Bad religion and Arizona


The sign read “No religion should be for discrimination.” That about sums up my feeling about the proposed Arizona law that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to gays because it’s against their religious beliefs.

It was vetoed by Arizona’s governor last week, but the fact that it got so much support from so-called Christian groups is downright appalling. I mean isn’t that a bit oxymoronic, practitioners of religion practicing intolerance and then wanting to have a law that backs up that intolerance?

My understanding of Christianity is that we are supposed to be tolerant of others. Jesus summed up the commandments to two: love of God and love your neighbor as yourself. Discriminating against folks because of their sexual orientation doesn’t sound very loving to me. And besides, scripture confirms that God knowingly and purposely, allows the sun to shine on everyone — the just and unjust, the judgmental and the non-judgmental, saint and sinner alike.

There is no Biblical precedent for shunning and/or discriminating against ones neighbor. In fact, Jesus’ life and ministry focused on reaching out to and restoring to community those who were deemed outcast by orthodox practitioners of Judaism in colonized Palestine.

Did the bill really talk about “denying” folks service? This sounds real familiar. I thought we had crossed this river already but apparently the right wing preservers of narrow American culture buttressed by a narrow brand of Christianity were seriously trying to re-cross it with Arizona’s Religious Liberty bill.

Arizona isn’t alone in this foolishness; the Georgia legislature has introduced a similar bill, and other similar measures have been introduced in several other states, including Kansas, Tennessee and Mississippi. Even an Ohio legislator attempted to propose such a measure but backed off. In the heat of the controversy the idea has stirred up in other states.

Religious liberty that gives one the right to discriminate is a dangerous idea. Just think of those who believe in the idea that Black folks are cursed because of either the curse of Cain or the curse of Ham. Blacks could be discriminated against on the basis that they are subhuman or cursed and thus should be avoided. And they don’t have to be recognized for their humanity because their very existence is sin. I know that sounds far fetched, but the bill sounds no more far fetched than the idea that my so-called religious liberty would allow me to limit someone else’s liberty.

In fact, the Georgia and Arizona bills were so sweeping that according to an article on the subject in a recent issue of The New Republic magazine they open the door for discrimination against not only gay people, but other groups as well. According to the article under the Arizona bill, ”a restaurateur could deny service to an out-of-wedlock mother, a cop could refuse to intervene in a domestic dispute if his religion allows for husbands beating their wives, and a hotel chain could refuse to rent rooms to Jews, Hindus, or Muslims.”

The Arizona-based Center for Arizona Policy, which helped craft the bill, remarked after the bill’s veto that, “veto of SB 1062 marks a sad day for Arizonans who cherish and understand religious liberty.” I agree it was indeed a sad day that in 2014 one would seek to limit the rights of fellow citizens. And it was sad that the business community put the pressure on the governor to veto the bill.

The bill was criticized by several corporations, including Apple, American Airlines, Delta Airlines and the Marriot Hotel chain. The NFL even chimed in with its disapproval and there were hints that the passing of the bill could cost the state next year’s Super Bowl, which is slated for Glendale, Arizona.

It would have been nice to have witnessed large numbers of Christians locking arms with the LGBT community to protest this stinker that would only have divided an already hoodwinked and divided U.S. So I was glad to see that at least one prominent Christian pastor spoke out against this thinly veiled attempt to discriminate against the gay community.

Pastor Andy Stanley, head of North Point Ministries, the second largest church in the country, said he “finds it offensive that Christians would leverage faith to support the law. Serving people we don’t see eye to eye with is the essence of Christianity. Jesus died for a world with which he didn’t see eye to eye. If a bakery doesn’t want to sell its products to a gay couple, it’s their business. Literally. But leave Jesus out of it.”


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