It is amazing, and with that I mean appallingly frightening, to watch the mental gymnastics religious people will go through to justify bigotry and hate and the extent to which they are willing to hide behind the Bible to justify their narrow-mindedness and intolerance.
The hatred and bigotry of religious people these days, among a myriad of other things, appears to be particularly focused on gays and lesbians and doing everything possible to humiliate and degrade them, including denying them their basic human and civil rights, and defending such thinly veiled bigotry, by making appeals to “traditional values”, “god” and other nice-sounding and “wholesome” terms.
It is a tragic testament to the state of affairs that gays and lesbians are being scapegoated when in reality those who have done, and continue to do, the most harm to society and its people are not gays and lesbians, but heterosexual, most notably religious, men (women too, but I say men because our political landscape – from Congress to state governments – as well as the business sphere are predominately populated by men). Which is not to say that a person’s gender identity and sexual orientation should be used to pass judgement on their character and actions. It is merely to point out that if you are going to blame someone for the shit we’re in, maybe you may want to rethink whether someone’s sexual origination should be relevant in answering that question. And if it is not, then you should ask yourself why you think being gay or lesbian, and thus someone’s queerness, could somehow lead to the breakdown of society.
The sad thing, of course, is that even self proclaimed “reasonable” religious folks believe that at the end of the day it is ok, acceptable and understandable to deny gays and lesbians equal rights, or to at least curtail those, such as a same-sex couple should have to undergo more stringent scrutiny when trying to adopt and so forth. And the thing is, such people don’t even feel bad about. On the contrary, they make such claims with a good conscience and they sleep well at night, too. No compunction.
One such individual is Mark David Hall, a “traditional, orthodox Christian” who believes that “God designed marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman.”
Hall is this week’s guest columnist at Oregon Live. Hall, who undoubtedly must have Jesus as his role model, and I can see that just by looking at all the love, caring and acceptance that is so shining through in his column, just like Jesus would do, defends the “right” (ahem) of religious people to
deny services to discriminate against anyone mainly gays and lesbians and deny them services of any kind, especially when serving gays and lesbians constitutes “endorsing a practice” (homosexuality) that disagrees with the Christian’s beliefs hateful, ignorant notions. Although he personally would never to do it, as he assures us, Hall, nonetheless, fully supports business owners who want to be able to legally deny people services if they believe that rendering such a service would violate the tenets of their religion.
He believes that the “religious convictions of these individuals [who wish to discriminate] should be respected” because allegedly this country was founded on “the conviction that men and women should be able to worship God according to the dictates of their consciences.“
Yeah, I don’t think so.
The First Amendment
The First Amendment separates church from state, explicitly saying that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” That is all the protection and “right to religion” the US Constitution provides. Full stop.
A place of business is a place of business. Baking a cake, serving food, selling furniture, AstroTurf, cars , clothes etc. are not exercise of one’s religion which would necessitate First Amendment protections.
What Hall is proposing is, therefore nothing but pure, cold, hard, unadulterated, not to mention legalized, discrimination.
The Demand For Legalized Discrimination
I am no legal expert but if the government, through laws and legislation, were to actually grant business owners the right, the legal right, to deny services to gays and lesbians (or any number and creed of people religious business owners do not like) if they felt that providing those services would violate their religious rights, then that would, in fact, constitute the government “respecting an establishment of religion”, which is a clear violation of the First Amendment.
Now, I don’t feel inclined to get into a discussion about how under the umbrella of “religious beliefs” millions of people have been killed, oppressed, subjugated and otherwise harmed over the millennia and continue to be killed, oppressed, subjugated and otherwise harmed, but I will say that such a measure, if made into law, would be nothing more than a license to discriminate. A licence which a myriad of companies out there could potentially use to discriminate against a host of people they don’t like and/or whose life style choices and/or various other inherent attributes they do not agree with.
After all, what if business owners decide that they do not want to sell to blacks and Muslims, atheists and women, red heads or people with tattoos? This is no different than having a black only section in your restaurant or a”White Only” lunch counter at the diner – only that in this case religion is used to accomplish the same, which is to deny certain people, whom religious people deem abnormal or unworthy, access.
And make no mistake about it, granting certain people rights while denying the same rights to others based on any attribute you do not like is discrimination.
Separate But Equal and the Jim Crow laws that enforced them were terribly unjust and discriminatory, not to mention that under Separate But Equal, there was, in fact, no equality for those who had to be separated, by law, from the rest of the (white) population that felt threatened by black emancipation.
The irony here, of course, is that under the umbrella of “religious freedom” such a law would mainly be utilized to deny services to gays and lesbians and only gays and lesbians. In fact, this appears to be directed at gays and lesbians only as there is rarely any talk about denying other entities that violate biblical laws (and we all know that they exist) services. They do call it religious freedom but that is only a scaffold beneath their bigotry.
Sweet Taste of Wickedness
Last year, the owner of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, told a lesbian couple that “we don’t do same-sex marriages.”
It is interesting to note that there is nothing there to indicate that Sweet Cakes by Melissa was denying to bake wedding cakes for other biblically non-approved actions, such as for couples for whom this is the second marriage (i.e. who have been divorced), for example, or inter-faith marriages. There is nothing in there about doing hymen inspections to sanction the validity of a heterosexual engagement before agreeing to bake a cake. In fact, the owner was more than happy to bake a cake for all people no questions asked but decided to throw the Good Book at her same-sex wedding customers, claiming that apparently in this instance, and in this instance only, her religious convictions were being violated.
Surely, if one were so obliged so as to deny people services because it disagrees with one’s religion, one would do so for all actions that violate religious doctrine.
See how religious/Christian supremacy works? Religious people have put everyone on the defense, playing the victims whose rights are being allegedly neglected and stomped on. As the privileged, dominant entity they really believe that they are entitled to their privilege and dominance and that demands for equality infringe upon their rights to subjugate, discriminate, oppress and harm others. And they think they have that right, that entitlement, because it is in the name of god and religion.
This “right to discriminate” legislation which Hall supports with bells and whistles, is a hate filled piece of legislation directed at gays and lesbians only. This is not about right to religion. This is legislated hate under the guise of right to religion.
The new name for bigotry these days seem to be “religious freedom” which religious people have taken to mean that it should be upheld to the point where it should supersede and trump someone else’s human and civil rights.
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Religion is harmful, in case you had not gotten that message from the eleventy million other examples and cases I have talked about and explored here.