May 28, 2009
The hypocrisy of 'religious freedom'
Posted by: Chris
Coming home to visit family in Memphis always offers a fresh reminder of how all those headlines about the forward march of marriage equality in some parts of the country bear little resemblance to the sad reality facing gay folk who live where I grew up. This trip home, I learned that the local county commission is embroiled in a debate about whether to adopt an ordinance banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
I listened (as long as I could force myself) to discussion of the proposal on the local AM conservative talk radio station, and opposition lined up mostly along the relatively new complaint we hear from anti-gay advocates that such laws discriminate against religious people. The ordinance carves out from its reach churches and other employers whose mission is faith-based, but the host and caller after caller complained that Christians who own their own businesses would nonetheless be forced to hire and not fire GLBT employees.
The sponsor of the ordinance, Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, was the guest on the program and did an excellent job of answering the criticisms. (In fact, rarely have I heard a politician offer such an effective defense of gay rights.) He pointed out that religion was offered in the past and rejected as a defense for discriminating in the workplace based on race, gender, and -- actually -- religion.
Yesterday the ordinance failed the first test of its support on the commission, and these defenders of "religious freedom" failed the test of seriousness along the way. That's because an amendment was adopted to limit the ordinance to Shelby County government employees, not those in the private sector. If objections to the ordinance were really about these "Christian businesses," then the amendment should have answered them.
But, of course, this debate isn't about religious freedom at all. Because even when the proposal was limited to the government itself, it was rejected. The reason is as obvious as the coalition of conservative clergy organized to fight the ordinance and the biblical references of almost all those who spoke out against it at the commission meeting.
This wasn't about protecting the rights of conservative Christian-owned business to fire gay workers, it was about protecting the ability of conservative Christians in positions of authority in the government to hire and fire based upon their personal biblical views. That, my friends, is a far more insidious form of religious discrimination.
(Photo of anti-gay Commissioner Wyatt Bunker -- any relation to Archie? -- and coalition of conservative pastors via Commercial Appeal.)
TrackBack URL for this entry:
The comments to this entry are closed.