrimination against their employees. With the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four tournament set to be played in Indianapolis, there could be a serious backlash that inhibits the money the state hopes to earn.

This law looks for all the world — to me at least — as if the state is using “religious freedom” as a shield to protect those who wantonly discriminate against those who have a certain sexual orientation.

What we have here looks like a misuse of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which guarantees the right of those to hold whatever religious belief they wish. The state is suggesting the First Amendment takes precedence over the 14th Amendment, which guarantees all citizens “equal protection” under the state and federal laws.

Imagine a couple wanting, say, to buy a home. Can a lender refuse to loan the couple the money to buy the home simply by pulling the “religious freedom” statute out of thin air — or out of some bodily orifice, for that matter? The law, as I understand it, prohibits the gay couple from suing the lender because the law protects the lender from being hassled over his or her religious beliefs.

The appearance of using religious liberty and freedom as a pretext to allow overt discrimination is a disgrace.

U.S. a ‘Christian nation’? Hardly

Ron Reagan has fanned the flames of anger by recording a radio ad in which he proclaims himself to be an “unabashed atheist.”

He’s signed on to the Freedom From Religion Foundation and has declared his disgust with those who keep interjecting religion into public policy discussion.


OK, here’s where I’ll make a couple of disclaimers.

One is that I am not an atheist. I was baptized a Christian as a baby and am now more of a believer in Jesus Christ than I’ve ever been.

The other is that I believe Reagan — the younger son of the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan — happens to be correct in asserting that the United States is a secular nation.

I’m not going to get into bashing others today; it’s a vow I made the other day about commenting on Thanksgiving. I intend to keep it positive — at least for the remainder of this day.

I merely want to refer to the U.S. Constitution, the document that establishes the framework for this nation’s greatness.

I believe the founders mentioned religion precisely twice in that document.

The first time is in Article VI. There, they said officeholders shall swear to uphold the Constitution, then they added: “but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

The second time is when they got around to establishing the Bill of Rights. The very First Amendment in part says this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … ” The amendment goes on to give Americans the right to speak freely about the government, it allows for a free press, gives citizens the right to assemble “peaceably” and to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

You’ll notice that in the First Amendment, the founders laid out the religion part first. Why is that? I only can surmise that they did so because their forebears had come here to escape religious persecution. They did not want to told they had to worship a certain way. They wanted freedom from all of that, so they set sail for the New World, where they could be free to worship — or not worship — as they pleased.

I also believe the founders were guided by religious principles. They did refer to “the Creator” when they wrote the Declaration of Independence. I hasten to add, though, that the reference is to a universal deity — and not necessarily a Christian deity.

Ron Reagan’s declaration speaks to the trend in recent decades to keep insisting that the United States is a “Christian nation.” It isn’t. It’s a secular nation with no national religion. Our founders sought to separate the church from the state.

Moreover, to those who keep insisting that the words “church and state separation” do not appear in the Constitution, I only can refer them to the First Amendment. I know what it means. So do they.

And I give thanks for the founders’ wisdom in ensuring our government should be free from religious doctrine.