Monday, September 9, 2013

Gay Rights vs. Religious Rights: Religion News Service Counters NALT Project

So, let me see if I understand this correctly:

One week, a group of Christians representing a wide cross-section of mainline churches begins a website called Not All Like That (NALT) Christians. Within days after the NALT project is launched, a leading purveyor of religious news, Religion News Service, publishes an article by Sarah Pulliam Bailey entitled, "Gay Rights vs. Religious Rights: 7 Issues to Watch." 

A headline that quite directly keeps alive the us-vs.-them meme: us Christians vs. them gays and their rights. . . . Not a headline that reads, "Some Christians Continue to Oppose Human Rights" . . . .

But a headline that squarely confronts gay rights with religious rights, as if never the twain shall meet--since it's self-evident that gay rights can't be religious rights . . . . The article then goes on to frame the refusal of some bakeries to sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples or some florists to sell flowers to same-sex couples as they marry as a religious right.

Not a matter of discrimination, not a matter of violating the fundamental human rights of a targeted group of human beings: a religious right . . . .  Having lived through the Civil Rights struggle in the American South and having seen many fine, upstanding white Christians refuse to sell houses to people solely because of the color of their skin, refuse service to people in restaurants solely because of the pigmentation of the people in question--all the while quoting the bible and standing on their "religious" rights--I couldn't have less patience with these spurious arguments that cake-selling and flower-vending are a matter of religious faith.

Shame on RNS for publishing an article like this, with a headline like this, within days of the launching of the NALT project. If nothing else, Bailey's article richly demonstrates the need for the NALT project. As Gabriel Aranas notes recently, re: NALT, 

Fixing Christianity's anti-gay image is not just a cosmetic touch-up intended to make it more hip to young people; it's a matter of survival. "The conflation of Christianity and anti-gay bigotry is harming Christianity itself," Savage says. "People are walking away because of it." According to the Barna Group, a Christian polling organization, 59 percent of young Christians leave the faith because they perceive the church to be too exclusive, particularly when it comes to LGBT people.

Keep up the ridiculous meme that cake-baking and flower-arranging are expressions of religious freedom and religious faith, RNS and other centrist enablers of the religious right. Maybe you'll succeed in driving away the small remnant of young folks who continue to have anything to do with the churches.

Though where that would put you and your business of selling headlines is mysterious to me.

P.S. National Catholic Reporter is running Bailey's article right now with the headline unaltered. And, predictably, the Catholic right is lapping the article up, while many other Catholics who seem to have heads on their shoulders and a commitment to social justice aren't buying the implicit claim of the headline that gay rights and religious rights are at odds.

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