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“The Origins Of The Religious Right”: Still Insisting That Religious Freedom Is A Justification For Discrimination

It is often assumed that the origins of the religious right’s political awakening (known back then as the so-called “moral majority”) was in response to the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs Wade decision. But in an article a friend recently pointed out to me from 2014, Randall Balmer locates it’s origins in another court case: Green vs Connally. It has interesting relevance for some of the issues we are hearing about today.

Balmer first points out that immediately before and after Roe vs Wade, evangelical leaders didn’t see a problem with abortion. He provides several quotes, including this one:

When the Roe decision was handed down, W. A. Criswell, the Southern Baptist Convention’s former president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas—also one of the most famous fundamentalists of the 20th century—was pleased: “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person,” he said, “and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”

Meanwhile, Paul Weyrich was looking around for an issue that would galvanize evangelical support for Republicans. He found it in an edict from President Nixon’s Treasury Department that the provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act precluded a tax-exempt status for private schools that discriminated against African Americans. Schools like Bob Jones University and Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University responded.

Although Bob Jones Jr., the school’s founder, argued that racial segregation was mandated by the Bible, Falwell and Weyrich quickly sought to shift the grounds of the debate, framing their opposition in terms of religious freedom rather than in defense of racial segregation.

In other words, “religious freedom” was used as the justification for discrimination. Sound familiar? That was the issue at stake in Green vs Connally.

It was on the heels of that argument that these religious leaders then turned to theologian Francis Schaeffer and surgeon C. Everett Koop (who later became Reagan’s Surgeon General) to stir up objections to abortion. They did that with the film Whatever Happened to the Human Race?

In the early months of 1979, Schaeffer and Koop, targeting an evangelical audience, toured the country with these films, which depicted the scourge of abortion in graphic terms—most memorably with a scene of plastic baby dolls strewn along the shores of the Dead Sea.

It is hard to avoid seeing a parallel with the doctored videos produced by The Center for Medical Progress that have raised evangelicals in opposition to Planned Parenthood.

All of that laid the groundwork for the involvement of the religious right in the 1980 presidential race between Carter and Reagan, although their positions on these issues were not as well-defined as we have been led to believe.

By 1980, even though Carter had sought, both as governor of Georgia and as president, to reduce the incidence of abortion, his refusal to seek a constitutional amendment outlawing it was viewed by politically conservative evangelicals as an unpardonable sin. Never mind the fact that his Republican opponent that year, Ronald Reagan, had signed into law, as governor of California in 1967, the most liberal abortion bill in the country. When Reagan addressed a rally of 10,000 evangelicals at Reunion Arena in Dallas in August 1980, he excoriated the “unconstitutional regulatory agenda” directed by the IRS “against independent schools,” but he made no mention of abortion. Nevertheless, leaders of the religious right hammered away at the issue, persuading many evangelicals to make support for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion a litmus test for their votes.

More than 35 years later, the religious right is still insisting that religious freedom is a justification for discrimination and using deceptive videos to ignite opposition to women’s reproductive health. As the saying goes…”everything old is new again.”

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 28, 2016

April 29, 2016 Posted by | Discrimination, Religious Freedom, Religious Right | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Walk Tall, Or Baby, Don’t Walk At All”: North Carolina May Never See A Celebrity Again

When it comes to fighting anti-LGBT legislation in North Carolina and Mississippi, the entertainment industry has been running laps around sports leagues and putting corporate America to shame.

Yes, PayPal withdrew 400 planned jobs from the Tar Heel State in response to HB 2, which banned local LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances and required transgender people to use public bathrooms matching their birth certificates, but most major companies have simply signed a strongly worded letter to Gov. Pat McCrory asking for the law to be repealed.

After Mississippi’s HB 1523 was passed, many of these same companies sent a similar letter to Gov. Phil Bryant, urging him to repeal the law without detailing any specific consequences for leaving it in place.

But an emerging crew of entertainers isn’t content with this wait-and-see approach. By taking swift and decisive steps, they’re proving how little pro-LGBT press releases mean without concrete actions to back them up.

As soon as HB 2 was passed, for instance, actor and filmmaker Rob Reiner promised that he would “not film another production in North Carolina” until the law is repealed. CEOs take note: Reiner took action immediately and listed a punishment along with a specific condition.

Then, last week, Bruce Springsteen canceled a North Carolina show, highlighting the law’s horrifying anti-transgender provision in his statement. By contrast, the multi-company letter coordinated by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Equality North Carolina does not specifically address this first-in-the-nation attack on transgender rights.

The Boss called his announcement “the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.”

Canadian singer Bryan Adams followed in Springsteen’s footsteps shortly thereafter, nixing a scheduled Mississippi concert to protest the state’s sweeping anti-LGBT law. On Facebook, he explained that he “cannot in good conscience perform in a state where certain people are being denied their civil rights due to their sexual orientation.”

And this past weekend, comedian and Community star Joel McHale went ahead with a North Carolina performance but wore an “LGBTQ” shirt and donated all of his proceeds to a local LGBT center. In video taken from the show, McHale asks, “What the fuck is wrong with your government here, you guys?”

It’s not just individual celebrities who are taking decisive steps, either. Lionsgate canceled Charlotte shooting plans and A+E Studios has promised “not [to] consider North Carolina for any new productions” once shooting ends on a new show they are filming around Wilmington. Even porn giant xHamster is now banning all North Carolina IP addresses in order to put pressure on the state to change course.

Outside of the entertainment world, however, condemnation of the anti-LGBT laws may have been sudden and widespread but punitive actions have been fewer and further between.

The NBA could have summarily pulled the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte. It didn’t. Instead, the league sent out a statement calling HB 2 discriminatory but also cautiously noting that they “do not yet know what impact it will have” on the All-Star plans.

The NCAA is set to host Division I basketball tournament games in North Carolina over the next two years but, instead of relocating the games, the association pledged to “continue to monitor current events.”

The NFL is moving ahead with a May team owners meeting in Charlotte, justifying their decision based on the city council’s support of LGBT rights.

In sum, the major leagues are talking a big game but that’s about it. Their equivocating statements prompted Outsports’ Jim Buzinski to write that “sports leagues shouldn’t say another word about their ‘support’ unless it’s accompanied by action.” Or, as any good coach will tell you, talk is cheap.

Major corporations haven’t been much bolder, largely threatening to “reconsider” or “reevaluate” business in the offending states. Over one hundred businesses have signed on to the HRC letters but the more time passes, the emptier their words become. So far, only a select few businesses have gone beyond mere criticism of HB 2 and HB 1523.

The High Point Market Authority, which has been estimated to have an annual economic impact of $5.38 billion in North Carolina, warned last month that they could lose “hundreds and perhaps thousands of customers” at their annual spring furniture market. And Google Ventures CEO Bill Maris indicated in early April that he would not greenlight investments in any North Carolina startups “until the voters there fix this.”

Springsteen set a high bar for courage that few in the business world have been able to match.

This isn’t the first time that the entertainment industry has taken point in anti-LGBT legislative tussles. In March, Disney—and by extension Marvel—promised to end film production in Georgia if Gov. Nathan Deal did not veto a so-called “religious freedom” law that passed the state legislature.

“[W]e will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law,” the company wrote in a definitive statement.

The NFL, on the other hand, vaguely hinted that they might not host the Super Bowl in Georgia but their official statement was embarrassingly circumlocutory.

“Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with [NFL non-discrimination] policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites,” said league spokesman Brian McCarthy.

In March of 2015, when Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed an anti-LGBT “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” a few companies like the business review website Angie’s List, which axed a $40 million expansion, made powerful moves.

But in what should by now be a familiar pattern, many corporate leaders chastised the governor without deploying any economic sanctions. The discrepancy prompted Fast Company to make a list of the “companies that are actually boycotting Indiana, not just tweeting about it.”

Among the only key players who actually acted before the Indiana legislature revised the discriminatory law were musicians and actors. The indie rock group Wilco pulled the plug on a show in Indianapolis. Parks and Recreation star Nick Offerman announced he would donate his proceeds from an Indiana University show to the HRC and canceled a subsequent performance in the state.

Repeated entanglements over LGBT rights in the South have proved that governors may not sympathize with LGBT rights but they do respond to economic pressure. So long as corporate leaders remain hesitant to pull out of North Carolina, they will be locked in a game of economic chicken with a state government that does not seem eager to reverse HB 2.

Gov. McCrory’s re-election campaign has claimed that many businesses support the anti-transgender law and one state representative, Ken Goodman, seems more than willing to see if anyone will make good on their threats.

“April Market is not a vacation,” he tweeted in response to the High Point story. “It is critical for buyers. They’ll come.”

It has been illegal for many transgender people to use the right public restrooms in North Carolina for nearly three weeks. Anti-LGBT discrimination has been not just legal, but endorsed by the state of Mississippi, for almost two. At this point, signing a letter is no longer a proportional response to bigotry.

As Bruce himself once sang, “Walk tall, or baby, don’t walk at all.”

 

By: Samantha Allen, The Daily Beast, April 12, 2016

April 13, 2016 Posted by | Discrimination, LGBT, North Carolina, Pat McCrory | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Doesn’t Mississippi Have More Pressing Concerns?”: Fattest, Poorest, Sickest State In America Rails Against LGBT People

A portrait of Mississippi.

It has a lower percentage of high school graduates than almost any other state. It has an unemployment rate higher than almost any other state.

Mississippi’s fourth-graders perform more poorly than any other children in the country in math. Also in reading. Its smoking rates are among the highest in the country. Along with West Virginia, it is the fattest state in the Union. It has the highest poverty rate and the lowest life expectancy.

Small wonder 24/7 Wall Street, a content provider for Yahoo!, Time and USA Today, among others, has dubbed Mississippi the “worst state to live in.”

All of which provides a certain pungent context for what happened last week as Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law a bill legalizing discrimination against LGBT people. It is dubbed the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” which is a cynical lie. The only thing it protects is those doing the discriminating.

You want to refuse to rent to a lesbian couple? You’re covered.

You want to refuse to hire a transgendered woman? Go for it.

You want to force your gay adopted son to undergo so-called conversion therapy? No problem.

You want to kick an adulterous heterosexual out of your hardware store? Yep, the law says you can even do that.

Indeed, it says that any gay, transgendered or adulterous individual whose behavior offends the “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” of a person, for-profit business, government employee or religious organization can be refused service.

As if your sexual orientation or marital status were the business of the cashier ringing up your groceries or the barber trimming your hair.

It is worth nothing that similar laws have been propounded in other states — Georgia, Indiana, Arkansas — only to be turned back under threat of boycott by Fortune 500 companies and professional sports teams doing business there. “The worst state to live in,” was immune to that kind of pressure because it has no such teams or businesses.

You’d think that would tell them something. You’d think it would suggest to Mississippi that it has more pressing concerns than salving the hurt feelings of some putative Christian who doesn’t want to bake a cake for Lester and Steve.

But addressing those concerns would require serious thought, sustained effort, foresight, creativity and courage. It is easier just to scapegoat the gays.

So the fattest, poorest, sickest state in the Union rails against LGBT people and adulterers and never mind that if every last one of them pulled up stakes tomorrow, Mississippi would still be the fattest, poorest, sickest state in the Union.

The point is not that such bigotry would be impossible in places that are healthier or wealthier. The point is not that such places are immune to it. Rather, the point is simply this: Isn’t it interesting how reliably social division works as a distraction from things that ought to matter more?

After all, Mississippi just passed a law that 80 percent of its eighth-graders would struggle to read.

If they graduate, those young people will look for work in a state with an unemployment rate significantly higher than the national average. But if one of those kids does manage to find work at the local doughnut shop say, she will — until the law is struck down, at least — have the satisfaction of refusing service to some gay man, secure in the knowledge that the state that failed to educate her or give her a fighting chance in a complex world, now has her back.

One feels sorrier for her than for the gay man. Her life will be hemmed by the fact of living it in a state that fights the future, that teaches her to deflect and distract, not resolve and engage.

The gay man can buy doughnuts anywhere.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, April 10, 2016

April 12, 2016 Posted by | Discrimination, LGBT, Mississippi, Phil Bryant | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“New Religious Freedom Bills Legitimize Discrimination”: Using The Bible As A Prop For Prejudice

You’d think history might serve as a guide for the politicians and preachers — good Christians all, of course — who have chosen to use the Bible to bolster their bigotry against people they’ve placed outside the magic circle. We’ve seen this before, and it didn’t turn out well for those who claimed a mantle of righteousness. Yet onward they march.

Mississippi recently passed a “religious freedom” law designed to provide legal cover for those who wish to discriminate against gays and lesbians. The law is quite specific, allowing government clerks to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and protecting businesses that refuse to serve them.

Does this ring any bells? Do any of these people remember Jim Crow, a system of legalized oppression that stunted Mississippi for generations and whose legacy the state is still struggling to overcome?

They can’t have forgotten — not all of them.

Gov. Phil Bryant, who signed the odious bill, is certainly old enough to remember. He’d remember, too, that, during his childhood, many of the leading church folk declared that God was on the side of discrimination.

And history should have taught the governor about Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who dared to marry in 1958. The Virginia judge who sentenced them to prison for their crime wrote: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. … The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

Indeed, this practice of using the Bible as a prop for prejudice has a long and ignominious tradition, spanning centuries and continents. In the United States, slave owners conveniently saw in the Bible a heaven-sent sanction for their brutal greed. Throughout the 19th century, preachers delivered sermons claiming that “the Old Testament did sanction slavery,” as the Rev. Richard Fuller put it in 1847. Others saw a validation of white supremacy in a Bible verse about the descendants of Ham.

Proponents of “religious freedom” statutes point to the First Amendment, which enshrines as a central value the protection of religious views, even those that are outside the mainstream. Congress reiterated its fidelity to that founding principle as recently as 1993, when a bipartisan majority passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It was designed for such cases as the Sikh firefighter who wants to keep his beard, or the Orthodox Jew who needs an exemption from a Sabbath work requirement.

But the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage set off a spate of proposals that serve no purpose except bigotry — laws that prop up prejudice with Scripture. The giveaway in several of those bills is this: They allow for-profit businesses to claim to have religious beliefs and to refuse service on that basis.

(The Supreme Court opened the door for that with its unfortunate 2014 ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which assigned religious beliefs to corporations. That involved a company’s “religious freedom” to refuse to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives.)

Churches, by the way, don’t need any extra legal protections. The First Amendment has always given religious institutions wide latitude to practice their beliefs as they see fit, even if that means making invidious distinctions. Catholic priests have long reserved the right to refuse to marry those who are divorced; many conservative churches refuse to ordain women. So clerics may decline to perform the marriage rite for same-sex couples without fear of legal sanctions.

Given that, there is no need for laws that legitimize discrimination, and some states, either through revision or veto, have stepped back from such mean-spirited laws. North Carolina, however, has forged ahead with its “bathroom bill,” passed to nullify a Charlotte law that would have allowed transgendered individuals to use public restrooms of their choosing. And other state legislators are still debating proposals meant to show their disapproval of same-sex marriage.

Onward they march — toward their heterosexual heaven.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize Winner For commentary in 2007; The National Memo, April 9, 2016

April 10, 2016 Posted by | Discrimination, LGBT, Religious Freedom | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Recognizing The Human Rights Of All”: Bravo, Bruce: Springsteen’s Stand Against North Carolina Law

When the forces of intolerance and bigotry prevail, as they have lately in Southern states that passed laws institutionalizing discrimination against gay and transgender Americans, it can be tempting to think they are impervious to argument. There is, however, one thing that lawmakers like those in North Carolina do heed – money.

After North Carolina passed a law last month perpetuating discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, PayPal canceled its plans to build a large presence in that state, costing North Carolina 400 jobs at the planned office and countless dollars.

Today, Bruce Springsteen, a champion of social justice in his public and personal life, announced that he was canceling a scheduled concert in Greensboro, N.C., on Sunday and will refund tickets.

“North Carolina has just passed HB2, which the media are referring to as the ‘bathroom’ law,” he said in a statement. The law, he explained, “dictates which bathrooms transgender people are permitted to use. Just as important, the law also attacks the rights of LGBT citizens to sue when their human rights are violated in the workplace. No other group of North Carolinians faces such a burden.”

Mr. Springsteen said the law was “an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress.” He noted that some people and groups in North Carolina were fighting to have the law repealed. “This is a time for me and the band to show solidarity for those freedom fighters,” Mr. Springsteen said, adding: “Some things are more important than a rock show.”

He said that this was “the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.”

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band deserve a huge round of applause, as does Charles Barkley, the basketball great, who has urged the National Basketball Association to move its All-Star Game next year away from Charlotte, N.C., unless the law is repealed. The N.B.A. should do that without hesitation.

Remember, the NCAA’s president, Mark Emmert, said he would move the collegiate sports association’s events out of Indiana unless it deleted a similar law, and other business organizations actually did cancel events in Indiana. The law, which was signed by Gov. Mike Pence with great fanfare, was later “fixed” in a foolish and ineffective way, but should simply have been repealed.

In South Carolina, the intervention by big companies like BMW and Bridgestone Tire helped force the hands of racists in the state government who had resisted removing the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the state Capitol.

Mr. Springsteen is taking to heart the adage that all it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to remain silent. What are others who do business in and with North Carolina waiting for?

 

By: Andrew Rosenthal, Taking Note, The Editorial Page Editor’s Blog, The New York Times, April 8, 2016

April 9, 2016 Posted by | Bigotry, Bruce Springsteen, Discrimination, LGBT | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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