Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Quote for Day: Oklahoma Legislators Providing Signal That "It Is Open Season on Expressing Prejudice and Discrimination Toward Any or All Minorities"

Following the online circulation of the video to which I linked in my previous posting, in which members of a fraternity at University of Oklahoma chant racist taunts en route to a frat party, Faith in America has asked Oklahoma lawmakers to reconsider "legislation that gives a green light to discrimination when justified with religious teaching or belief." As I've noted here previously, the Oklahoma legislature is considering a slew of bills that deliberately target LGBT citizens of that state, with claims that those citizens represent a threat to the "religious liberty" of Christians in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma state senator Joseph Silk has two anti-gay bills before the state legislature right now. One of these maintains that gay people "do not have a right to be served in very single store." Silk wants the state to enact legislation that provides people the "right," on grounds of religious liberty, to deny goods or services to LGBT citizens. 

Brent Childers, Faith in America's executive director, notes the connection between the many pieces of legislation now under consideration in Oklahoma that directly target LGBT people, and the racist incident that just took place involving University of Oklahoma frat members:

This is the kind of division and social strife that these so-called "religious liberty" measures are paving the way for. 
When people, especially younger individuals, see their state lawmakers drafting a law that says it is OK for a business owner to shoo away gay people as if they were some form of pest, what kind of message do they think that sends in terms of respect for minorities.
It says that it is open season on expressing prejudice and discrimination toward any or all minorities. Putting a moral and religious stamp of approval on bigotry and discrimination does just that.

Brent Childers is correct. A half century ago, people issuing racist taunts like the ones that have just gotten some University of Oklahoma fraternity boys in trouble were spouting bible verses to justify their resistance to racial integration, and were shouting that their religious freedom was under attack when they were forced to respect the rights of people of color. The attack on LGBT human beings under the rubric of religious liberty is just the latest iteration in a long line of such attacks in parts of the U.S. are very fond of citing scripture verses to justify raw discrimination.

If the rest of the nation lets this continue and buys into the spurious claims about religious freedom and the "right" to attack gay folks, the entire nation is going to suffer. This behavior is fundamentally antithetical to the democratic values on which the United States claims to be founded.

The photo of Brent Childers is from his Huffington Post biography page.

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