Freedom of conscience works for all

The Madison County Record Jan. 15, 2006, 6:26am

To the editor:

In a Jan. 8 letter to the editor entitled, "Sexual orientation bill threatens people of faith", Peter LaBarbera states:

" ... most media pundits ...ignore the implications of basing civil rights on changeable, wrong, and unhealthy sexual behavior. "

"Homosexuality-unlike skin color--is not a basis for civil rights. There are thousands of ex-"gays"; there are no ex-African Americans or ex-Hispanics."

What Mr. LaBarbera's argument conveniently ignores is that there are many thousands of ex-Christians, ex-Catholics and former members of other faiths whose existence proves the fact that religious beliefs are in no way innate or unchangeable either- yet the framers of the U.S. Constitution and the authors of the 1964 civil rights act saw fit to protect those changeable and chosen religious beliefs and the freedom to worship as one chooses, as fundamental civil rights.

Citizens of this country are protected by law from discrimination based on their religious beliefs with no requirement that they only stick to one religion that they were born into; a person born into a Catholic household can renounce that faith and become a Hindu and later on renounce that and become a Buddhist or a Mormon, and is protected by law every step of the way from discrimination based on his religion no matter what faith he chooses to believe in, or how many times he chooses to change his beliefs.

The very right to "freedom of conscience" that Mr. LaBarbera feels is threatened by laws providing equal protection for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) citizens is itself based on changeable and chosen behavior...yet it is one of the cornerstones of civil rights law.

Mr. LaBarbera and other religious activists who use this spurious argument against anti-discrimination protections for LGBT citizens promote a blatant double standard wherein they decry basing civil rights on "changeable" behavior, while at the same time enjoying the benefits of legal protection from discrimination based on their own chosen religious beliefs and behavior that they are free to change at any time.

Willfully promoting such double standards is morally wrong and unhealthy for the civil rights of all citizens and those who do so risk losing the very rights they are so adamant about protecting, should their position that civil rights should only be based on immutable characteristics ever become the law of the land.

As the old saying goes, "Watch what you ask for, you just might get it."

Ian McGehee
San Diego, Calif.

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