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Rebuttal on religious rights

To the editor:

I feel compelled to respond to the letter to the editor by Ben Douglass dated Nov. 12, entitled “Reasons for concern about Democrats in charge.”

In his letter, Mr. Douglass implies that Mr. Biden, Ms. Harris and Democrats in general are out to obliterate the First Amendment by removing the rights of Christians to honor their beliefs.

I fear that this is yet another example of “white privilege,” though in the form of “Christian privilege.”

The First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

At the time of the writing, this was to avoid having a state church such as the Church of England, of which the monarch was the head.

The problem that Mr. Douglass shows is that he sees the world only from the eyes of a Christian, and that anything that infringes on his Christian beliefs is morally wrong.

To address two of his issues specifically, the Little Sisters of the Poor he references is not a small convent of nuns but rather a large organization that owns and operates several hospitals and nursing homes. These facilities employ thousands of people, and not all of them are Catholic nor Christian, but represent many religious backgrounds. Certainly, like all other large employers, the health insurance that they offer to their employees should be comprehensive and include services needed by all the employees. To allow them to not include birth control or contraceptive services would deny appropriate coverage to many employees. Covering these services does not force any employee to use them. Employees can demonstrate their own convictions by their personal actions, but the employer cannot dictate what they do.

In the case of “Christian artists” being forced to serve clients of different beliefs, one has to put oneself into the shoes of the other party. If we were to do as Mr. Douglass suggests and allow a Christian florist or cake maker to refuse to serve a gay couple, does the reverse apply that a gay florist or baker could deny to serve a straight couple? As far as I know, any contract for service requires the agreement of both parties. We do, however, have laws that prohibit exclusion on the basis of age, sex, race, religion, country of origin or disability.

To argue that a business can arbitrarily deny service to a specific party because of their sexual orientation is like going back to having separate restrooms and water fountains for African Americans. We are better than this.

We have to respect all persons. We have to recognize that not everyone shares all our beliefs. We have to step into the other’s shoes and ask how it would feel to be in the minority when coping in the world.

David G. Welch, MD

Lake Placid

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