Monday, November 14, 2011

Why I get a nagging feeling every time I hear the phrase 'religious liberty'

Those who are my friends know that I am a serious fan of the 1970s detective drama Columbo. The thing I really loved about this show was the fact of how the character of police detective Columbo never considered a murder case completely simple. He never bought into the idea of an "open-and-shut" case if he had a nagging feeling, no matter how insignificant it was.

That nagging feeling is what I get when I hear about  marriage clerks, hotel owners, Catholic adoption agencies, and recently - cake bakers who refuse to serve gay couples. No doubt you have heard about them and will probably hear a lot more as religious right groups trying to hinder marriage equality will canonize these folks as "saints and martyrs" besieged by so-called radical gay activists supposedly trying to force them choose between their livelihood and religious freedom.

In fact they have a term for this sort of thing. They call it "religious liberty."

There is a certain simplicity to these cases which garners them a degree of support. Some of these folks (excluding Catholic charities who have no right to taxpayer money to discriminate and marriage clerks who should put the needs of constituents over their own desires) seems to have a right to serve whomever they wish. And one could even make the case that they are in fact forced to choose between their livelihoods and their "religious liberty."

But then there goes that nagging feeling again. These cases aren't as simple as they are made out. What about the rights of couples refused service? No matter how you attempt to soften the blow, the idea that someone will  not serve you because of how they inaccurately view you still hurts. It's dehumanizing, it's cruel, and it's embarrassing.

In a recent situation in Iowa, a cake baker scheduled an appointment with a lesbian couple who desired her services only to use that time to not only tell them no, but also to criticize their sexual orientation.

Then that same cake baker made several news appearances to decry about how she was victim, backed by several religious right groups spinning the same talking points.

And I haven't even talked about what message of "I will not serve you" would send to a child in a same-sex family who may be present at the time. Nor have I mentioned the unnecessary inconvenience same-sex couples will have to endure if they live in an area where the so-called religious martyr is the only one who can address their needs.

Then you have to consider just how will gay couples tell just who will or won't serve them. How would they be able to tell without the courtesy of signs saying "we don't serve gays." Of course if such signs did exist, I'm sure those who put them up wouldn't think that they were being cruel. Just like folks who put up "No Irish Need Apply" signs didn't think they were being cruel.

And then you have to ask yourself just far will those the argument of "religious liberty" go? Today it's hotels and cake shops. Tomorrow it may be restaurants or apartment rentals.

So I almost understand the argument of "religious liberty."  But then comes that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that just won't go away - the feeling that "religious liberty" is just another way of saying "allowed discrimination" and that some folks will use the phrase of "religious liberty" to deflect attention from the victims of this "allowed discrimination."

 Lastly, the thing that bothers me the most is the sad fact that the phrase "religious liberty"  has less to do with religion or liberty and more to do with telling gay couples that they are inferior.

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'Catholic Bishops attacking marriage equality' and other Monday midday news briefs

U.S. Catholic Bishops Ignore Pressing Issues, Decide to Focus on Marriage Discrimination - Well we saw this coming for a long time but mark my words - this will be a MAJOR mistake for the bishops.

I’m a Christian, and the Catholic church doesn’t speak for me - And on that same subject, a very appropriate piece by John Aravosis.

Iowa Baker Refuses Same-Sex Couple Wedding Cake Because Of Their ‘Lifestyle’ - NOM's newest "gay agenda victim" no doubt. But read the story to see who folks - including other bakers - are rallying around.

Out Washington state lawmakers to push marriage bill - Good for them!

60 Percent Of Americans Live In Places That Don’t Offer Protections For Gay Couples - We will change this.

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Religious rightie says DeGeneres not a good choice for raising AIDS awareness

Sometimes, mess coming from the religious right doesn't need an explanation. It just needs a spotlight to underscore how clueless and homophobic they are.

Recently, openly gay actress and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres was named as special envoy to raise awareness about AIDS.

This decision was hailed in many circles. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said DeGeneres will “bring her sharp wit and big heart, and her impressive TV audience and 8 million followers on Twitter” to support U.S. efforts to save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

However to the folks on the right, particularly Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America, the only thing that matters is that DeGeneres is a lesbian:

"She is openly lesbian and obviously is an activist on the issue of homosexual rights and has taken a very active role in pushing the homosexual agenda. So for her to be the person who's out front and the face of the Obama administration in the whole fight against AIDS I think is inappropriate," Crouse decides.

Does that even make any sense? Of course not. The only thing that matters to Crouse is that DeGeneres is a so-called "dirty lesbian" and will somehow taint the fight against AIDS.

The only thing that has tainted the fight against AIDS thus is ignorance and stigmatization - which is what Crouse is showing in spades. 

But more than that, it amazes me how some in the religious right will push sexual orientation as a reason for people not being able to do their jobs. It wasn't that long ago when anti-gay activist Linda Harvey was telling parents to not allow their children to be treated by gay physicians.

It's fascinating when one looks at both cases and realizes the one thing that Crouse and Harvey vehemently opposes is the fact that these folks  - i.e. DeGeneres and gay physicians - are openly gay and unashamed.

I think that says more about the mindset of Crouse and Harvey than anything else.

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