Under the Guise of Religious Liberty Laws
Posted on April 18, 2016
Things don’t always work out quite like we intend them to. It’s pretty much a given, right? I wanted to sit down and write my thoughts out about what’s going on in North Carolina with this whole HB2 business, and…well, mostly North Carolina. Other states are continuing to dip their toes into the “let’s see what we can get away with in terms of segregating the LGBT community from the rest of us” pool. This isn’t about religious liberty, though. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that for a moment. But it is about religion, and it’s about civil rights.
My first thought was to look up how some of the states reacted to previous Civil Rights movement cases. One that came up during my Google search was the desegregation case in 1954 where the Supreme Court ruled that segregating schools was inherently unequal. Virginia state senator Garland Gray argued, though, that putting blacks and whites together in the same school would mean “the destruction of our culture.” He and others also feared there would then be “intermarriage between the races.”
Now, minus the intermarriage comment, does the other one sound familiar? Of course, being 2016, we go beyond stating the LGBT community will be the destruction of our culture. Instead, it’ll be the destruction of our nation and world.
Virginia’s answer to the desegregation threat was to hit it head on. Why? As the state’s senior U.S. Senator (Harry F. Byrd) believed, integrationists were “working on the theory that if Virginia can be brought to her knees, they can march through the rest of the South.” That doesn’t sound vaguely familiar with views towards newly won rights of the LGBT community, does it? And I don’t mean Virginia. Anyway, the “Massive Resistance” plan was born out of desegregation with the result being over 10,000 white students not having a school to go to. It was better that they shut down public education than let races mix.
What are we seeing in present day? We’re seeing laws popping up allowing businesses to not serve the LGBT community, allowing businesses to not hire someone who’s a member of the LGBT community, now allowing workers to sue their bosses in state court for discrimination, allowing institutions to not allow members of the LGBT community to adopt children via their services, and even allowing officials in government offices to deny services to members of the LGBT community. And how is it being done? In the form of sincerely held religious beliefs because God apparently finds the LGBT community an abomination. How did the south deny blacks equality? Also through sincerely held religious beliefs.
“As early as 1867, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld segregated railway cars on the grounds that ‘[t]he natural law which forbids [racial intermarriage] and that social amalgamation which leads to a corruption of races, is as clearly divine as that which imparted to [the races] different natures.’” (When ‘Religious Liberty’ Was Used To Justify Racism Instead Of Homophobia by Ian Millhiser)
Something else popped up during my search that really got to me. Austin Cline wrote an article back in 2015 titled Christian Supremacy: Pushing the Dhimmitude of Non-Christians in America that got me thinking. We hear a lot about tolerance, right? We should tolerate those who have different opinions than our own. Religious institutions should tolerate other religions and those who go against their own beliefs. Christianity should tolerate the LGBT community. According to the article, “Tolerance, under its original meaning, is the idea that one has the ability and right to punish or oppress others, but consciously chooses not to.” That scares the shit out of me.
How often have we heard that the United States is a Christian Nation? It’s not, yet there are some who believe if we say it long enough and loud enough, it’ll become true. Because if the US is a Christian Nation, it suggests Christians must therefore be privileged and anybody who isn’t Christian (basically who is part of a different religion, who doesn’t believe in God, or who happens to be a member of the LGBT community since most Christian churches don’t want the LGBT community as members) are willingly second-class citizens.
And if second-class citizens want the same civil rights as the privileged? Well…then you’re discriminating against Christians and their right to discriminate against you. The Christian Right believes their way is the right way and they’ve done, and will do, whatever it takes and whoever it hurts to keep things their way. That’s what we’re seeing. That’s what’s being disguised as religious liberty laws.
Don’t want black and white students mixing? Do away with public education. Don’t want gays marrying? Do away with the state issuing marriage licenses. Don’t want gays to have the same civil rights? Create laws that allow discrimination and wrap it up in religion because it’s more difficult to fight if you think you’re going up against God.
And this is where today’s post went. I didn’t quite see that coming.
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the novella Falling Awake, its sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant and Falling Awake III: Requiem.