Sunday, June 19, 2016

If You Support Anti-LGBTQ "Religious Freedom" Laws, You Aren't Really Different from Omar Mateen

Do not plot harm against your neighbor,
    who lives trustfully near you.
Do not accuse anyone for no reason—
    when they have done you no harm. (Proverbs 3:29-30 NIV)


I promised myself I would take a week to cool off before writing this post, and I did. I admit I was rather burning when I saw the “outpourings of sympathy” for the victims of the Orlando shooting from people who make their living inciting hate against LGBTQ people - often while omitting to note that this was a hate crime. Yup, the Religious Right has largely made this about kicking all the Muslims out (despite the fact that Omar Mateen was born in the US), while panicking about calls on the Left for gun control.

But let us make no mistake about this: This was a hate crime - domestic terrorism - perpetrated deliberately against LGBTQ people.

I cannot see any reason to sugarcoat this fact, or make the specious claim that this was a crime against “America.” The shooter was not targeting “Americans,” he was targeting LGBTQ people. Period. Just like Dylann Roof wasn’t targeting “Americans,” he was targeting African Americans. This isn’t hard to understand.

It’s just hard to say when you yourself have been deliberately targeting LGBTQ people for harm. And the problem is, many of you on the religious right have been targeting LGBTQ people for harm, just like Omar Mateen.

I’m not going to pull punches here:

If you support the so-called “Religious Freedom” laws giving you the right to harm LGBTQ people, you really aren’t different from Omar Mateen. You just want to harm more slowly and in a way you don’t have to see the results.

***

Let me start with this: The dictionary definition of “hate” is “feel intense or passionate dislike for (someone)” Synonyms include loathing, disgust, shrinking from, finding intolerable, and so on.

A “hate crime” is one committed as a result of one’s prejudice against a particular group. If you want to put the two together, it is a crime committed because of the intense, passionate dislike for a group, motivated by one’s loathing and disgust for that group. Obviously, a hate crime requires a crime.

But I want to go a little further. The essence of hate in action is action or inaction with the intent to harm someone based on one’s loathing and disgust for that person’s group.

Given that, we can say the following: the Omar Mateen was demonstrating hate in action. His loathing and disgust for LGBTQ people (and perhaps himself - see below) let him to take action to harm them.

But we can also say this: a person who lets a gay person drown because of his loathing for LGBTQ people is also demonstrating hate in action - or at least inaction. It isn’t a crime (there is no duty to rescue in most cases) but it is certainly a moral and ethical violation. (Saint James, for example, makes it clear in his screed against the wealthy that their failure to care for the poor was sin: ‘If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them.”

Let me lay it out, then:

One who actively or passively seeks to harm someone because of loathing, disgust, intense and passionate dislike, is demonstrating hatred it action.

I’m so sick of Christians taking this raw hatred and calling it “love.” No, it isn’t. It’s hate. It’s a need to control other people. It’s fear that God will smite you if you don’t hate. It’s fear you might change your mind about a cherished theological sacred cow if you act compassionately.

***

Let me look at these so-called “religious freedom” laws. I’m particularly noting the laws recently passed in Mississippi and North Carolina. (I’ll talk about the transgender aspects of the laws in future posts.) There have also been laws that were narrowly defeated (or vetoed) in Indiana and Kansas - and more are proposed elsewhere.

I believe it is crucial to actually look at what the laws say, not just what some conservative pundit says they say. If you actually read the laws, they broadly exempt from anti-discrimination laws ANYONE who denies goods or services based on their belief that sex should only be between a man and a woman within the bounds of marriage.


Think about that for a minute. Haven’t we experienced this before in our history? Like, say, up until 50 years ago?

***

I keep hearing people claim that these laws are just about being forced to “participate” in same-sex weddings. Again, read the text.

And take a look at these cases:

  1. Guy with an auto repair shop won’t serve gays.  But he will give you a discount if you bring your gun. Because he can’t bring himself to associate with “sinners.”
  2. A pediatrician declined to accept a child as a patient because her parents were lesbian.  Her excuse? Well, she couldn’t form a good doctor/parent relationship. Because LGBTQ people are too loathsome to treat with ordinary courtesy and professionalism, apparently; and not even the needs of a child overcome that loathing.
  3. Police chief with a good record is summarily fired by the mayor, because she is lesbian. 

This is clearly far beyond baking a cake or (in my own case) playing a little music at a wedding.

This is about denying LGBTQ people basic access to society. It is nothing less than Jim Crow in a new situation.

Let me just note that Christians are so very quick to cry “persecution” for all kinds of silly things. But I bet they would be screaming bloody murder if they were actually being denied employment, housing, medical care for their kids, and basic goods and services. And I agree, this would be persecution. Real persecution. 

So why are Christians so eager to persecute others?

Let’s not sugar coat this either. If you deny a person housing, employment, health care, goods and services, isn’t that likely to risk their death? I mean really, if everyone did it - and if everyone was that kind of “Christian,” that’s what would happen - wouldn’t it be near impossible to survive?

And hey, this actually happened to African Americans. If you haven’t, read W.E.B Du Bois's book The Souls of Black Folk and read about how his toddler son died from cholera because he couldn’t get medical care. An educated, middle class African American, and his son died because of Jim Crow.

Do you really believe that this won’t happen to LGBTQ people in some parts of this country? Don’t you see that if everyone thought like this, it would cause real, tangible damage to people?

***

Let’s go back to Omar Mateen. He appears to have believed that he was doing God’s Will™ by harming LGBTQ people.

When you deny goods, services, housing, employment, and health care to LGBTQ people, are you not doing the same thing? Harming someone in the name of God?

***
Why supporting the law is as bad as discriminating yourself.

Freedom does not exist in a vacuum. Freedom is a right to do or not do something. And a government guaranteed freedom is one which has the force of law behind it.

Let me give a good example from our history:

Some Southerners are real quick to claim that the Civil War was about “State’s Rights.” But rights do not just exist as an intangible. We were and are talking about a specific right that was considered worth dying for: the right to own another human being.

This isn’t really up for debate. The Confederates had no illusions about this, but were clear and open that they were fighting to preserve and extend slavery. (Please, please read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ outstanding longform article in The Atlantic and check the primary sources, which he links.)  It is also rather beyond dispute that the South thought it was on the side of Almighty God, defending the good against evil.

Likewise, in this case, look at what “Religious Freedom” means. Freedom to do what?

Deny people employment

Deny people housing

Refuse to sell goods or services

Refused to do one’s job as a government employee

Deny people and their children medical care

Exclude people from society

And why?

Because they do not share your beliefs about what they should or should not do with their genitals.

That’s what this is about. It is about expressing hatred by harming others. In the name of God.

That’s a big problem.

And it’s the same basic problem with what Omar Mateen did.

It is based on the belief that one’s god requires one to harm others.

It is based on fear that if one does not express hate toward others, god will retaliate. 

And don’t try to fall back on the “they can just go somewhere else” bullcrap. If you succeed in converting the entire world to your religion, they won’t have anywhere to go. You are really just counting on the fact that other people aren’t as much of an Asshole for Jesus™ as you are. That’s shameful.

And when you advocate for the government to protect people’s right to harm others in the name of religion, you are standing by watching as others use their religion to harm others. It’s as if you sold the gun to Mateen knowing he would go gun people down. Either way, you are standing by and watching people be harmed when you could have prevented it.

Don’t think for a minute that with these laws in place there won’t be pressure brought to bear on businesses who choose to serve LGBTQ people either. The long history of “Christian” boycotts of corporations for the unspeakable evil of providing health benefits to same sex partners should be ample evidence that - particularly in some communities - serving an LGBTQ person would be the equivalent of serving an African American back in Jim Crow. Basically economic suicide.

***

The thing is, at heart it is the same. It’s just less messy.

Mateen watched his victims bleed and die. That’s messy.

But the person who turns away a child from their medical practice probably won’t see that child die because of a curable condition missed because the child couldn’t get primary care.

But the person who refuses to employ LGBTQ people probably won’t have to watch that person succumb to hunger.

But the person who refuses to rent to LGBTQ people won’t have to see that person freeze under a bridge. (For what it is worth, 40% of homeless teens are LGBTQ.)

And one step removed from that, since I don’t own rental property, a medical practice, or have employees, I can pretend that my vote for a “Religious Freedom” law won’t harm anyone, even though I really should know better.

And I won’t have to watch an LGBTQ person commit suicide in despair either, most likely.

As a society, we have a various points recognized that minorities of all sorts are and have always been at risk for harm from the majority. Hence, we have the Civil Rights laws and their various relatives. We have employee protection laws, consumer protection laws, and so on. Without these, the powerful inevitably prey on the weak.

Just as we can’t say, “well, it wasn’t my factory that blew up,” we can’t just say “well, I didn’t fire that person.” We make the laws, and we are responsible for their effects, whether we want to be or not.

When we support laws like this, we are no different than the person who did not own slaves personally, but stood up and fought for the right of others to do so. We rightfully condemn that person for being on the side of evil. 

***

Oh, and before I forget: if you supported Ted Cruz, you actually went further. I posted at more length here, but the bottom line is this. Cruz (and Jindal and Huckabee) spoke at a conference put on by Kevin Swanson, who has openly called for the execution of LGBTQ people. 

Cruz was asked about this before appearing at the conference, and refused to answer the question. He knowingly chose to link himself with someone who has called for exactly what Omar Mateen did. 


***

It shouldn’t be too hard to see what is going on here. For so long, Evangelicalism has taught that a legitimate expression of the Christian religion is to condemn and persecute those who do not follow the same sexual rules.

Not just that, but a good Christian must take every opportunity to express his or her displeasure to other people for their sexual choices. Otherwise, the Christian is deemed to be “participating” in their sin. That this only applies to sexual rules is pretty evident.

But isn’t that what is going on here? Don’t you believe that your god requires you to express displeasure to others about their sexual behavior, and bring god’s wrath to bear on them?

And isn’t that what Omar Mateen did?

***

Bottom line: when you harm others - or give others permission to do that harm - in the name of your god, you really aren’t different from Omar Mateen. You just lie to yourself better.

Clive James once said about those who venerated Leon Trotsky, “It followed, or seemed to follow, that Trotsky must have embodied a more human version of the historic force that sacrificed innocent people to egalitarian principle: a version that would sacrifice fewer of them, in a nicer way. Alas, it followed only if the facts were left out.”

The quote is apropos here. Omar Mateen sacrificed innocent people to the principle that God Hates Fags. “Religious Freedom” laws are the Trotsky to Mateen’s Stalin. While they pretend to sacrifice fewer people, and in a nicer way, this only is true if the facts were left out.

So, if you are one of those who expressed sympathy for the victims, ask yourself if you aren't really just trying to do the same thing, in a "nicer" way.

***


As should be pretty obvious, persecution of LGBTQ people is driven - like all hate - by fear. Yoda got it right, and is still right today:


Note on a common objection:

I’m sure I will hear the objection that Mateen didn’t give his victims a chance to repent. Thus, persecuting LGBTQ people with “Religious Freedom” laws might lead at least some of them to repent. If you are sure of hell as conscious eternal torment, then perhaps this makes sense. Inflict pain and suffering on people now, maybe save their souls…

Hey, you know what? Someone already did this better!

Ever heard of the Inquisition?

Here’s how it worked: accuse someone of a crime, like, say, for sake of argument, “sodomy.” You don’t even need proof. Just torture the person until they confess. Once they do, a bit more torture is all that is needed to get them to “repent” in order to stop the pain. Then, before they have a chance to recant, execute them for the crime. It’s perfect! Just inflict pain now, save their eternal soul, and you can feel good that you just tortured and murdered someone in God’s name. Hey, it “worked” before…

See, you want to do the same thing. Inflict pain. Ostracism, exclusion, homelessness, starvation, lack of medical care. That’ll cause repentance, right?

(I’m not joking either. John MacArthur recommends this to parents of LGBTQ kids.) 

***

Note on Consistency:

When I have discussed this issue with others, I have found that there is a class of people who have strong libertarian beliefs. The ones who are intellectually honest will eventually admit - or concede - that the same arguments in favor of “Religious Freedom” laws also apply to Jim Crow. If it is okay to deny a lesbian a job because your religion tells you to, then isn’t it okay to deny an African American a job because your religion tells you to? 

***

Note on Omar Mateen:

It has come out that Mateen frequented the club he shot up, and had connected to same sex (potential) partners using hookup apps. There is at least an inference to be drawn that he may well have been gay, and that his response to the despair of being condemned by his religion pushed him in the direction of projecting his self-hatred onto others and murdering them. 

***

Other relevant posts:


And, my series on Dominionism, which I believe explains why the Religious Right believes that “free exercise of religion” means forcing other people to follow their religious rules.


And one I have linked before from atheist Neil Carter. I (obviously) don't agree with all his conclusions, but there is a lot of truth in this post. I personally have experienced all four of the forms of toxic "love" he describes, from friends and even family. 

Your Love Is Toxic

Link addition, June 22, 2016:

Interesting analysis by fivethirtyeight.com (Nate Silver's site) on the frequency of hate crimes by group. On a population percentage basis, hate crimes against LGBTQ people are several times greater than against African Americans and Jews, who are the next most common. 



http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/hate-crimes-against-lgbt-people-are-sadly-common/ 

17 comments:

  1. I am also too angry and sick at heart to be very coherent around this issue. The medical one particularly gets me because this is a BASIC value you that you learn in medical (in my case nursing) ethics: you treat everyone. EVERYONE. The mean old man with an infection who yells about the niggers in the hospital? Yes, you have to treat him. The child molester who is up, with guard escort, from prison for a surgery they can't do there? Yep, you have to give him his meds. The guy with AIDS who needs his transfusion? The Muslim lady who needs to keep herself covered? The Seventh Day Adventist who needs vegetarian feeding tube liquid? The Hmong lady whose religious needs require 23 people and a chicken in her room? Yes. (In a Catholic hospital, no less.) I cannot conceive of how "but her parents are gay" seemed like an excuse to refuse treatment. It is so unethical that it shouldn't be a matter of the law or not--the state medical board should be down on it like a sack of hammers.

    In a more general sense, this makes me angry because 1) it causes real suffering and real deaths. Even when nobody shoots up a nightclub, it causes suicides and all kinds of damage when gay kids are kicked out of their homes or are *terrified they will be if anybody ever finds out who they really are*.

    2) Don't patronize me with talk about sins (especially not with the "love the sinner" crap--what love do they show to those "sinners"? Show me one example.) We don't reason this way with other sins. Nobody gets kicked out of their family for blasphemy, for example--nobody argues that they should refuse services to people who wander their shop yelling "OMG!" about things--although blasphemy would, in fact, draw the death penalty in the Mosaic Law.

    3) So I wish people would just admit the facts: they do this because they are squicked out by the existence of certain people and because they can. The same argument happened during Jim Crow where people honestly believed (they said) that black and white populations "had different germs" and so had to have separate facilities. If you're brave enough to do the vile thing, be brave enough to do the vile thing honestly.

    4) (A rabbit trail) I also wish they'd stop pretending that they are protecting ME, a straight white woman, from all the nefarious people who will pretend to be transgender to rape me. First of all, why do they think women go to the bathroom in groups NOW? The stick figure in a dress on the door has never protected us. It's not like bathrooms are havens of safety. It's also not like they care if I get raped in literally any other scenario (then it is a question of what I was wearing and how I was behaving). Second of all, given that transgender folks have a hugely higher risk of being murdered than I do, I am not particularly worried that a rapist will think it's a good trade-off to fake-transition and stick out like a sore thumb. Thirdly, where do they think transgender people pee now? And yet, is anybody getting raped by fake-trans folk? Fourth, where is the outrage over transmen using the dude's restroom? Oh, that's right, there isn't any, because this isn't REALLY about your position on transsexuality, it's about defining who gets access to the womenfolk. (Eunuchs, we must assume, we would be okay with--a la Babylon.)

    I can honestly empathize with a lot of the genuine fear and emotion that gets stirred up in all this--I recognize that a lot of folks haven't thought about it clearly, and that they are scared. But I can't empathize to the point of ACTUALLY HARMING people that Jesus died for, I don't care how scared you are.

    And I will say, I empathize not one bit with the Wackadoo and Those Who Associate With the Wackadoo (Kevin No-Relation). They are NOT scared. They are scaring people and angering them, on purpose, for gain. They're in the same category as Robespierre, they're just not as good at it as he was.

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    1. As usual, outstanding comment. As you know, my wife is a nurse, and she has indeed had the same issues you mention in her practice. We attorneys too must often represent people we may not like personally for any number of reasons.

      I hope to do a series on the transgender issue soon. I have it about 2/3 written.

      Agree that Kevin S. and his ilk are like Robespierre - and I include James Dobson in that category. I think, however, that they *sell* fear - because fear of sex sells better than anything else. The average person is probably acting more out of fear than not, just in my experience. And that includes, as you aptly note, fear by men that they might be objectified/raped as is they were a woman, fear that gender roles might be blurred, fear that all LGBTQ people are rapists (yes, Dobson, you will be held accountable for that lie some day), fear that their kids will be contaminated with the gay gene and thus burn in hell...

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    2. Breanna: I was also pretty disgusted when the right suddenly cared SO MUCH about rape victims when the bathroom issue blew up, for exactly the reason stated. In any other situation they would be grasping at any straw possible to make it the victim's fault, maybe even to the point of denying that marital rape is a real thing. It doesn't mean anything to say you care about rape victims, unless you ACTUALLY CARE the rest of the time when they don't suit your immediate political purpose.

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    3. "what love do they show to those "sinners"? Show me one example."

      While out running today, I did think of ONE example: When I was in high school, there was a guy at our church, who, as his ministry, ran a hospice for dying AIDS patients. And he was clear that he believed his mission was to show love and compassion without judgment or moralizing.

      Yep. One example. In my entire 39 years. And I note that he preached "love," not "hate the sin."

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    4. I should note that my dad, who is a pastor, encourages his church folks to take water bottles, sandwiches, and donuts to hand out at Pride every year to demonstrate care. But like you pointed out, my dad also doesn't preach "hate the sin".

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  2. Everything she said 👆. We are all Gods children. Every single one of us. There's not a single being on this Earth that God didn't create. So that makes us spiritual siblings. I would never harm a fellow child of God so I guess I won't be harming anyone. I think Jesus is love in its human form and that he commanded us to love. I'm going to keep pumping along on the love train. I believe people are born the way they are and God doesn't make mistakes. That's pretty simple and it keeps my heart as hate free as I can.

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  3. Oh and I think Dr Dobson is a disgusting creature as well as Ted Cruz. Yet I want them and those like them (religious right bigots) to have all the rights I want everyone to have. People in that category challenge my use of love more than any other group.

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  4. I've seen the "slippery slope" idea in this debate go far beyond even "If I can refuse a lesbian a job/medical care/housing because of my religion, why not a black person/woman/Muslim/etc.?" I once saw a conservative on Twitter slip down the slope without even realizing it. While talking about wedding cake bakers and gay weddings, he asked a liberal if he would be okay with a feminist printer refusing to print pamphlets advertising a Catholic anti-contraception conference. (The liberal said no.) Except by doing this, he kinda subtly shifted the discussion away from the actual topic (religious freedom) because, despite the insistence of Kevin Swanson & Co., feminism is not a religion. Feminism can be derived from religion, but most often it's viewed as a political stance. Which raises the logical question: why limit this to religion? Can we now refuse service to someone based on their politics? Can a Republican landlord now refuse to rent to Democrats?

    The only defense I've seen against this is "That won't happen, no one would be that dumb." Really? Because I've met political partisans who are FAR more fundamentalist about their politics than many fundamentalist Christians are about their religion.

    By the way, in case comes up wrong, this is Scarlet. Blogger keeps wanting me to be anonymous today.

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    1. Fortunately, you do show up as Scarlet. :)

      You are right that the only defense is "That won't happen." Except that when it came to race, it did - and it often still does. And last I checked, non-whites are a larger portion of the population than LGBTQ people, so the latter would be at even greater risk...

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    2. "That won't happen, no one would be that dumb." Yah, because "It would be smart for you to join the Nazi party if you'd like to keep your shop open" was just made up for the movies. Oh, and "We don't want any manuscripts written by bluestockings" was pretend, too. And also "we refuse to work with script writers who are Reds"--that was also imaginary. /sarcasm Gah. It's not even ANCIENT history.

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    3. …and when there have been actual studies demonstrating that political bias is, on average, actually STRONGER than racial bias, and more people would have a problem with their child marrying someone of the opposite party than of another race.

      This is why I want to know how my grandfather is going to vote this year. He claims to be liberal, and he hates Republicans, but he also hates Mexicans. I'm curious which of his bigotries is going to win out. :-)

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    4. That's an interesting fight, isn't it? I could definitely see party loyalty winning out in that case. But I also have been mortified to see how many, from Metaxas to many of my Christian friends have been willing to jettison their supposedly cherished political beliefs for the first demagogue to appeal to their racism...

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  5. And if they claim Jesus' Name for their bigotry and hatred, they had better look at His life and doctrine before doing so. "Love your enemies... Let him that is without sin... Father, forgive them..."

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    1. I have become more and more convinced in the last few years that most (not all) Evangelicals have no interest in actually following the teachings of Christ.

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  6. Wow, just....wow.

    I've not been in the anti-LGBTQ camp for some time - my own epiphany happening gradually via reading personal accounts from people who didn't fit the traditional "it's all because of Daddy issues" profile that was, at that point, the favored explanation for what caused anything other than hetero-normative sexuality. Along with applying "by their fruits you shall know them" to the ongoing scourge of horrible consequences of making homosexuality the whipping boy for all the woes and travails of "godless" America (the homelessness, bullying, suicide, etc you mention).

    But I hadn't looked at the legislation closely enough to see what you elucidate here. It all rubbed me the wrong way, but I didn't bother to consider why. Which shames me, but thank you.

    To jochanaan's point above, I often think the commandment about misusing the name of the Lord doesn't actually mean what most people think it means. How many folks legalistically, carefully make sure not to type out OMG in capital letters while yet supporting hatred in the name of God. We have so much to answer for. :(

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    1. I have been considering writing about the misapplication of the 4th Commandment. I very much agree with you, that OMG was never what the commandment meant, and not what it means now. It is appropriating the name of God for evil purposes.

      I too have come to the conclusion that there is a lot of rotten fruit, and that we need to start asking about the tree that bears it.

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