The Christian Right, Gay Rights, American Civil Liberties
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It's My RELIGION, Stupid!
Religion has held a place in America's political and emotional landscape far greater than in most countries in recent history: the reverence paid to all things religious has been so resolute, so fierce, that whenever religion enters an arena, it is taken for granted that religion will gain the upper hand.*
Religion in America has always gotten special privileges. Tax exemption is one, of course, but it has always been given the privilege to discriminate: it rarely has to "put up with" anything. After all, telling religion that it MUST do something is akin to ordering around God. Religion may be God's representative, but Americans have a tendency to equate the two instead.
Perhaps that's why the relatively small fracas in Arizona caught the attention of the American public: in an article titled Arizona on Steriods, Think Progress wonders if the Supreme Court will make the ultimate decision on discrimination:
"Unfortunately, Arizona is far from the only state where lawmakers are
contemplating bills that would give the government, private businesses, and
others the a license to discriminate under the guise of "religious liberty." As
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards wrote
yesterday, "this didn't start with Arizona, and it won't end with Arizona."
Freedom To Discriminate
For years, the gay
rights movement has described itself as one of civil rights, with a great many
people (especially African Americans) aghast at the idea that the two were ever
alike. The situation in Arizona, however, gave more credence to the
gay-rights-as-civil-rights meme than the Christian Right imagined: in other
words, while crying for "religious freedom", it had to admit to
another freedom it already had - the freedom to discriminate. Rich Lowry of the
National Review stated as much (see below): Arizona SB 1062 was simply
attempting to define a form of discrimination that was already on the books,
and it was clearly aimed at discrimination against gays. It's undoing was it's
broad terminology - so broad that it could be used to discriminate against
anyone else for any number of reasons as long as providing the service or goods
to someone was "against my religion." Gays were not only grouped in
with unwed mothers and prostitutes, they were lost in a vast sea of people
one's religion might not abide: discrimination is limited only to the thousands
of doctrinal variants.
The Coming War
The weapons used in
any war depend upon who you are attacking, and the weapons of choice by the
Christian Right will be the Bible and the Constitution, both used in the legislatures
and the courts. To some, this might seem an unfair advantage, given America's
reverence for religion: the enemy seems only to have the Constitution. But
there is another weapon - totally ethical - which now eludes the Christian
Right: America's conscience, it's sense of fairness.
The strategy of the
Christian Right in terms of it's newly found cry of "religious
freedom" will be to pitch each battle individually in each state, just as
it has in its front on abortion. The battles will be won easily in states like
Alabama and Mississippi, but expect blood to be shed in other states.
The coming war may
seem to some to be bloodless, a battle for the rights of bakers to refuse to
make wedding cakes for gay couples. Indeed, this is how the Right is portraying
the whole confrontation: "We insist on our religious freedom to
discriminate. Just go to another bakery!" This, however, is but a
pretense: the implications and ramifications are far reaching and the Right can
see victory on other fronts: discrimination can seep into the very fabric of
America while under the guise of religion.
And the Christian
Right is still a formidable adversary - formidable to inflict wounds into gay
rights, pro choice and other progressive movements. Spurred on by its own
wounds from federal court reversals, the Christian Right feels that it is
fighting for its life.
... and it's