Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Using Faith Against Us in Arizona?

All this anti-gay legislation is starting to get me a bit nervous.

I'm beginning to wonder if we aren't, in a way, writing laws that could be later used to make evangelical Christianity illegal.  After all, change out "gay" for "evangelical" as the motivation of these bills, and what would we have?

If homosexuality is a form of sexuality, and evangelicalism is a form of religiosity, then consider this:  Sexuality and religiosity are protected under the Constitution, but if evangelicals are trying to parse out certain forms of sexuality as not being protected, what's to stop somebody from trying to parse out forms of religiosity?

A newspaper in Uganda today outed 200 people it claimed were homosexuals, after the government yesterday enacted draconian laws to further criminalize homosexuality.  Hopefully, at least, if legislation is eventually advanced by left-wingers so that we evangelicals could be blatantly discriminated against, we wouldn't need a newspaper to identify any of us!

As things currently stand, it doesn't look likely that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer will sign Senate Bill 1062 into law.  That's the legislation that's been widely billed as allowing private businesses to deny their services to homosexuals.  Arizona's business community, as well as companies across the United States, strongly oppose the measure, and as much as Republicans fear religion, they worship money more.  Indeed, conservatives joined liberals in Kansas recently to ditch that state's efforts at creating a bill similar to Arizona's because it smacked too much of discrimination.

But that hasn't stopped some right-wingers from claiming that the media is overblowing Arizona's measure.  In an article on ChristianPost.com today, conservative political scientist Napp Nazworth takes a stab at trying to dilute worries that Arizona's bill actually does allow discrimination of gays.  He argues unconvincingly that technically, the proposed legislation simply tweaks what's already allowed in Arizona's current version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  But what Nazworth really seems to be saying is that SB 1062 simply endows for-profit businesses with the same protections non-profit religious institutions have.  In other words, an evangelical church can't currently be sued in Arizona for refusing to allow a gay wedding on its premises, but a for-profit catering hall owned by evangelicals could.  What SB 1062 basically does is give the catering hall's Christian owners the same freedom from discrimination lawsuits a church would have.

And sure, if you don't think about it too deeply, that sounds like a good idea.  But take a closer look at the legislation, and you can see how flagrantly open-ended it is.  This isn't just a law that affects homosexuals.  As long as you can claim some sort of affiliation with some sort of religion whose tenets include some sort of prohibition against somebody's distinguishing characteristic, a business could deny that person service and not be subject to a lawsuit.  Now, ostensibly, for the business owner's impunity to be legal, the discrimination would have to be proven not to violate any other laws that might concurrently exist to protect the person who was denied service.  But the implication is that for all practical purposes, the door is wide open for abuse in such a loosely-worded law.

Which means it might be simply a matter of time before somebody concocts some anti-evangelical religion and gets a 501(c)(3) for it - or even incorporates it as a business - and then starts picking on fine, upstanding, church-going evangelicals who thought they'd established themselves as Arizona's ruling class.

How far-fetched does that sound to you?  Probably as far-fetched as something like SB 1062 sounded to gays about a decade ago.  And look at where we are today.

If the main point of contention is the obstinacy of certain gay couples in wanting to force deeply religious business owners to service their same-sex nuptials, then maybe a law could be crafted to remind gays that having their lawyers hounding their moralistic wedding photographer isn't the best way to guarantee the most desirable once-in-a-lifetime snapshots.  If such a law could be written, then better people than Arizona's legislators should give it a try.  Because SB 1062 is just bad legislation.

Meanwhile, American evangelicals need to remember that in our democratic republic, we're a minority group, just like gays are.  In our free pursuit of our religion, we need to remember that our Constitution also guarantees other people groups their free pursuits as well.  And when it comes to legislation, we need to make sure our exercising of our "rights" doesn't come back to haunt us.

After all, our advocacy for Biblical morality and demonstrating the Fruit of the Spirit shouldn't be mutually exclusive.  Besides, Christ didn't die on the cross so we could rid ourselves of having to do business with gay people.  He died on the cross to save us from sin, including the sin of thinking we're better than ordinary sinners.

Again, that's not to say that Christ's followers should be forced to use their skills and their businesses for an activity our faith teaches is wrong.  It's just that trying to legislate morality in the name of religion doesn't exactly sound like faith.

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