Friday, November 01, 2019

The Weaponization of Religious Liberty

Religious discrimination is a real thing.
History — both modern and ancient — is tragically full of examples of times and places where religious discrimination has been the source of persecution, death and destruction. The perversion of religion into a weapon of mass destruction is antithetical to the core beliefs of all the world’s great religions. And yet, none of those religions have escaped the sad reality that human beings — given the power to do so — will use God as an excuse to inflict pain and suffering on other human beings.
Our forefathers knew that. And they brought that knowledge — that wisdom — into our Bill of Rights with a First Amendment that begins: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...”
The First Amendment both prevents the government of the United States from privileging one religion over another and protects each and every one of us — as American citizens — to believe whatever we choose — or choose not — to believe about what God thinks, approves of or blesses.
It is what protects our democracy from becoming a theocracy. And, as we watch with sadness and horror the nightly news stories of religious wars and sectarian violence, this guarantee of religious freedom is something Americans of all religions — and no religion — should rejoice and be glad in.
What that guarantee of religious liberty is not is something to be distorted and exploited to further a political agenda of discrimination against LGBTQ people ... but that’s exactly what happened today with the Trump Administration’s HHS announcement today removing any requirement that recipients of grants from HHS enforce nondiscrimination rules that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and rules prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion.

Today’s HHS announcement comes on the heels of
the appointment of Paula White to the White House staff to advise the administration’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative, which was established last year by executive order to “give religious groups more of a voice in government programs devoted to issues like defending religious liberty.”

It is yet another step by this administration to license discrimination against LGBTQ people on religious grounds … policies that are dangerous and detrimental not only for the LGBTQ Americans who are its direct target. It is a policy that opens the door for discrimination, inequality and prejudice to nearly every citizen of every state, undermining the foundational American value of equal protection. It is nothing less than an orchestrated backlash against equal protection for LGBTQ citizens and a flagrant distortion of the ideal of religious freedom into a vehicle for religion based bigotry.
Bottom line: The First Amendment protects your right as an American to the free exercise of your religion. It does not protect your right to use your religion as an excuse to discriminate against other Americans.
And watching the tragic consequences of genuine religious discrimination on the nightly news makes it all the more urgent that we stand together and speak out against yet another effort to turn religious liberty into a weapon of mass discrimination.
Because religious discrimination is a real thing. And this blatant effort to exploit it in order to attack LGBTQ citizens is a reprehensible thing.

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