The University of Wisconsin’s Atheists, Humanists, & Agnostics held their semesterly Freethought Speaker Series Thursday evening, to discuss the promoting the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.
Andrew Seidel, an attorney and director of strategic response at the Madison-based Freedom from Religion Foundation, led the lecture.
Seidel discussed whether God and religion is a license to discriminate.
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Seidel kicked off the lecture by clarifying the constitution of the United States of America is “godless.” There is no mention of any deity within its content, however, there are people who would like to redefine the constitution to create a privileged class on the basis of religion, he added.
“The First Amendment and the constitution already protect religion,” Seidel said.
FFRA seeks to protect freedom of thought, but also understands that a line needs to be drawn between belief and the right to act on those ideas, Seidel said.
There have been policies put in place preventing that from successfully occurring, he said. Seidel wanted to reassure the audience of their concerns.
“The only wall we need is the separation of church and state,” Seidel said.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 is a federal law that intends to ensure that interests in religious freedom are protected, Seidel said.
The Supreme Court dealt with a case last year in which Hobby Lobby chose not to provide insurance coverage for birth control to employees. This benefit is guaranteed by law, but the decision by the court to let businesses deny certain health rights was granted by the RFRA, he said.
Another case in Colorado is currently under review regarding whether a baker has the right to refuse a wedding cake to a same-sex couple based on his religious belief.
“If the Colorado case were to make it through the floor and the floor were to affirm what the bakers are trying to say, would this weaken the standing of protective classes that have against discrimination?” one attendee asked.
The majority of the audience had similar concerns, such as how the lack of separation is impacting society today.
Seidel believes by continuing to pursue their beliefs, FFRA can make a difference. He encouraged students, saying they could create an impact as well.
“The only way we can guarantee the freedom of religion is with a government that is free from religion,” Seidel said.
Correction: A previous version of this post suggested the Freedom from Religion Foundation hosted the Freethought Speaker Series. The article has since been corrected to reflect the fact it was UW’s Atheists, Humanists, & Agnostics that hosted the event. The Badger Herald regrets this error.