Throughout time, one of the most persistent and disturbing trends in the history of our world has been the atrocities committed in the name of religion. So-called Christians, for instance, have a bloody history of violence and torture encompassing the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Salem Witch Trials, just to name of a few of the better known examples. It seems they have a burning passion to do harm to others who do not share their beliefs.
Espousing their deeply held religious beliefs, the conservatives of their time used them as an excuse to deny women’s rights, including the right to vote. And, in the South, Southern Baptists and other denominations justified slavery and racial segregation as sanctioned by God. Even the Ku Klux Klan considers itself to be following a Christian mission in perpetrating heinous acts of violence and discrimination against African-Americans and other minorities.
Fortunately, in America, we have worked to mostly remove discrimination from being encoded in our laws. And, while there is always more work to be done, we are closer to realizing the line from the Pledge of Allegiance that says “with liberty and justice for all.” Please note there is no (*) or exceptions listed after it.
Now, however, the modern day Pharisees of the Religious Right are trying to codify discrimination against women and members of the LGBTQ community under the guise of Religious Freedom laws. While these laws keep popping up in states with Republican controlled legislatures, an even more troubling event looms on the horizon with the release of the draft of an executive order that was proposed by some in the Trump administration — “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom.”
It has been reported that Trump’s daughter and son-in-law persuaded him not to sign it. At the same time, there are many in the administration who are pushing this type of order, including Mike Pence. This executive order and any similar laws or edicts represent a threat to the freedoms of all by unacceptably broadening the scope of legalized discrimination. It would allow virtually anyone in business, medical practice or government to refuse to serve, treat, employ or in anyway assist a member of the LGBTQ community if it conflicted with their deeply held religious beliefs. It also broadens business exemptions from having to provide women with contraceptives through their insurance plans.
Under the First Amendment to the Constitution, it says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Supporters of these new Religious Freedom laws are claiming that having to do business with the LGBTQ community or provide contraceptives to women prohibits the free exercise of their religion. Actually, they’ve got it backwards.
These so-called Religious Freedom laws are the ones that violate the First Amendment as well as the principles of a free and just society.
(1) Broadening the scope of application beyond actual religious institutions to businesses and individuals, with only a minimal or even tangential religious purpose, to allow discrimination against any segment of our population based on a religious belief, and especially one that is not universally shared, would in effect be unconstitutionally establishing a particular religion by giving it unique privileges and recognition.
(2) The free exercise of one’s religion is subject to certain limitations as are other rights. For example, while we have a right to free speech, we do not have the right to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater or to commit libel or slander because doing so adversely affects the rights of others. You could imagine what would happen if we allowed human sacrifices or witch burning as a free exercise of one’s religious beliefs. If we allow this discrimination, where does it stop? Will Religious Freedom laws be used against other religions, ethnic groups, racial groups? It’s a dangerous precedent. It should also be noted that there is nothing preventing anyone from believing whatever they choose or associating privately only with those who share their beliefs.
(3) The principles of equality and justice demand that the rights of everyone must be respected in the public marketplace and any limitations must be applied in the narrowest scope possible to prevent irreparable harm from discrimination. These Religious Freedom laws put an undue burden on women and members of the LGBTQ community, while threatening their health and safety with the potential to deny them vital services.
(4) Finally, those who seek to impose their “deeply held” religious beliefs on select groups based on their interpretation of the Bible seem to have missed the scriptures that say, “judge not … render unto Caesar … love thy neighbor … do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It makes you wonder whether their “religious beliefs” are simply an effort to justify their hatred for anyone who is different.
If I sound passionate about this subject, it is because I am a transwoman. Fortunately, my friends accept me and I live in a state where my rights are protected just like everyone else’s. However, in other places, members of the LGBTQ community face severe threats to their freedom and even their survival. We did not ask to be this way. We just are. I believe God made me who I am for a reason. All I want, and all we want, is to have the same rights EVERY citizen of our country should be entitled to enjoy. No more. No less.
Please stand up for us and true freedom by staying vigilant and making it known that you do not support religious tyranny and discrimination masquerading as religious freedom. To see what you can do, contact the A.C.L.U., the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom for All Americans or GLAAD today.
We must fight together, because no one is free until we’re all free to live without fear!
Let the R.A.I.N. wash away the lies and reveal the truth!
The Divine Miss Briby