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“Cruz Brings GOP Nomination Into The Toilet”: The Religious Liberty Issue Is Just A Stalking Horse

Now that Ted Cruz’s last hope for stopping Donald Trump rests on ginning up panic and outrage over transgender women using the ladies room, we can officially say that the Republican nominating process is in the toilet.

Cruz is stoking fear about transgender sexual predators stalking women’s rooms, asserting at a rally last week that Trump (as well as Hillary Clinton) would let “grown men use the little girls’ restroom.” He trotted out his two admittedly adorable daughters in matching pink dresses to make sure that no one misses his point that the country’s little girls are in clear and present danger.

His comments follow Trump’s shrug-off of the transgender restroom controversy following North Carolina’s passage of a law that says people must use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate. Trump said that allowing transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice hadn’t caused any problems to date and that people should “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate.”

But beyond Cruz’s craven politicizing of the issue, the transgender bathroom controversy demonstrates what’s really at stake in the larger “religious liberty” debate.

Despite the fact that the only way this could genuinely be said to be a religious liberty issue is if individuals were being prevented from worshipping freely in restrooms, many religious conservatives clearly now see the bathroom debate as a matter of religious freedom, illustrating the relentless creep of the issue.

The North Carolina measure was included in a broader religious liberty bill, while in Pennsylvania conservative groups like the Pennsylvania Family Council are opposing a proposed bill that would provide anti-discrimination protections to LGBT people, including in public restrooms, calling it “one of the most significant threats to religious liberty and privacy rights in the history of the Commonwealth.”

What’s at stake, however, isn’t religious liberty but the right of one group, people who hew to conservative, “traditional” views of marriage and sexuality, to impose a form of socioreligious privilege on society at large. Cruz gave it away when he said that he had no problem with a man who “wishes to dress as a woman and use her home bathroom.” However, he said, “people do not have the right to impose their lifestyles on others.”

Social conservatives are offended by seeing transgender people in restrooms because it undermines their traditional, religiously-based view of gender as binary and fixed. Therefore, to protect their religious beliefs, transgender people must be marginalized and the bathroom issue is, to borrow Fred Clarkson’s term, religified.

The issue has taken on special potency regarding school restrooms, with several parents challenging schools who let transgender children use the restroom of their choice, because they don’t want to have to explain to their kids why Brenda is now Johnnie. This upsets the whole applecart about fixed gender identities as well as traditional male and female sexual and culture roles.

It’s not hard to understand how the more public emergence of transgender people is upsetting to more traditionally minded people, especially in areas without a lot of cultural diversity. Until recently, the social marginalization of LGBT people as a way to maintain rules about gender and sexuality was largely unquestioned. As R.R. Reno charges in First Things, these rules about “gender roles and other foundational categories” were what “ordinary people use to orient themselves and make sense out of their lives,” but now the “transgender revolution” is dismantling these rules as part of an effort to “efface the social authority of the male-female difference.”

But this discomfort, no matter how acutely felt or culturally disorienting, does not equal an affront to religious freedom. It’s easy to see, however, how people make the leap. As one Cruz supporter told New York Times, “The Bible says he created them male and female, so therefore that’s what it’s supposed to be.”

And it’s because the religious liberty issue is just a stalking horse for a broad counter-cultural protest about increasingly liberal attitudes about sexuality and gender identity that the Supreme Court’s effort to find a compromise in the Little Sisters of the Poor case is doomed to failure.

What the conservative justices don’t get (besides how health insurance works or how women access contraception) is that the case has been about asserting socioreligious privilege all along, not about finding the right form for the nuns to sign. The Catholic bishops and their allies on the religious right long for the day when shunning transgender people or shaming sexual active single women was OK because, at the end of the day, the maintenance of their paradigm of sexual morality requires that someone, somewhere isn’t allowed to pee in peace.

 

By: Patricia Miller, Religion Dispatches, May 2, 2016

May 3, 2016 Posted by | North Carolina Bathroom Bill, Religious Liberty, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Religious Liberty Is For One People Only”: How Ted Cruz Made A Mockery Of Republicans’ Religious Freedom Arguments

The Republican Party, which has accused “liberal elites” of waging a “war on religion,” last week dispatched its leading lights to the rhetorical battlefields in a religious war of its own making.

On March 22, Americans awoke to the news of the horrific terrorist attacks in Brussels, which should have prompted calls for solidarity coupled with rational and effective law enforcement. But for Ted Cruz — who has made religious liberty a central focus of his campaign — it was instead an opportunity to propose an unconstitutional and dangerous program for targeting American Muslims.

The two Republican presidential frontrunners are engaged in a sordid one-upmanship of who can more blatantly scapegoat American Muslims. For Donald Trump and Cruz, it’s an essential part of the gladiator politics that have come to define the GOP primary. Trump has said “Islam hates us” and notoriously proposed banning all Muslims from entering the U.S. Cruz has called for all Syrian Muslims to be banned from the entering the U.S., but for Syrian Christians to be allowed in.

So after the Brussels attack last week, Cruz said, “We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” Uncharacteristically agreeable, Trump called the unconstitutional proposal a “good idea.”

Somehow this was only one half of Republicans’ very mixed-up week on religious freedom.

A day after Cruz thumbed his nose at the Constitution, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that even the nation’s staunchest religious freedom advocates have called into question. At issue is whether the government violates the religious freedom of faith-based non-profits by requiring them to fill out a form to opt out of providing contraception coverage in their health care plans, as required under the Affordable Care Act.

Throughout his presidential campaign, Cruz has singled out the most sympathetic of the religious non-profits, an order of Catholic nuns called the Little Sisters of the Poor, as exhibit A in President Obama’s alleged war on religion. He has accused Obama as having “the audacity to sue the Little Sisters of the Poor,” when in fact the order of nuns sued the administration.

After the Supreme Court hearing last week, Cruz renewed his full-throated cries for religious liberty. He released recommendations on Thursday from his Religious Liberty Advisory Council, which include a pledge to “direct the Department of Health and Human Services to exempt all employers who object for moral and religious reasons from any contraception mandate.”

“Whether Hobby Lobby or the Little Sisters of the Poor, people of faith should not be made to bow down at the altar of political correctness,” Cruz said.

If “political correctness” sounds familiar, it’s because he wields it constantly to portray religious pluralism as the enemy of Christianity. In fact, he invoked it days earlier when calling for a “people of faith,” Muslims, to be subjected to increased government surveillance. “In the wake of the Brussels attacks, I called for vigorously guarding against the political correctness that has plagued Europe,” he wrote in a New York Daily News op-ed.

This is par for the course for Cruz. Throughout his campaign, he has portrayed the conscience rights of conservative Christian non-profits (and business owners) as being under mortal threat, but he has seemed oblivious to the perils to the constitutional rights of religious minorities, like Muslims he believes should be targeted by law enforcement for their religion and nothing more.

As always for Cruz, religious liberty is for one people only: Christians.

 

By: Susan Posner, The Week, March 30, 2016

April 3, 2016 Posted by | Christians, Religious Liberty, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Catholic Nuns Back Obamacare Contraception Access”: It Isn’t Freedom When Women Are Held Hostage

The National Coalition of American Nuns has announced their support for women’s right to access contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act as the Supreme Court prepares to hear the historic Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases. While the plaintiffs in these cases are Mennonites and evangelical Christians, opposition to the contraceptive mandate was largely spearheaded by the Catholic bishops. Several key cases of Catholic non-profits, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, are making their way through the lower courts and may well end up in the Supreme Court themselves.

“NCAN is dismayed that the Little Sisters of the Poor, the University of Notre Dame and other Catholic organizations are challenging the Affordable Care Act. Spurred on by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops these organizations are attempting to hold hostage all women by refusing insurance to them for contraceptives,” said the 2,000-member group in a statement.

“This has gotten out of hand,” Sister Donna Quinn, head of NCAN, told RD. “It isn’t ‘faith and freedom’ when reproductive autonomy isn’t extended by the Catholic Church to women. Now we have other Christian religions seeing what the bishops are doing and saying we will do likewise. It isn’t freedom when a woman can be held hostage by the owner of a business.”

The nuns are seeking support for their stand through an online petition. The Rev. Debra Haffner of the Religious Institute is helping NCAN coordinate the effort. “When I saw the brave stand these nuns were taking on the mandate, I started to think about what we could do to amplify their voices. So we launched a social media campaign asking people to ‘Stand with the Nuns’,” she said.

“We really need to counter the idea that faith is opposed to family planning,” said Haffner, who’s also helping to coordinate a Faith Rally at the Supreme Court on March 25, the day of the oral arguments for the mandate challenges. “All too often the media only shows a Catholic bishop to offer the faith perspective. More than 14 major religious denominations have statements supporting birth control and birth control access. People need to understand that this is not only an affront to women’s moral agency but opens the door to denying a whole range of services, from other kinds of reproductive health care to services to LGBT people,” she said.

NCAN has a long history of reproductive justice and Catholic reform activism. Quinn has volunteered as an abortion clinic escort and was one of the leaders of a delegation of women religious to Rome 1994 to hold a parallel discussion about the role of women religious during the bishops’ synod on religious life, which largely excluded women.

 

By: Patricia Miller, Religion Dispatches, March 14, 2014

March 17, 2014 Posted by | Birth Control, Contraception, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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