Two weeks ago a group of concerned citizens gathered at the Grayson City Council meeting to express their concerns about the Grayson Gallery hosting an event that celebrated LGBTQ+ artists and Pride month.
That event included drag performers, and the protesters – who objected to the event on religious grounds – were well within their rights to express their opinion. They were well within their rights to request that Grayson City Council remove the small amount of funding in the city’s budget for the gallery. They were also well within their rights to proselytize and to offer literature and information outside the gallery during the event, as at least one of the protesters indicated they did.
What they are not within their rights to do, however, if force others to conform to their religious convictions when others do not share those convictions. They cannot demand that city council prohibit any such performances in the future, or demand that police show up to harass participants in such legal events – as some suggested should have occurred.
Our nation was founded on freedom of religion, and free expression of religious beliefs. That means those like the protesters of the Pride event are always free, and should always be free, to express their concerns. But their right to express their religious opinion ends where anothers right to their religious convictions begins.
As a supporter of the Pride event noted during the city council meeting, freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.
One of the reasons the Pilgrims braved the Atlantic trip was so they could worship as they saw fit – free from the restrictions of the official state religion.
Our founding fathers might not have foreseen the sheer number of denominations and faiths that populate the United States today, but they recognized the value of that diversity, and so built protections for it into the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The Jehovah’s Witness does not want the Baptist telling them how they must worship, and the Baptist doesn’t want the Pentecostals telling them how they should express their faith. This is important to each, and is why Congress is forbidden from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof.”
Those who protested the Pride event are perfectly within their rights to hold their beliefs. But when they insist the city, county, or state force others to abide by their personal convictions, they are asking the state to establish religious restrictions that impact others who may not share their beliefs.
This is unconstitutional, and it’s something we can never support, even if we wholeheartedly support their right to hold and express those beliefs.
It’s a complicated position to hold, but it’s what makes America a place that should be safe for all citizens, no matter their faith – or lack thereof.