Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Countering "Religious Liberty" Stealth Attacks on Non-Discrimination Laws

One of the big lies being advanced by Christofascists and the parasite of the "professional Christian" class is that LGBT rights and non-discrimination protections infringe on their religious liberty and, therefore, can be freely ignored.  It's an argument that would have left the Founding Fathers dumbfounded since their concept of religious freedom was very straight forward: all could worship in the church or temple of their choice, no one would be forced to financially support a church body of which they were not a member, and one's religious beliefs could not disqualify you for office.  Nowhere in this concept was religion viewed as giving one a license to ignore whatever law one disliked and/or restricted your right to discriminate against or abuse other citizens. Now, in addition to the flood of Republican/Christofascist "religious freedom" laws, one sees increased efforts by schools and colleges to seek an exemption from compliance with non-discrimination laws while still sucking on the tit of taxpayer funding. A piece by blogger friend - and fellow LGBT blogger summit attendee - Karen Ocamb in Huffington Post looks at the growing efforts of Christofascist to place themselves above the law and an effort underway in California to de-fund educational institutions engaging in discrimination.  Here are highlights:
The LGBT community has been dealing with social conservatives and the anti-gay religious right blatantly killing or circumventing LGBT equality since 1977 when Anita Bryant and the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority overturned a gay rights ordinance in Dade County, Florida, then the 40th such gay rights law in the country. The Bryant-Falwell “Save Our Children” crusade painted gays as sinful perverts and sexual predators who threaten children. That effort was stopped in California with the defeat of the anti-gay Briggs Initiative in 1978, which halted the initiative-focused momentum until 1986 when the AIDS crisis resurrected simmering anti-gay hatred.
Today, after much work on the ground and through the state legislature, California stands as a shining beacon for LGBT equality — but the religious right has not given up its crusade. After the Human Rights Campaign revealed last year that a number of religious-based colleges and universities applied for exemptions from Title IX that would enable them to blatantly discriminate against LGBT students and employees, out California Assembly member Evan Low and State Sen. Ricardo Lara authored legislation to require academic institutions that receive state funds to not discriminate (AB 1888, authored by Low and sponsored by Equality California and the National Center for Lesbian Rights) and reveal their applications for “religious liberty” waivers (SB 1146, authored by Lara and sponsored by Equality California).
But stealth attacks and unfettered LGBT-bashing in the name of “religious liberties” seems to be the new normal by forces determined to overturn any progress made on the LGBT equality front — as evidenced by the stunning display of arrogance in Congress on Thursday.
“Speaker Ryan chose to disregard his previous promises of regular order and held the vote open so that he could convince some in his party to change their affirmative votes. It’s shameful that some would go to such great lengths to attack the LGBT community,” said California Rep. Ted Lieu in a statement. “[A]llowing discrimination in the workplace doesn’t encourage productivity, it drastically harms it. As history consistently illustrates, those who support forms of discrimination are always proven wrong.”
The anti-LGBT congressional sneak attack comes on top of strident reaction from a plethora of states to the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education May 13 guidance instructing the country’s schools that they must ensure transgender students and teachers equal access to educational opportunities and facilities that match their gender identities — or risk federal funding or other repercussions.
“Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status. The guidance makes clear that both federal agencies treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX,” says the DOJ press release.
The response from Republican governors has not been pretty. As Think Progress points out, governors or top elected officials from Kentucky, Utah, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Idaho, Mississippi, Michigan, Arkansas, Texas, Alabama, Indiana, Georgia, Tennessee, as well as, famously now, North Carolina (the DOJ has sued the University of North Carolina) all look at the guidance as federal overreach they will ignore.
In addition to the “states rights” argument, social and religious conservatives argue that “religious liberty” trumps federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT rights.
The bill that has some religious-based universities and colleges gasping for divine help is Low’s AB 1888, described by Equality California as “the Cal Grant Disinvestment in Discrimination.“ That bill would deny Cal Grant funding to colleges and universities that seek a “religious liberties” waiver from Title IX in order to circumvent federal LGBT protections. Students who apply to an explicitly religious-based discriminatory school will not be eligible to receive financial Cal Grant aid to attend that specific school and the school could also face substantial financial loses.
“This bill would require, commencing with the 2017-18 academic year, each Cal Grant participating institution, ... to certify ... that the institution shall not subject a student or employee of the institution on the basis of, among other things, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, and that the institution shall not apply for, or receive, a waiver by the United States Department of Education from nondiscrimination requirements for the receipt of federal funds,” the AB 1888 summary reads.
Similar measures are need in every state in America.   It is far past time that the Christofascist demand for special rights be defeated and institutions need to decide whether they want to engage in discrimination and bigotry or receive taxpayer funds.  No taxpayer should be required to indirectly fund institutions that discriminate against them. 

1 comment:

bobfelton said...

I thought I'd let you know that I'll be releasing in just a couple of weeks an e-book compendium readable on the Nook and Kindle of writings against tax privileges for churches -- some dating back to before the adoption of the Constitution. It really is time to end that once for all.