Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said (or is supposed to have said) that, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.” Regardless of who actually made this statement, it’s a good rule of thumb to live by. Unfortunately, it seems that Americans are increasingly demanding the right to have their own facts, even if they fly in the face of reality.
I have been speculating about how the religious right might retaliate against the possibility of same-sex marriage in all fifty states. It is becoming increasingly clear that the resistance is going to be couched in terms like “religious liberty,” “religious freedom,” “freedom of conscience” and the like. This is quite clever, since many Americans seem to think that “sincerely held” religious beliefs should be exempt from any and all criticism. We saw this last year with the decision in the Hobby Lobby case, where the fact that the Green family (the owner of said company) believed that IUDs and emergency contraception caused abortion, despite copious evidence to the contrary, was enough of a reason for them not to provide these to their employees. It reminds me of Peter Pan, where the sheer power of belief makes the impossible possible.
On the LGBT rights front, we see GOP lawmakers jockeying to bring forth various “religious liberty” laws that enable people in a variety of professions — restaurant owners, florists, bakers, and now even doctors and EMTs (see http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/2/19/michigan-doctor-refuses-to-treat-baby-of-lesbians.html and http://www.cbsnews.com/news/bill-would-let-michigan-doctors-emts-refuse-to-treat-gay-patients/) — to opt out of serving certain groups of people if doing so violates their “deeply held religious convictions.” The religious right is taking a page out of their anti-abortion playbook (where the strategy has been to make abortion difficult if not impossible to obtain) by making the environment so hostile to LGBT individuals that even if they have the right to be civilly married, they will be too afraid and marginalized to be open about their sexuality. It reminds me of the backlash to the Civil Rights Movement, where conservatives de. The message from religious conservatives in all these cases, from the right to abortion to black civil rights and now LGBT rights, is the same: “Try exercising those so-called rights of yours now!”
The idea of using religion as a loophole to justify discrimination isn’t new, since it was also used during the Civil Rights Movement:
Fortunately, these religious exemptions were eventually found to be unconstitutional. Perhaps more importantly, public opinion changed to the point where blatant displays of racism and discrimination became taboo. It’s interesting to note that during last year’s Donald Sterling scandal, everyone was up in arms about his racist statements (which were offensive, but didn’t harm anyone), but few people pointed out that he was a discriminatory slum lord (which was offensive and harmful to actual people). I used to think that we were headed in the same way with LGBT rights, at least in terms of making outright homophobia distasteful, but it appears that we’re actually going backwards in certain aspects. Sure, a same-sex couple can now get married in Alabama — or much of it, anyway — but they can still be fired for being LGBT or legally discriminated against, just because someone has “prayed upon it” that affording someone basic civil rights makes Jesus cry.
This so-called “religious liberty” crusade is rapidly diminishing any respect I may have once held for religion. That these proud, self-proclaimed Christians have no problem with being jerks for their deity speaks volumes about what “Christian love” is really about. Any black minister or Christian who hitches their wagon to “religious liberty” is being purposefully stupid, not just because they would be allying with people who would never go out of their way to support black causes (but expect black Christians to be on the front lines of culture war challenges), but also because they’re forgetting that this same line of reasoning was used against the black community. And once the conservative religionists are done with the LGBTs, it not hard that they’d try to apply the same “logic” to discriminating against non-whites, Jews, atheists, or whoever else becomes the object of the latest two minutes of Christian hate.
The case of the doctor who won’t treat the baby of the lesbian couple is particularly egregious, not just because its affecting a baby who is presexual and didn’t choose her parents, but also because it sets a dangerous precedent. Doctors and EMTs regularly treat people who do “bad things,” like mobsters, drug dealers, gang members, rapists, child molesters, etc. yet there is no call amongst Christian healthcare professionals to opt out of treating such people. Once the precedent is made that a doctor, nurse, or EMT can decide not to treat someone based on some arbitrary characteristic because of “religious liberty,” then the door is open for not treating people based on race, religion, sex, or anything else. Some might scoff at this notion, and I would have too not long ago, but given the enthusiasm among conservatives for these “religious liberty” bills, it’s obvious that a lot of people out there are clearly jonesing to do some discriminating.
There’s a famous anectdote about Mother Teresa where she tells a man in horrible pain that he should see his suffering as Jesus kissing him, which causes the man (who almost certainly would have been Hindu, not Catholic) to shout, “Tell your Jesus to stop kissing me!” I feel the same way as this man towards the “Christian love” that is supposedly being put on display by these “religious liberty” bills. People like the doctor who refused to see the baby with two moms claim that they’re withholding services out of “love,” since the loving thing for a Christian to do is not encourage people to be gay. My question is how is not treating a six-day old baby a sign of “love”? Are those two lesbians really going to think to themselves, “Wow, that Christian doctor was right not to see our child. And because she was so forthright about her dislike of our sexuality, we’re going to break up, marry men, and have our child adopted out to a good Christian family.” If an EMT refuses to treat a gay teen whose been assaulted by bullies, is this kid going to think, “The EMT was right not to treat me; I caused this beating by being gay, so I need to get reparative therapy and join a good Bible-believing church.” I think it’s safe to say that the answer will be “no” in both cases. If this is how Christians show their “love,” I think it’s safe to say that Christianity has about as much to do with love as Islam does with peace, which is not much.