Letter: Tolerance, gays and religion

Opponents of the SB1062, a religious freedom bill,

Opponents of the SB1062, a religious freedom bill, Ryan Ebersole and Rev. Stephen Govett urged Gov. Brewer to veto the bill during a protest rally Feb. 21, 2014, at the state Capitol. Photo Credit: AP / Cheryl Evans

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I don't like the idea of tolerance, particularly in the context of religious tolerance. We can tolerate a cold or a sore back or a line at the grocery store. I believe we can do more than tolerate other people or their beliefs. We can respect them.

In " 'Liberty' bills clash with same-sex rites" [Opinion, Feb. 25], columnist Cathy Young's conundrum is that we will either have laws that stigmatize gays, or we will marginalize traditional religious believers, who still make up a large share of the U.S. population.

I suggest that if we simply respect other people's individual beliefs, even if we disagree with them or feel that they conflict with our religious preferences, we would find a way out of this conundrum.

Religious freedom should extend to individuals the right to act in whatever way they feel is consistent with their beliefs. However, such freedom need not extend to interference with other people's wishes to live according to their individual beliefs and values. If you believe that marriage should exist only between a man and a woman, you should be free to conduct your life accordingly.

The compromise I would suggest is to accept that the sincerity and intensity of a person's beliefs need not convey on the believer any authority over another person's beliefs and actions.

Anthony Sarola, Manhasset

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Cathy Young could not be more wrong.

When a person decides to engage in business with the public and participate in commerce, he subordinates whatever right he might otherwise have to discriminate against any person, whether on religious or any other ground, to society's overriding interest in all of its citizens participating equally in the commercial life of the community.

"Traditional religious believers" are not marginalized by antidiscrimination laws, but people who are not so traditional are surely relegated to second-class status if we permit laws such as that proposed in Arizona to be upheld.

Jack K. Feirman, Dix Hills

Is Arizona still part of the United States? Or is it now part of Russia, China or maybe Nazi Germany? I was appalled as I read "Arizona bill would allow businesses to refuse gays" [News, Feb. 21]. The bill asserts the right to refuse service to "gays and others." Who are the others? Blacks, Jews or "eye-talians" like me?

Sign up for The Point and go inside New York politics.

The fact that this discriminatory legislation passed the Arizona Senate and House, before being vetoed by Arizona's governor, should terrify all citizens. Cloaked in a religious protection legislation mantra, it is merely another case of ultraconservatives using religion to discriminate. The God I worship is inclusive, loving and merciful.

Good people cannot sit by in silence.

Pina Del Zio, Ronkonkoma

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