What Exactly Is Religious Liberty?

I wish I knew.  It’s kind of confusing.

I live near Lincoln, NE which just had an atheist sponsored billboard come down because people didn’t like it and told the businesses around the billboard, one of whom leased the space for the billboard, they would take their business elsewhere.  Responding to economic pressures it was agreed by all parties that the billboard would come down.  You can see the article at the Journal Star website.

I also lease space to Lamar Advertising for a billboard on the northwest corner of my property.  It’s far enough away from the house I don’t actually notice it and I suspect people don’t realize the billboard and I have a connection.  (I’m speaking in first person singular here even though my wife is equally connected to said billboard.  I just tend to leave her out of my commentary in the blogosphere)

With these two thoughts in mind it isn’t exactly an abstraction for me (us) to wonder about the content seen on a billboard that exists on my (our) property.  What if the Lincoln Atheists contacted Lamar to lease billboard space for an atheist message?  Would I get in the way of that?  I mean, I am a pastor and all and so having an atheist message on a billboard on my property is a little odd.

I don’t think I would and here’s why:  If we start mandating things we want based on OUR faith then we open some doors to for things people of other faiths, or not faith, want.  I don’t think this is a great idea.

By that I mean I want the freedom to display my faith and so encroaching on someone else’s freedom to display their faith, or lack thereof, seems hypocritical to me.  And followers of Christ get accused of that enough as it is.  The folks that exercised their right to free speech and threatened to take their business elsewhere are certainly within their rights to do so but just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

Flip the situation around and what would happen?  If a bunch of folks from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster got together and wanted a publicly displayed Christian symbol of some sort taken down, would their be howls of rage at our religious liberty being infringed upon?

I suspect there would be much outrage, and therein lies the problem.  You can’t claim protection for symbols of YOUR faith without allowing symbols of other faiths, or lack thereof.  And if you legislate protectionism under the guise of religious liberty then we have to decide that a) we don’t actually have religious liberty in USAmercia because we’re not willing to accept protection of other religious symbols and b) when Christianity is no longer the majority religion then we must be willing to live just as we’ve treated minorities.

Other faith systems are only a threat to the extent that your faith system is weak.  If you require laws to strengthen and protect your faith system, violating the first amendment, I submit that is the locus of the problem.  And I suggest that we find faith based ways to strengthen the faith systems we live in.



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