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    May 28, 2009

    The hypocrisy of 'religious freedom'

    Posted by: Chris

    Memphisantigay 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.)



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    1. Hawyer on May 29, 2009 3:00:40 PM:

      Typical bible belt scenario, Chris. Don't you miss it way down yonder in Brasil?

      You know, no matter how you slice and dice it, the animus behind the opposition to gay civil liberties (in the US at least - I can't speak for other countries) lies squarely with Christian religious bigotry, framed invariably in THEIR self-selected context of their "freedom" to export their religion from the pulpit to the public sector.

      Those of us who came of age in the 60s - understand full well the brutality of practicing "Christians" when it comes to lining up of the wrong side of history.

      Accordingly, the Civil Rights act of 1964 annealed in our collective consciousness the concept that: in your home, church, or private club you are perfectly free to harbor and advocate any crackpot view of racism or white supremacy. But when you step off the curb into the public sector, including privately-owned commercial enterprise, the new social contract forbids you to discriminate based on race - and you do so under penalty of federal law.

      But here we are grovelling state-by-bloody-state trying to eek our our civil rights at the ballot box - Prop Eight the latest and most ignominious back-hand - lavishly larded with hard money from the Mormons and Catholics.

      I'm for cracking open the Civil Rights Act and penciling in sexual orientation or expression - and being done with it. And I'm ready to hit DC with the pitchforks en masse.

    1. Nursing cover on Jul 15, 2010 3:44:45 PM:

      he surely was stressing his thought :D

    1. cheap ugg boots on Nov 21, 2010 9:30:12 PM:

      See this press statement by Iraqi LGBT

      Iraqi gays condemn Obama/Clinton inaction on pogrom
      Embassy statement 'offensive and insulting'


    1. cheap ugg boots on Nov 29, 2010 6:40:30 AM:

      You know - I thought we were supposed to be getting out of Iraq. In that I can't even keep up with the insults and assaults on gays in this country, under cover of political sanction, I damn can't take on the entire Muslim world with its cryptofascist view of society.

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