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On religious freedom

The right to religious freedom is much like the right to free speech. It regulates what I can and cannot do, but does not grant me the right to deny anyone else to do as they wish. A few examples:

  • It provides me the right to eat kosher food, should I so desire, but does not let me forbid christians from eating pork.
  • It lets me worship as I see fit, with a tallit, a kipa, and, on occasion, with tefillin, but it does not let me forbid muslims to worship bare-footed, kneeling towards Mekka.
  • It lets me get married under the auspices of a rabbi, under the Orthodox Jewish tradition, but it does not let me forbid same-sex couples from marrying.

Just like other personal freedoms, the right to religious freedom grants me the right to my own religious views and practice. It does not, in any way, shape or form, grant me the right to limit those of anyone else. It also does not mean that the state should limit what civil liberties it grants to others, such as marriage equality.

I am happily married to the love of my life, who just so happens to be a woman. The thing is, though, the fact that Norway has changed its laws to allow same-sex couples to marry changes nothing about my marriage to my wife. (I do take exception with the Norwegian law forbidding shechita – kosher butchery, but that’s another matter altogether.)

I am strongly in favor of a clear division of church and state; the state should make provisions to allow religious people of all faiths exercise their religion, but should not allow religious liberties to infringe on other human rights. To me, this is not only the right choice, but an obvious one; we are, after all, talking about civil liberties, not civil prohibitions.

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