March 26, 2014 --
By Tom Krattenmaker
Award-winning Portland-based writer
Recent book: The Evangelicals you Don’t Know
– Article Also featured on..USA TODAY,
Can a Christian merchant legally refuse service to gay people? Should a Christian business owner be exempt from providing employees with health insurance that includes contraceptives he deems immoral? As the debates rage and the Supreme Court nears oral arguments in the Affordable Care Act contraception mandate case, it’s instructive to recall a famous religious freedom drama from the past.
The 1971 Supreme Court case Clay v. United States, which is the subject of a recent documentary, offered vivid plot elements: a world famous boxer, Muhammad Ali, who faced a stark choice between prison or killing in combat in violation of his Muslim beliefs.
A constitutional law scholar at the center of that case contends that we often overplay, even trivialize, religious legal claims today. In addition to this expert’s uncommon name, Thomas Krattenmaker, I share his view of the matter: A principle as important as religious freedom deserves more responsible engagement than it’s getting.
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