Monday, August 01, 2016

The Right's "Religious Freedom" Argument Is a Lie

Over the years I have come to believe that, especially in the realm of politics and the civil laws, no one lies more and is as self-centered and dishonest than conservative Christians who believe every thing must cater to them and that nothing that challenges their fairy tale like beliefs can be tolerated. We are seeing the latest incarnation in this decades if not centuries old effort in the form of the "religious freedom" laws that would place these individuals' fear and hate based beliefs above the law and allow them to trample on the civil and religious rights of others.  Their attempt is cloaked under the guise of protecting "religious freedom," but only their beliefs are protected.  Overall, it's huge con job.  A piece in The Advocate looks at this calculating lie being pushed on America.  Here are highlights:
I never forgot the look in their eyes: the expressions of contempt and disgust mixed with laughter, the obscene gestures, the slurs wielded like weapons. That was the aftermath of my close friend “John” confiding to our Boy Scout camp director that he is gay.  It was only a matter of weeks before they kicked John out of the Boy Scouts. As a closeted bisexual Eagle Scout, the impact hit me like a shock wave. For nearly two decades after that, I lived in a prison of fear. Headline after headline told me about L.G.B.T. people being attacked and killed. This year, as I was in the process of coming out during the Orlando massacre, religious leaders like Pastor Roger Jimenez praised the shooter, claiming that the only “tragedy is that more of them didn’t die.” To add insult to injury, gay leaders like Greg Bourke continued to be denied membership in the Boy Scouts under a new policy, ratified a year ago this past week, which enables such discrimination under fanciful claims of “toleration and respect.”  The wave of “religious freedom” bills that swept the country this past year reveal that what transpired in the Boy Scouts was not an isolated event. We are witnessing a power play being sold to the American public through coded language and hype.  In a similar statement issued earlier this month in support of the First Amendment Defense Act, which is pending in Congress, Roman Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco proclaimed, “The Church will … continue to stand for the ability of all to exercise their religious beliefs and moral convictions in public life without fear.” These sentiments echo those made by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in his dissent from the marriage equality decision last year. Alito claimed that recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry meant “facilitat[ing] the marginalization of the many Americans who have traditional ideas.” The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu argued that language reveals power and that power itself depends on our collaboration in “misrecognition,” the recognition of someone as being other than what they really are. We can definitely see how power and misrecognition operate in the language of those claiming that the equality of LGBT people puts their “religious freedom” at stake. When we misrecognize these displays of power for vulnerability and marginalization, we empower further bigotry. We also make ourselves complicit in this mockery of human rights when we let ourselves get pulled into debates asking if LGBT rights and religious freedom can be protected simultaneously. As I’ve witnessed in the Boy Scouts, religious freedom is not under siege. It never has been. Such debates are designed only to distract us, to redirect the flow and content of social discourse on terms favorable to the privileged.  Today’s “religious freedom” policies should not be seen as a problem limited to LGBT people but as a co-optation of religion that affects us all. They are a sham with a long and sordid history. In 1861, for example, the Constitution of the Confederate States framed slavery as a right justified by the “favor and guidance of Almighty God.” In 1869, prominent minister Justin Fulton invoked religious teachings to oppose women’s suffrage, claiming that women seeking the right to vote “are not lovers of God.”  If we fail to recognize modern variations of such claims for what they really are, women and ethnic minorities might find their rights on the chopping block next.

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