Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bigotry on Parade!

Well, given the SCOTUS' ruling shooting down Federal bigotry in defense of the imaginary "traditional" marriage, the Republican/Right Wing bigots are out in full force.

With scare tactics consisting of everything from warnings about bestiality to shrill accusations of bullying and attacks on beliefs, the right wing is doing everything they can to excite their base and frighten them out of their skulls.

But is the fears of the average christian I am concerned with, which shows that their scare tactics are getting through.

A woman (probably a friend of someone else) posted a comment on one of my friend's posts about the ideals of tolerance and respect:
Okay - I'm going way out on a limb. In the past when I've done this, I've been called names, but I have to speak up even if I get hurt. I think the reason some Christians don't support legalized gay marriage is because we're afraid that we will be hurt if it becomes legal. I just finished reading an article about a church in New Jersey that was sued by a lesbian couple because the church refused to rent their facility to them for a wedding reception. The judge ruled against the church. I don't want to deny anyone's human rights or their pursuit of happiness, but I don't trust my government not to force me (and my church) to do things that violate my conscience. I am a devout Catholic, which makes me a minority. Most Americans don't have the same moral system I do. I don't want to force my beliefs on anyone - I just want to live them out in peace. My government no longer defends my right to do that, and that's very frightening to me. I don't hate anyone, but I fear many of the people I disagree with.

I won't identify the writer - she deserves her privacy.  She later (in response to my request) posted the article she was reading that explained the issue.

It turns out that the facility at issue was a lakefront property the church owned.  Now, the article didn't say, but I am betting that the church rents that facility out to the general public, mainly to make money. It is, after all, a valuable commodity, and people are willing to pay good money to rent such facilities for parties, reunions, weddings and so forth.  It is probably a significant revenue stream.

Which explains their reluctance to do what the law requires, which is to stop doing business with the general public and limit their practices to their own members.  Which would usually result in a major loss of income.

In such cases, many States or localities have laws that require businesses that sell, rent or do other business with the general public to adhere to specific anti-discrimination laws, which often very in content from State to State.  I do not know if NJ is one that includes sexual orientation in that list or not.  From the description of the lawsuit, I would guess that the answer is yes.

The case in NJ is typical of this type.  A church owns property it rents, or it has another business it owns outright, that does business with the general public.  At some point, that business is confronted with a gay or lesbian couple that wishes to do business with them, which is then denied on the basis of the church's beliefs about homosexuality.

They are sued, and a court finds for the plaintiff, telling the church that it cannot discriminate on a religious basis, because it is running a business that caters to the general public.

Church cries foul, accusing the court of violating their First Amendment rights.

In cases such as this, there is no foul.  They are operating a business, and they are bound by long established Constitutional principles to obey secular law - in running the secular side of their business.  And make no mistake, they ARE running a secular business.  There is nothing religious about renting a lakeside property - unless it is rented out ONLY to other religious organizations for religious purposes.

This is like the issue that occurred in a major East Coast city a few years ago, where the Catholic Church had an adoption business which was taken to court by a gay couple who wanted to adopt but were denied on the basis of their sexual orientation.  I don't remember the outcome, but the Church was threatening to close the business if they were forced to serve gay couples.  They wouldn't even keep it open for Catholics!

I don't know about you, but THAT is bullying.

In this country, the First Amendment is in place to protect ALL Americans.  Not just Catholics, not just Fundamentalist christians, but EVERYBODY.  All religions, or NO religion.  You have the ABSOLUTE right to worship AS YOU PLEASE, which could mean anything from attending daily Mass to simply silently thinking a prayer to yourself once a day or even doing nothing at all.  NOBODY has the right to force you to practice religion in a manner you find objectionable, nor can they stop you from worshipping your way.

If your way is sleeping late on Sunday, going to the beach and "worshipping" the sun, then that is your absolute right.

Because the government cannot force you to either adhere to a specific practice, nor can it stop you from doing it your way, the government is effectively out of the religion business.

Which means you cannot use the power of the government, at any level, to force your beliefs on the rest of us.  It means that when you operate in the public sphere, you have to obey the same laws of conduct, whether private or business, as everybody else.

Whatever your religion, or lack of it, you cannot force your beliefs on others.

But you are also protected from others doing the same to you.

A common complaint I've heard from christians is that keeping religion out of the public sphere is tantamount to forcing others to practice Atheism.


It IS very clever, because the essence of Atheism IS the lack of religion.

But the flaw to this accusation is that simply keeping religious practices out of the public sphere isn't denying you the right to worship as you please, it is simply keeping you from forcing the rest of us to endure your brand of religious practice.  Forcing you to practice Atheism would be stopping you from worshiping in your church or keeping you from praying at all.

Both of which would be as much as a violation of your rights as making me listen to your prayer in a city council meeting violates mine.

Is this getting through yet?  Is it beginning to become a little clearer that the First Amendment is a protection for ALL OF US?  That it prevents muslims from forcing their five times a day prayers on us, too, or Orthodox Jews from insisting that everybody stop cutting their beards?

Your PRIVATE worship practices are just that - PRIVATE.  Keep yours private, and I'll stop posting about how harmful and stupid they are.

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