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The LGBTQ+ Community and Religious Freedom

Updated: Mar 15

Religious freedom has been integral to the U.S. since its founding. However, worship can be restricted when harmful to others. After all, we don’t allow human sacrifice.

Many argue that religious business owners’ refusing LGBTQ+ customers is one such harm. This argument is most applicable to rural areas, where refusal from a business may bar one from local industry (e.g. if only one bakery exists in a 40-mile radius). Further, this discrimination has been shown to adversely affect psychological well-being, exacerbating the mental distress that often accompanies being a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

But forcing religious business owners to cater to practices with which they disagree may be an impermissible constraint on religious freedom, requiring individuals to (a) act against their religious beliefs, (b) stop their business, or (c) suffer legal penalties. This presents a serious concern for many religious Americans. 

Perhaps these competing worries can be reconciled. Maybe anti-discrimination policies can be implemented in rural areas, where refusal is likely to cause the most harm, and religious freedom maintained in more commercially developed regions. Or, maybe the harm of discrimination in business obligates the government to restrict religious practice. Whatever the case, it seems either religious freedom or freedom from discrimination must be compromised. 


Almeida, J., Johnson, R. M., Corliss, H. L., Molnar, B. E., & Azrael, D. (2009). Emotional Distress Among LGBTQ Youth: The Influence of Perceived Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 1001-1014.

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