What if, for example, someone’s religious principles prohibited interracial marriages? Should that individual be allowed to deny services to an interracial wedding?
Of course not.
Here’s why that objection is irrelevant:
1. No religion practiced in America – indeed, no world religion – has ever banned interracial marriage. That some American Christians opposed interracial marriage is of no consequence. No one assumes that every position held by any member of a religion means that the religion holds that position.
But, as Ed Brayton points out:
Interracial marriage was banned in every state in this country at one point and always on religious grounds. Whether Prager thinks those religious grounds were legitimate or not or whether the Bible really supported that position is irrelevant; it was the overwhelming view of Christians in this country for at least a century and a half that interracial marriage was forbidden and that the law should enforce that religious view. Christian ideology has shifted, as it often does, but that does not make the reality of those past positions magically disappear.
This is largely what I was talking about when I spoke of culture and religion being intertwined. Once opposition to interracial marriage became culturally unpopular, religion changed! And 50 years from now, we'll likely see very little religious opposition to same-sex marriage. And there will likely be religious people claiming that no world religion ever banned same-sex marriage. In some ways, they would be correct! The bible does not oppose same-sex marriage. It just opposes guys having sex with each other. (Though, it would be strange to say, "Yeah, you can get married. That's cool. You're just not allowed to have sex.")
On that, I do have to address his somewhat correct, but yet incorrect, second point.
2. If opposition to same-sex marriage is not a legitimately held religious conviction, there is no such thing as a legitimately held religious position. Unlike opposition to interracial marriage, opposition to same-sex marriage has been the position of every religion in recorded history – as well as of every country and every American state until the 21st century.
I pretty much agree with that first sentence. That is another reason why I say one should just accept it if someone claims their belief is a religious belief. Otherwise, then we have to go about determining which religious belief is "legitimately held" and which is not. And how do we do that? This is where Prager's argument goes way wrong, and in a direction I don't think he intended. He appears to be implying that a religious conviction is legitimately held if it has been held by "every religion in recorded history." Well, I've got some bad news for Prager — the convictions that Jesus was/is the "Son of God" and/or the "Lord and Savior" are convictions that have not been held by "every religion in recorded history." Oops.
I would think this has to be his argument. If it isn't, then his first point is going to be very weak and opens up some other problems. For his first point to still stand, it would appear that his standard for a "legitimately held" belief would have to be based on popularity within the religion. Well, what do you do, then, about beliefs that are minority beliefs that grow to become more popular over time. One example of this would be anytime a new denomination, or even a branch, of Christianity develops. Protestantism would have been a new denomination at one point and would not have had many proponents. Today, it is no longer a denomination and is now a large branch of Christianity that includes many branches of its own and numerous denominations. So are general Protestant views now "legit" now that they are popular?
Or, in regards to the topic of same-sex marriage, are the beliefs of Christians who think this is acceptable not legitimate beliefs? And, once again, in 50 years when this likely becomes the majority belief, would such beliefs only then become legitimate?
That Prager shoots himself in the foot with his own argument just goes to show why trying to create rules for determining what is and what is not a "legitimately held" belief is a bad idea.