Posts Tagged ‘Discrimination’

A post at Lawyers Guns & Money goes a long way, I think, toward explaining why the recent proposed and passed laws like Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act have received greater backlash than they might have just a few years ago. While the author acknowledges that “liberals” (and others, in my view) may not support religious freedom laws like they did back in the 1990s, he points to the “weaponization” of religious exemption laws as a driver in that shift.

To summarize, previously the primary purpose of religious exemption laws has been “to protect a practice or tradition or community, and little more. These exemptions are political but not in the sense that their exercise is directed toward the larger community in any concrete, meaningful sense. In these cases, the end sought in pursuing the exemption is, more or less, the exemption itself.”

Later, these laws began to be used as “license for religious groups to evade general laws when inconvenient.” An example is an exemption that was sought to modify a church in a Historical District where such modifications were not permitted. In other words, there was no religious issue at play; the church simply wanted to bypass local laws and attempted to do so by invoking a religious exemption.

Now, though, we see religious exemption laws being used as overt political weapons, the quintessential example being the Hobby Lobby case. “Obamacare was to be the subject of a blitzkrieg, to be hit with any and every weapon imaginable, and that’s what the RFRA provided.” The upshot is:

The backlash against the Indiana bill–a bill that, private torts provision aside, isn’t that different from something that once passed the house unanimously and the senate with 97 votes–not to mention even conservative Republicans vetoing similar legislation in Arizona and Arkansas–suggests something very real has changed. The assumption on the right is that it’s liberals who’ve changed; we don’t support religious freedom like we did back in the 90’s. They’re not entirely wrong about that, but it’s an incomplete view about what has changed. Insofar as liberals changed their minds about the proper scope of religious exemptions, they didn’t do so in a vacuum, they changed their mind about it because the context we’re now in—facing an utterly shameless political movement that treats any conceivable political tool as fair game to achieve its political ends—is just simply not the kind of environment that fits well with an expansive approach to religious exemptions. The personal, faith-based nature of religious conviction makes it clearly inappropriate for the state to question the sincerity of the professed belief, even when that insincerity is obvious and barely concealed; which in turn makes exemptions easier to support in an environment where there’s some degree of trust that this process won’t be routinely abused. As noted earlier, which approach to exemptions best serves the interests of justice and freedom depends to a significant degree on the details of the society in question. We may have been something closer to that kind of society suited for expansive religious exemptions in the past, and we may someday be that kind of society at some point in the future, but it’s becoming difficult to deny we’re not such a society now.

I’ve just paraphrased the article and quoted the conclusion. It’s worth reading the whole thing.

In light of the current uproar regarding Indiana’s new law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it’s always perplexing to me when conservatives say that their anti-Gay bigotry (they don’t use the word “bigotry,” but let’s call it what it is) is not a civil rights issue. Um, yes, it is. That’s the entire point. But we’ve heard this all before from conservatives 40, 50, 60 years ago. Back then, the issue wasn’t sexual orientation, but skin color. To make the point, we need look no further than Jerry Falwell, the evangelical Southern Baptist pastor and televangelist who became nationally known as the co-founder and leader of the Moral Majority. Some say he was largely responsible for launching the conservative Christian political movement.

His anti-gay venom is well-known. He once called a church accepting of gays “a vile and Satanic system.” As Max Blumenthal once wrote, “Falwell initially denied his statements, offering Jerry Sloan, an MCC minister and gay rights activist $5,000 to prove that he had made them. When Sloan produced a videotape containing footage of Falwell’s denunciations, the reverend refused to pay. Only after Sloan sued did Falwell cough up the money.” Hmmm. I thought the Ten Commandments had something to say about lying.

Falwell also said, immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.'” Nice chap, that Falwell.

But as Blumethal and others have written, before Falwell turned to Biblically-based attacks on abortion and homosexuals, he used the Bible as the basis for racial bigotry. George Curry summarized Falwell’s segregationist attitudes in a 2007 article entitled Jerry Falwell’s Racist Past:

Like many Southern White ministers, Falwell didn’t sit on the sidelines at the outset of the modern civil rights movement, he joined the opposition.

“Decades before the forces that now make up the Christian right declared their culture war, Falwell was a rabid segregationist who railed against the civil rights movement from the pulpit of the abandoned backwater bottling plant he converted into Thomas Road Baptist Church,” Max Blumenthal writes in an insightful article in The Nation magazine. “This opening episode of Falwell’s life, studiously overlooked by his friends, naively unacknowledged by many of his chroniclers, and puzzlingly and glaringly omitted in the obituaries of the Washington Post and New York Times, is essential to understanding his historical significance in galvanizing the Christian right. Indeed, it was race–not abortion or the attendant suite of so-called ‘values’ issues–that propelled Falwell and his evangelical allies into political activism.”

Four years after the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregated public schools, Falwell gave a speech titled, “Segregation or Integration.”

His message was unmistakably clear: “If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn the line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line.”

The argument that God ordained segregation and White supremacy was advanced by many southern White ministers. We should not forget that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was written to his colleagues of the cloth. The letter, written April 16, 1963, said, in part: I have been disappointed with the church…When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt the white ministers, priests, and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies.

“Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.”

Jerry Falwell was not silent behind his stained-glass windows. He said, “The true Negro does not want integration…he realizes his potential is far better among his own race.”

As usual, Falwell was wrong. Autherine Lucy, a “true Negro” applied to and was accepted as a student at the University of Alabama. Once the university discovered she was an African-American, however, officials said state law prevented her from enrolling. With the legendary Thurgood Marshall as her attorney, she sued and gained admission. When she arrived in February 1956, a mob threw eggs at her and issued death threats. The university expelled her, purportedly for her own safety.

The following year, nine Black students attempted to desegregate the all-White Central High School. Segregationist Gov. Orval Faubus deployed the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the Little Rock Nine from attending the school. A federal judge overruled Faubus and ordered the students admitted. When the Black students reported to class, a mob formed and president Dwight Eisenhower dispatched the Army’s elite 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock. The nine students were allowed to attend classes, though they were subject to abuse from White students.

Does that sound like the “true Negro” did not want integration?

But Falwell didn’t stop there.

Claiming that integration “will destroy our race eventually,” Falwell said, “A pastor friend of mine tells me that a couple of opposite race live next door to his church as man and wife.”

Not as an unmarried couple, not as gays or lesbians, but “man and wife.” That was too much for Falwell to stomach.

As late as 1964, Falwell was attacking the 1964 Civil Rights Act as “civil wrongs” legislation. He questioned “the sincerity and intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left-wing associations.” Falwell charged, “It is very obvious that the Communists, as they do in all parts of the world, are taking advantage of a tense situation in our land, and are exploiting every incident to bring about violence and bloodshed.”

Few written documents from Falwell’s 1950s and ’60s preaching survive today. As Susan Friend Harding writes in The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics, “In an interview in 1984, O. C. Cardwell, a black Civil Rights leader in Lynchburg [Virginia] during the 1950s and 1960s, told me that Falwell was known at the time as a spokesman for ‘race separation.’ It is, however, difficult to document this from written sources inside Falwell’s community. Liberty Archives [at Liberty University, founded by Falwell in 1971], which has dozens of printed sermons by Falwell from the 1970s and 1980s on file, had none, apart from ‘Ministers and Marchers,’ from the 1950s and 1960s. I was told by two members of Falwell’s staff that he had recalled written texts of his 1950s and 1960s sermons to prevent their being used against him. The only three sermons I was able to locate from that earlier period, all of them from 1958, were at the Jones Memorial Library in Lynchburg. One of them, ‘Segregation or Integration, Which?,’ was entirely devoted to defending racial segregation, citing Genesis 9:18-27, Noah’s curse on Ham, as its biblical basis. The other two sermons addressed “Marriage, According to God’s Word,” and Falwell’s ‘Elim Home for Alcoholics.'”

Eventually, defending racial segregation and attacking mixed race marriages because they violated “the Lord’s will” became unacceptable during Falwell’s lifetime. Hence, the sanitized Liberty archive. So he and others turned their attacks to homosexuality, again using the Bible as their source. Different verses, but the same story. Had Falwell lived a little longer, he would have found that even those attacks would become unacceptable by American society at large. Quick: Somebody start expunging the rest of the sermons at the Liberty Archives.

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Could the position of the largest newspaper in Indiana be any clearer? Here is the text of the front page editorial.

We are at a critical moment in Indiana’s history.

And much is at stake.

Our image. Our reputation as a state that embraces people of diverse backgrounds and makes them feel welcome. And our efforts over many years to retool our economy, to attract talented workers and thriving businesses, and to improve the quality of life for millions of Hoosiers.

All of this is at risk because of a new law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that no matter its original intent already has done enormous harm to our state and potentially our economic future.

The consequences will only get worse if our state leaders delay in fixing the deep mess created.

Half steps will not be enough. Half steps will not undo the damage.

Only bold action — action that sends an unmistakable message to the world that our state will not tolerate discrimination against any of its citizens — will be enough to reverse the damage.

Gov. Mike Pence and the General Assembly need to enact a state law to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Those protections and RFRA can co-exist. They do elsewhere.

Laws protecting sexual orientation and gender identity are not foreign to Indiana.

Indianapolis, for example, has had those legal protections in place for nearly a decade. Indy’s law applies to businesses with more than six employees, and exempts religious organizations and non-profit groups.

The city’s human rights ordinance provides strong legal protection — and peace of mind —for LGBT citizens; yet, it has not placed an undue burden on businesses.

Importantly, passage of a state human rights law would send a clear message that Indiana will not tolerate discrimination. It’s crucial for that message to be communicated widely.

On a practical level, by basing the state law on a 10-year-old ordinance, the General Assembly could move quickly to adopt the measure without fear of unintended consequences. If lawmakers can’t act in the next month, the governor should call a special session immediately after the regular session ends in April to take up human rights legislation.

Why not simply repeal RFRA? First, it appears to be politically unacceptable for the governor and many Republican lawmakers.

Second, there are Hoosiers who support RFRA out of a genuine desire to protect religious freedom. To safeguard that essential freedom, 19 states and the federal government have adopted RFRA laws, largely without controversy. But states like Illinois not only protect religious freedom through RFRA but also provide gay and lesbian residents with protected legal status.

Third, repeal might get rid of the heat but it would not do what is most important – to move the state forward.

We urge Gov. Pence and lawmakers to stop clinging to arguments about whether RFRA really does what critics fear; to stop clinging to ideology or personal preferences; to focus instead on fixing this.

Governor, Indiana is in a state of crisis. It is worse than you seem to understand.

You must act with courage and wisdom. You must lead us forward now. You must ensure that all Hoosiers have strong protections against discrimination.

The laws can co-exist. And so can we.

#WeAreIndiana: Join the hashtag, the social movement. We encourage Hoosiers of all types — business leaders and owners, thought leaders, organizations, everyday people — to spread the message of who we are and what we want the world to know: Indiana embraces everyone and we do not discriminate.

President Obama is going to sign an Executive Order (Imperial President!) on Monday preventing federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers. The order will prevent the non-hiring or firing of people based solely on sexual orientation and only applies to organizations, for-profit or non-profit, that contract with the federal government. This is a good policy, since there is no federal law and few state laws protecting LGBT people from religious bigots in their jobs. As expected, the religious bigots are in an uproar, having sent a letter to Obama demanding they be given special rights to be exempted from the order. Obama refused to grant any exemption, so these groups will most likely sue for the right to practice their bigotry against employees.

Of course, the bigots have turned to the right-wing noise machine to press their case that they should be allowed to discriminate. One of the people they turned to was Neil Munro at the Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson’s alternative conservative digital rag. Mr. Munro pulls out all the stops in writing his story, checking his journalistic integrity at the door.

He’s expected to sign a regulation on July 21 that would force religious groups that get federal contracts to give up federal funding if they don’t submit to progressives’ claim that homosexuality and heterosexuality are morally equivalent.

The Executive Order does not say anything about moral equivalency. It merely says that if you want do business as a federal contractor, you cannot make hiring and firing decisions based solely on sexual orientation. Company or non-profit owners are still free to believe whatever they want.

Gay and lesbian groups cheered the decision, but many religious groups will contest the regulation as a violation of the constitution’s “wall of separation” that protects religious groups from government dictates.

The government is not “dictating” anything that violates any “wall of separation.” The separation between church and state, which conservatives usually despise because it interferes with their desire to have a Christian government, prevents the government from endorsing a state religion or preventing the free exercise of a religion. This order does neither. The order prevents endorsement by not allowing one particular religious view to be a criteria for employment in support of the US government and business owners are still free to preach bigotry against gays to their hearts’ content.

Many religious groups, such as Catholic Charities, seek and accept federal funding because it helps them carry out charitable missions that exemplify their religion and are also sought by government.

Unless they abandon their religious beliefs relating to men and women, the family and sex, they be forced to give up federal funding.

Again, Munro is lying about the order. No one is being forced to “abandon their religious beliefs.” If they believe it is righteous to discriminate, they can choose not ask the government for a federal contract. No one is being forced to compete for federal contracts.

Once Obama signs the regulation July 21, the religious groups likely will sue in courts for a reversal.

They’ll sue because an existing law — the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act — bars regulators from imposing unnecessary burdens on religious groups.

And this is where we get to the crux of the argument. Since the Supreme Court bastardized the definition of a person in the RFRA in the Hobby Lobby decision, the bigots believe they can use it to gain special privileges. This will fail, though, because the government is not regulating anything in this instance. Everyone has the right to compete for a federal contract if they meet the standards imposed by the awarding agency and the agency has the authority to dictate the standards. The government can and does impose requirements in every single contract. They require that employees be paid the prevailing wage for the location the work will be performed in. They say a company must be no larger than a certain size in order to compete. They insist that a minimum standard of benefits be provided to employees. If a business does not like the restrictions imposed on the competition, they have every right to not ask the government for a contract award.

The religious bigots will continue to use the Hobby Lobby decision to try and gain the right to openly discriminate against whomever they don’t like. If you accept that a company or group cannot hire or fire an employee for the sole reason of their sexual orientation, then you have to accept that they can discriminate for any reason whatsoever. You have to support the contention that a company is allowed to only hire whites, or Hispanics, or Asians, etc. You have to believe that a woman who gets pregnant without being married can be fired on the spot. You also have to accept that a company can dismiss an employee because he had a beer and a cigarette after work. If you believe bigotry is okay in one instance, you have to believe it is okay in all instances.