Fort Schritt, Indiana — Dr. Michael Freiheit is a general practitioner in the small town of Fort Schritt, Indiana. He describes himself as both an atheist and gay. Dr. Freiheit estimates that he sees a few hundred people a month for various maladies. In the wake of his state’s governor signing a highly-contentious bill that would allow any business in Indiana to discriminate against Freiheit, who last week volunteered to provide no-cost health care at a homeless shelter, based solely on the business owners’ religiously-based discriminatory feelings toward homosexuals. This has Dr. Freiheit curious about something, and he plans to ask Indiana Governor Mike Pence and the Republicans in the state legislature directly, via email.
“Dear Governor Pence and the Republicans in the state legistlature,” Freiheit’s letter begins, “As a gay atheist doctor in a small town in Indiana, I want to applaud your bravery and standing up for your principles, because it would seem that you have given me a chance to finally stop having to treat asshole, bigoted Christians at my practice, based on my own deeply held religious views, and not anything more sinister or petty, of course.” Freiheit then goes on to ask Pence and the Republicans, “Is that not the intent of your letter, to give everyone a chance to discriminate against someone they don’t like? I am assuming that the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States applies here, meaning that as a gay atheist I am permitted to not give judgmental bigots the medicine they need to get over the infections in their bodies, right?”
Freiheit told The Political Garbage Chute in a phone interview that he “really has no intention of breaking the oath” he took to do no harm to anyone, but his letter is meant to seek clarification as to just how far he — or any other business owner in the state — would be able to take their personal beliefs in discriminating against and refusing service to someone else. “Would they write a law that allows white people to refuse service to black people if their religion said it was okay? If not, then that shows you just how thinly-veiled the homophobia is in this bullshit law.”
Dr. Freiheit continued reading his letter to our reporter. “Governor Pence, I submit that if I am now to be treated as a second class citizen on an arbitrary basis, whenever the personal, religious beliefs of a shop owner or employee butts up against my sexual orientation, then every Christian who believes that in 2015 they still have a right to discriminate based on what makes them feel ‘icky’ and their desire to hold onto antiquated philosophical and mythological texts as if they are hard and fast universal truths will have to go seek medical treatment somewhere else, if that’s okay by you and your friends, Mr. Pence.” Freiheit then writes, “Therefore, I would like to ask directly if I can consider myself protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that you signed to discriminate against Christians based on my religious beliefs. If I am not, then I believe your law is unconstitutional as it is not written equally and does not apply equally to all citizens of Indiana.”
“The funny thing to me,” Freiheit told our reporter, “is that all day, every day I treat people who I know deep-down think my husband and children and I are all going to Hell and that we shouldn’t even be allowed to be a family in the first place, and I still suck it up and give them their antibiotic prescriptions, diagnose their various illnesses, and ultimately help heal them.” Dr. Freiheit continued, “I don’t know why the baker or the florist in town should be given a free pass to be a whiny, baby about life and the rest of us are expected to suck it up. I don’t get why if we expect doctors and lawyers to take any and all clients that come through their doors, we can’t expect everyone who operates a business in the public square, under state regulated corporate protection for their assets, to behave with the same maturity and respect.”
Our reporter asked Dr. Freiheit why the law should apply to him if he’s a self-espoused atheist, since atheists don’t believe in God, and therefore religion is ultimately meaningless to them. “I’ll tell you why it applies to me,” Freiheit told our interviewer. “It applies because freedom of religion is the same as freedom from religion. No, I don’t practice any religion, but I have considered the religious questions in life and made a decision as to what I feel is the truth. I believe, therefore, there is no creator nor a need to worship any entity as one. I have religious beliefs; it’s just that mine are that religion is largely unnecessary, and it often gives cover to abusive assholes to be even more abusive and assholish.”
“Maybe Governor Pence and his Republican friends should have just left the can of worms closed if they didn’t want the backlash or people like me to embarrass them publicly,” Dr. Freiheit said as the interview was concluding. “It’s funny,” Freiheit said, “these conservatives act as if there wasn’t solid logical reasoning behind separating religious affairs from the operation of government. They pretend as if my husband and I getting survivor benefits, or our children enjoying normal rights of inheritance is a threat to their religious liberty, but someone refusing service to me or my family is a totally healthy expression of religion and not a back-handed slap in the face from a country so-called built on all being created equally.”
“How can we take them seriously,” Freiheit asked at last, “if they don’t behave seriously?”