Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Religious liberty = discrimination: A complex issue explained in simple terms

Almost on a daily basis, anti-gay groups and their allies in the conservative media bombard the airwaves  and internet with anecdotes and horror stories of Christians who own secular businesses, such as cake decorating or non-religious wedding chapels,  supposedly having their livelihoods threatened because they refuse to serve gay customers like the law says they should.

Noted conservative author and media figure (and that's not said to give compliments but to note how low conservatives have sunk in terms of who is given status in their community) Erick Erickson has coined a phrase "you will be made to care" which illustrates how allegedly marriage equality is an issue which will drop us all into a dark abyss of intolerance and coercion.

And we hear the phrase "religious freedom" and "religious liberty" so many times that the press, as they often do, repeat the phrases without giving any shred of nuance, much like the dogs of Pavlov have been trained to salivate.

But let's break it down.

In Texas, legislators may push a bill which would allow businesses and government contractors - in the spirit of religious freedom of course - to refuse to serve gays and fire their employees who happen to be gay. And the lawmaker behind the bill, State Sen. Donna Campbell, wants to enshrine this so-called right in the state constitution.

She makes this outrageous claim:

“Our Judeo-Christian values are under assault and I’m not going to let that stand. We have the right and religious freedom to express ourselves. When the government moves outside the proper bounds of the primary role, especially in order to legislate societal norms, they’re on shaky ground. Really it’s a few, just a few advocates, of tolerance. They are trying to criminalize faith and traditional values of the majority of Texans. Tolerance is going too far in this instance.”

Campbell is spewing nonsense. What attack is she talking about? She seems to feel threatened by the American principle that customer should be treated the same in a place of business.

Apparently some evangelicals, like Campbell, want special rules which don't necessarily have a thing to do with how they worship or where they worship. You see, the 'religious liberty' argument doesn't have a thing to do with them. When you eliminate the spin, you discover that the "religious liberty" argument  has everything to do with the gay community. It's just an ornate way of handing us a laminated card of inferiority, a way of searing a scarlet letter into our consciousness.

The 'religious liberty' argument is a farce designed to send a constant reminder to gays from folks like Campbell saying "We don't care what the law says or what the court says. You don't deserve to be on our level and in our minds you never will be. You don't deserve equal treatment under the law and we will never let you forget that."

It's not that complex to gauge or figure out because we have been through this sort of thing before in history. Allow me to put it another way:

If you have a problem with the following:

Then you SHOULD have a problem with this:

After all, how is the 'religious liberty' argument, which would allow discrimination against gays, any different than one which would allow discrimination against Jewish people, African-Americans, the Chinese, etc?

 In the end, it doesn't matter how one sugarcoats it. Discrimination is discrimination.

Cake decorators and non-religious wedding chapels may seem like a minor facet in the argument about discrimination but they are a crucial facet.  If we allowed them to discriminate against gays, at what point does said discrimination stop?

One day, we are discussing cake decorators and non-religious wedding chapels. How long will it be before we start talking about apartment complexes, restaurants, stores, and other places of business?

Is it even right for the 'religious liberty' argument to be used in those cases and what assurances do we have that in the future, it won't be?


Anonymous said...

I'm not exactly sure if this is what is called a straw man argument, but here is my slippery slope.

I am a Pagan and practicing Witch. If indeed the idea of Religious Freedom trumps Constitutional rights then I'm allowed under many Stand Your Ground rules to kill any Christian that comes into my business.

My rationale? Well their Holy Book - the Word of God states quite clearly that Thou shall not Suffer a Witch to Live. It's self defense in my case, clear and simple.

Oh - that's not how the law is intended? Discrimination is a sharp sharp sword and it cuts no matter who is in front of the blade.

Awesome article - now I know why you were busy yesterday. Sent Hope everything's OK energy your way. Glad it was.


Regan D. said...

Well said Connie. To add to your comment, Christians are already crying wolf and making outrageous claims of perceived persecution.

At the mere challenge to what they think is their authority (which they don't have, and no right to demand it).
But they open the door to issues that can be argued by OTHER religions, such as Muslims invoking Sharia.
Women would be as vulnerable as gay people and always have been to religious doctrine.

Recently on a plane from Israel, Orthodox Hasidim Jewish men caused a stink and demanded their seating arrangements be separate from women.
On a COMMERCIAL jet, no less.

Our nation restricts religious interference in enterprise and public exchange because it's impossible and unworkable, if not dangerous.
Our society is very diverse, hence we have no requirements or enforcement of religious belief and one is free to believe within REASONABLE rights and access.
But autopsy, birth control, and sharing blood and organs, these are taboo in every religion.
True also, each citizen is free to access these things for their individual health and welfare, and those believers to which this is abhorrent, have to respect other's needs for it.
Modern justice and all that benefiting everyone, in this way.
Including Christians, who are protected from Sharia law and it's dictates.
There is no Constitution or Bill of Rights in the Bible. No voting, no 'innocent until proven guilty', no due process of law, no computers, or flight or medical and psychiatric care that's compassionate, nor any for orphans and widows.
We all got to the 21st century, barely...but still witness religion fueled brutality and denial of other people's humanity and right to exist.
There is no right to indulge THAT kind of crazy.