5. It is no longer your personal religious view if you’re bothering someone else.

As we have seen in this series, one of the most damaging aspects of prejudice is the assumption that our group is better than others and that we have a duty to reshape others in our own image. When we see ourselves as the norm, we unconsciously judge others in terms of how they are like or unlike ourselves. Because we are unaware of our sense of superiority, we can attempt to impose our personal understandings onto others without being aware that we are impinging on their own freedoms.

Then if others have the audacity to want to live their own lives without our direction, we can feel that it is our own religious liberties that are under attack. We can go to shopping malls and insist that the Christ is being taken out of Christmas even if people from other faiths would like to feel it is their town, too. We can treat any effort by gay people to talk about their own lives as an assault on our families. If I have been taught that we have a right to control others, their efforts to get free of our control may feel like an attack on our imagined right to take away theirs.

You and I both have a right to our own personal religious faith, but for that very reason if we are to live peaceably together, we must each be free from the other. I must be free from your efforts to dominate me, and you must be free from my efforts to dominate you.

A Christian Scientist can choose to refuse medical treatment, but has no right to oppose that same care for others. A Pro-life Catholic has every right to believe abortion is wrong, and even to try to persuade others to their cause, but they have no right to shut down the full range of women’s healthcare simply because they are in the majority in certain pockets of the country.

You have a right to your belief about how others should live their lives. You can even try persuading people to be more like you. But there comes a point where the other person has a right over their own life. They have a right to a home life that is different than yours. They have a right to seek happiness in a way that is different than yours. They have a right not to be harassed by you. It is not a violation of your personal rights, for others to refuse to let you take away theirs.