Fr. Thomas Reese misses the target in “Time for compromise on gay rights and religious freedom,” (NCR, Dec. 30, 2016-Jan 12, 2017). To begin, perpetuating the false narrative that pits those who fight for civil rights and the vast majority of people of faith against each other is historically wrong.
People of faith have always been on the front lines of the civil rights movement, and religious freedom and the rights of LGBTQ individuals are not at odds with each other: The obvious casualties of such a construction include those individuals who are both LGBTQ and believers, and the allies who fight for religious liberty and respect for conscience for everyone.
Adding injury to insult, Reese’s argument ignores the threat to the religious freedom for LGBTQ individuals whose consciences are usurped when institutions claim religious exemptions. Our Catholic faith teaches that individuals have a conscience, whereas institutions do not. But the conscience and dignity of the LGBTQ individual is erased as easily as her/his livelihood when institutions claim rights that properly belong to a person.
Reese misses the mark on whose conscience requires accommodation. His ideas prolong a troubling trend of prioritizing illegitimate “religious liberty” claims of institutions over the true religious liberty of individuals – clients, patients, beneficiaries, workers and their dependents.
A compromise that trades away the religious liberty of the vulnerable is not a compromise anyone should be willing to make.
This piece was originally published by National Catholic Reporter.