Testimony Opposing LB277
February 09, 2023
The first hearing I testified at yesterday was LB277. Half of this bill is great--it protects indigenous folks in wearing their regalia. The other half is a RFRA that we know now from thirty years experience with such bills will be used by the Religious Right to seek exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.
Testimony Opposing LB277
Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
Senior Minister, First Central Congregational United Church of Christ of Omaha
On October 31, 1948, my predecessor as Senior Minister at the First Central Congregational Church of Omaha, the Rev. Dr. Harold Jaynes, preached about the core principles of Protestantism and that sermon included this statement, which stands as a warning to us in 2023:
"We [should not] be deceived by those who claim they are interested in religious liberty when they are only interested in liberty to impose their interpretations of religion upon others."
Essential to the American tradition is the idea of a public space in which everyone's views are allowed to interact. For this public space to exist, everyone must be granted equality and mutual respect. It does not mean that you have to agree with everyone else, quite the contrary. It means that in the public sphere you cannot try to impose your views on someone else. Instead, you must grant them the respect and the equality that is their fundamental human right. You must acknowledge their dignity, their conscience. Religious liberty rests on the ancient principle: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
And this, my friends, is why I'm so deeply troubled by the recent misuse of the concept "religious freedom." Let me state emphatically, and so that I am not misunderstood—in the public sphere no one has a religious right to discriminate against another human being.
Discrimination, not treating another person with the respect that they are entitled to, refusing equal treatment—these things are direct contradictions of religious liberty. They are hostile to it.
It is brazen dishonesty to wrap your biases in the language of religious freedom. It risks substantial harm to the Republic. To the entire American democratic experiment. And even to the Christian gospel.
It is Orwellian to use a term to describe its exact opposite. This dishonesty must be resisted.
Religious liberty, as historically understood, as rooted in the biblical tradition, as enshrined in our Constitution, demands equality of all persons, demands mutual respect of all persons, demands that in the public sphere everyone be treated the same.
I urge you, therefore, to oppose LB277.