Religious Freedom, Discrimination, and Legislation

by Philosophy

With all the criticism, protests, and political grandstanding going on concerning the “religious freedom” bill recently signed by Governor Pence in Indiana, the focus on how it can be used by businesses to discriminate against the LGBTQ communities makes a broader discussion more difficult. Certainly, such discrimination is wrong and should not be enshrined in our legal code, that we are even having to consider such in the 21st century is astronomically insane. People should be curious as to just how business owners are supposed to identify the gays and queers among us. It’s not as if they all wander around looking like they just stepped away from a Gay Pride parade in Vancouver. Indeed, some people who dress as such may not even be LGBTQ. How is one to determine such sin in their midst? Perhaps color-coded cards are in order, or an entire rainbow of bright shiny pins should be ordered. It’s damn difficult to keep the sanctity of your sanctimony when those of such vile-ness look just like…well, you know…people. Clearly, we must mark them.

For a fundamentalist religious group who’s apocalyptic mutterings include various iterations of the so-called “mark of the beast,” including paperwork and, keeping with the technology of the day, microchipping, it certainly buries the meter or irony that they come up with the legal framework to mark people as “other” and undeserving of taking part in public business. That very public quality of business makes this detestable. Bigotry when practiced in the privacy of your own home or even through the private giving out of created goods is deserving of moral disgust, but in a country of free expression and individual liberty, such behavior is certainly a person’s proclivity. However, businesses are a public entity, they partake of public goods. From social legal systems to the infrastructure of roads and shipping to the support of the government to enforce contracts, businesses are not synonymous with private individuals, however much someone’s ego may say otherwise. Essentially what Governor Pence and those who support his “show me your papers” law are declaring is that their religious ideology is not merely protected in its expression in the privacy of their own homes, but is protected and enshrined within the public legal framework of American society. They are declaring that the law is or should be the equivalent to their particular religious interpretation. All this because by placing themselves in the public sphere of commerce, therefore opening themselves up to the variations of what the public is individually instantiated as they want to pick and choose who is worthy of participating in that very public sphere.

Were the arguments being brought forward of this kind, at least there’d be room to admire, and shudder at, the honesty. Alas, no, enshrining discrimination in legal and public practice doesn’t win the support of most others (a testament to the quality of basic human nature). Instead there is continual talk of “religious freedom” being thwarted by government action and the oppression of their meek and pious desire to live out their lives in line with their religious beliefs. The martyrdom complex has never had a greater proponent than fundamentalist Christians in America. Shockingly there are people who buy into this. Let’s take stock for a moment of that so-called oppression.

Christians, of all types, make up 78.4% of the American population. According to one research finding, the religious exemption of taxation amounts to a minimum entitlement package of $71 billion. In the same research, it is estimated that religious groups hold over $600 billion worth of property. To give that latter point substance, compare it with the total state property owned by that liberal bastion called New Hampshire. As of 2010, the balance sheet for state-owned property stood at $1.3 billion. That’s right, religious groups in America hold more than 600 times the state-owned property of New Hampshire. Moving beyond money, there’s a de-facto religious test to hold public office unless someone wants to be so foolish as to think an atheist or Hindu could become president. In fact, polls indicate that of all congressional members, 91.8% are Christian, which is considerably impressive since as was noted previously, only 78.4% of the American populace identifies as such. It would seem that the representative government is anything but. Such representation indicates that Christians in particular, are under no duress except in their own minds.

Why then the protests by the religious majority? This goes to that martyrdom complex mentioned earlier. The basic conservative Christian doctrine (as opposed to the more humanistic liberal theologies of some circles) is one of being set apart from humanity, of being a chosen people set up by their God as an opposing force in a world that is controlled by Satan. Truly, this is not made-up. Conservative, particularly fundamentalist, Christians believe they have been selected out of all of humanity to bear witness and receive the deepest most meaningful secrets of the universe, principally that related to eternal salvation. Variations of the following depend on the theological paradigm a believer adheres to, but the result is still foundational the same; this divine whispering directly into their ear is the work of their Holy Spirit, who through no power of their own, selected them out of all of humanity to be the only ones capable of saying yes to the truth that is shown to them. Let’s be clear here. This would be like having ten sugar-crazed toddlers in a line, giving six of them huge lollipops and then telling the remaining four that you just know that if you had offered the same to them, they’d have said no. I can only imagine the protests and, were they able, the vociferous cursing that would result. If asked how you know, well, the only way to have access to that knowledge is to have been selected and by not being selected, you’ll never be able to understand. If the mind is a bit frazzled by such convoluted thinking, don’t worry, that’s only a further indication that you weren’t worthy.

Here we have it then: a majority of the populace, a majority of political power, being a chosen few out of the world who can access the most important knowledge ever in the history of humanity. That this group continually attempts to declare their humility is essentially begging people to be hoodwinked. That this group continues to cry out about their oppressed existence is essentially begging people to ignore reality. Their oppression exists as nothing more than a projection of their self-serving religious ideology which declares them a set-apart people surrounded by Satan’s minions. Incidentally, this is why so many can on one hand say they have nothing against gay people, but then in the same breath call them abominations deserving of eternal torture in hell.

We should criticize and condemn the legislation of discrimination coming out of Indiana, but it is not the only state which is currently attempting to pass such laws. To break down such legislation we must acknowledge the ideological separateness that pushes people to create and support those laws and then call it out for what it is: a false humility to hide their attempts to declare who is and who is not worthy of taking part in a world of humanity.


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