Wednesday, June 15, 2016

It is Time to Recognize that Anti-Gay Bigotry is Not Religious Freedom

This blog has frequently noted the manner in which the concept of religious freedom has been grossly perverted by selfish, self-centered, hate and animus filled Christofascists and their sycophants in the Republican Party.   With the mass murder of members of the LGBT community on Sunday morning, it is time, regardless of the shooters motivation - which may well never be fully known, to put an end to the myth that the Christofascists deliberate campaign against LGBT rights and lives has anything to do with religious freedom.   Rather, it is ALL about bigotry, the embrace of ignorance and animus toward those who challenge the Christofascists  fantasy based world view.   A lengthy piece in the CBC News looks at this truth.  Here are highlights:
In December 1989, Marc Lépine armed himself with a Ruger Mini-14 semiautomatic rifle and headed off to Montreal's École Polytechnique, hunting women.
He separated male and female students and ordered the men to leave. He then killed the women, execution-style.
By the time he turned the weapon on himself, he'd slaughtered 14 young women for the offence of being women, earning himself a place at the apex of misogynistic violence.
Lepine's suicide note read, in part:
"I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker … The feminists have always enraged me." 
The atrocity, and its stated motivation, immediately triggered an angry and overdue conversation in Canada about misogyny and collective male guilt.
And, at least partially as a result, open sexism and misogynistic humour became far less okay after Polytechnique, at least in polite company. It was a transformative moment.
Now, after Omar Mateen armed himself, reportedly professed allegiance to ISIS and went hunting gays in an Orlando night club, could there possibly be a better time to have the same conversation about organized religion, and what responsibility it bears for the pain and misery and death inflicted on gays for so many centuries in the name of god?
And not just the Muslim god. That is happening now because of Mateen, and deservedly so, but restricting the discussion to Islam is far too easy.
Islam may be more overt about its homophobia than the other major religions — anyone who's worked in the Middle East has heard some fool in high office declaring that there are no gays in Islam, and therefore no AIDS — but the fact is, conservative iterations of all the monotheistic faiths are deeply and actively and systemically anti-gay.
The sacred monotheistic texts contain prohibitions that would by just about any legal definition be considered hate speech in the modern secular world. . . . . Such prohibitions could be dismissed as antediluvian anachronisms, not to be taken seriously in the modern world.  But of course they are taken quite seriously. Deadly seriously.
Fundamentalists and traditionalists of all three faiths not only regard such passages as divine instruction, they actually portray their homophobia as a matter of religious freedom; something noble, protected by constitutions and essential to democracy, when in fact they are working to oppress and deny fundamental rights to people based solely upon the sexuality with which they were born.
A perfect example is Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative whose purpose was to block the advance of same-sex marriage . . . . Prop 8 proponents included the Roman Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, the California Catholic Conference of bishops, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), the Union of Orthodox Jewish Organizations of America and assorted evangelical Christian groups. Together, they poured a fortune into the campaign. The Mormons alone provided $20 million.
They won, then immediately lost when the initiative was vacated by secular courts.
Since then, organized religions have continued their anti-gay activities, often going to court to ensure their right to discriminate against gays in hospitals and schools and other religiously affiliated institutions.
Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar, a British-born physician and imam, has spoken at public venues in the United States, softly and diffidently asserting that as a matter of compassion, homosexuals should be put to death.  There are many, many other sheikhs like Farrokh Sekaleshfar.
And while evangelical Christians don't seek the death penalty for homosexuality, many do want it punished. In 2004, Dr. Richard Land, the Oxford-educated former president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, told me on camera he thought gay sex should be outlawed. 
In any event, this much is singularly true: the worst mass murder in American history was directed at one group, and it was done by some one who had sworn allegiance to a fundamentalist religious group.
If casual misogyny and sexist humour helped create Marc Lépine, then organized religion must reflect on helping shape a culture that will this week have led to 50 funerals in Florida. It's not just the extremists who want to deprive gays of human rights.
People of faith might ask themselves this: even if they've never so much as lifted a hand to a gay person, have they smiled at a homophobic joke? Or overlooked mistreatment? Or nodded during an anti-gay sermon?  And if so, wouldn't this be a good time to speak up?
As often noted, yes there are "good Christians," but most of the time their voices are silent.  And through their silence and failure to vigorously oppose their fundamentalist coreligionists, they become complicit in the evil.  We need to cease giving them a pass for their silence.  They are either our allies or our enemies - the choice is theirs. 

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