Why should religion exempt people from civil rights legislation and public health law? Maybe because, unlike parenting philosophy or political views, religious tenets can’t change over time. Religious law is rigid, so civil law must bend.
For most people, though, religion is flexible. Believers routinely ignore inconvenient or outdated passages in their holy books, choosing, for instance, to fixate on Leviticus 18:22 (“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination”) but ignore Leviticus 19:19 (“Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material”). And then there are disputes among believers. Can Jews eat rice during Passover? Yes and no. Does baptism require full immersion? Yes and no.
Everybody picks among religious laws — even religions do. Just last year, the U.S. Episcopal Diocese voted to stop using masculine pronouns for God. In 2015, Pope Francis declared that, for one year only, abortion was a slightly more forgivable sin.
But if religious beliefs are not mandatory or immutable, then how are they different from secular beliefs?