Except when it's a weapon in the culture war
April 2, 2015 | Just below all the sanctimonious talk about enacting laws to ensure that American's freedom of religion is not abridged lies an ugly reality: the far, far right wants to be able to discriminate against those they don't like and use as their defense, "God made me do it."
Most recently the legislatures of Indiana and Arkansas passed so-called Religious Liberty laws that would protect individuals and businesses from charges that they engaged in discrimination. They could claim that attempts to prevent them from discriminating would "substantially burden [their] exercise of religion."
In practical terms, that means that the folks who support such laws think that if they bake a cake for make a pizza for gay people that somehow threatens their religion.
An owner of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, said, “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no” (Washington Post, Apr 2, 2015). Meanwhile, the owner of Sweet Cakes By Melissa in Gresham, Oregon, is being sued by a lesbian couple because the bakery refused to make their wedding cake two years ago because their wedding would be "'an abomination unto the lord'. (NY Daily News, Feb 4, 2015). Under the Indiana law, Sweet Cakes could defend itself by saying that baking the cake would violate their religious beliefs.
It is one thing to say that the government can't coerce people to violate their religious beliefs (which is what the original Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed by Bill Clinton did. It is quite another to say that businesses and individuals are free to discriminate if they can find a religious justification for it. (The RFRA and DOMA are just two of the laws signed by Bill Clinton that should not have been signed.)
We long ago decided that racial segregation was wrong. Those who favored segregation used many of the same quasi-religious arguments now being made about gays. We said, in effect, You can continue to believe in your heart of hearts that blacks are an inferior race, but when it comes to public businesses and facilities you can't act out that belief.
When you open your doors to the world to provide goods and services, that is, a business, it is no less discriminatory to refuse to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding than it is to require blacks to drink from a separate fountain.
What part of "equal" don't these people get?
We're seeing much more of this lately. Some folks seem to think they have a right to impose their own beliefs on everybody.
What's really going on here is that the far, far right see things that are different — more black and brown faces in the crowd, more Spanish being spoken, more gays and lesbians out of the closet — and they don't like it. They want to "take back" their country. The GOP, the party of Grouchy Old People, has become their home and Fox News their window into the world.
Having lost so many battles in the "culture war" they now resort to machinations in the state legislatures and in the courts to get their way.
What is so ironic — and delusional — is the idea that hordes of gay people are swarming into bakeries and pizzerias to buy cakes and pizzas from people who abhor them. Not to mention, the self-importance to believe that when they die and approach the Pearly Gates St Peter might not let them in because a slice of their cake was eaten by a gay person.
Religion needs to be put back into the private sphere. If you believe in God, whatever else you believe should be between you and your god. God had the power to make things in his own image; you don't. Get used to the idea that not everybody is like you.
In today's New York Times, Charles Blow quoted some lines from a Langston Hughes poem called “Personal” (NYTimes, Apr 2, 2015):
In an envelope marked:
God addressed me a letter.
In an envelope marked:
I have given my answer.
Last updated on May 11, 2016