Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter Monday Collage: "They Wanted to Silence the Voices of Love, but the Words of the Resurrected . . . Hammered Upon Their Minute Brain"

An Easter Monday collage for you: articles I've read and shared this morning with friends on Facebook, all of which seem to me to have Easter pertinence, since, as Julia Esquivel writes in her magnificent Easter poem Threatened with Resurrection

They wanted to silence the voices of love, but the words of the resurrected, repeated in a thousand echoes on the infinite horizon, tirelessly hammered upon their minute brain . . . . They have midget spirits.

The Celebrate Jesus Easter Parade has been growing in Eureka Springs [Arkansas] over the past three years. This year the Eureka Springs First Methodist Church applied to be in the parade, wanting to carry a sign saying "Jesus loves all." The church was denied, and now they're asking why.   . . . 
First United Methodist of Eureka Springs applied to be in the parade, and was initially accepted. One week before the parade, however, they were told they were no longer welcome. Church member Suzie Bell believes it's because of their stance on the LGBT community.   . . .   
Bell says the Methodist Church has recently become a "reconciling congregation" meaning they are publicly welcoming of the LGBT community. Bell says that is the reason they weren't allowed in.  

Piggie Park was resolved in 1968, but Bessinger’s legal claim that religion should provide a license to discriminate rears its head over and over again in modern American history. It reared its head just over a week ago in Indiana, when religious conservatives briefly pushed through legislation that could have enabled them to ignore local ordinances protecting against anti-LGBT discrimination. 
Yet, while the argument that religious objections can authorize discrimination is not new and has not typically fared well in court, the tactic anti-gay groups deployed in Indiana — enacting a law expanding the scope of "religious freedom" for the very purpose of protecting discrimination — is of much more recent vintage. As marriage equality appears more and more inevitable, and as the nation as a whole grows increasingly sympathetic toward LGBT rights, opponents of these rights hope to build a firewall against America’s broader culture. And this firewall rests on a foundation very similar to the arguments Maurice Bessinger [of Piggie Park, who argued that his religious convictions would not allow him to sell barbecue to African Americans] once presented to the Supreme Court.

And don't forget that Ian Milleiser wrote the following a year ago at Think Progress, as he noted how anti-gay "religious freedom" activists are deploying the same religion-based arguments to deny rights to LGBT folks that they previously used to deny rights to people of color:

Yet, while LGBT Americans are the current target of this effort to repackage prejudice as "religious liberty," they are hardly the first. To the contrary, as Wake Forest law Professor Michael Kent Curtis explained in a 2012 law review article, many segregationists justified racial bigotry on the very same grounds that religious conservatives now hope to justify anti-gay animus. 

Republicans claim they backed down in Indiana and Arkansas because of a "perception problem.'' The religious freedom laws were "damaging the Republican brand'' and "hurting the image'' of their states. That misses the real message: in the New America, it is no longer acceptable to stigmatize gay people. 
Or African-Americans or Latinos or Asian-Americans or Jews or Muslims or working women or single mothers or the unchurched (the nearly one in five Americans who have no religious affiliation).   . . .  
Republicans represent the Old America. The Old America may be losing influence but it's not giving up without a fight. The issue it's rallying around? Religion.

The national debate over the religious freedom acts highlighted two strains of social conservative—unabashed gay-hating conflict entrepreneurs and members of the Polite Right. But if both camps support the same law for the same reasons, what’s the real difference? 
The fight over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act has pulled back the curtain on the Polite Right. 
Beltway-centric but not moderate, these cautious spokesmen for civility do not practice your drunk uncle’s bigotry. They endorse a more soft-spoken and socially acceptable kind of prejudice. This prejudice comes clothed in talk of tolerance and piety, appeals to fairness and freedom. 

Rachel Zoll of AP by way of Washington Post on the continued defiance of the leaders of the American Catholic church, and their determination to keep pushing for the right of private businesses to posture as persons with religious convictions that should allow them to discriminate:

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who leads the religious liberty committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the bishops’ goals have not changed following the uproar this week in Indiana and to a lesser degree Arkansas. 
"Individual or family-owned businesses as well as religious institutions should have the freedom to serve others consistent with their faith," Lori said in a statement.

And yet more defiance of the growing national consensus that discrimination posturing as "religious freedom" is inconsistent with the Christian gospel and democratic values: here are U.S. Catholic leaders Lori, Archbishop Charles Chaput, and Manhattan Declaration author Robert George with Southern Baptist leaders Albert Mohler and Russell Moore last week:

In recent days we have heard claims that a belief central to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—that we are created male and female, and that marriage unites these two basic expressions of humanity in a unique covenant—amounts to a form of bigotry. Such arguments only increase public confusion on a vitally important issue. When basic moral convictions and historic religious wisdom rooted in experience are deemed "discrimination," our ability to achieve civic harmony, or even to reason clearly, is impossible. 

Some pastoral leaders. Some preachers of the good news of Jesus Christ. Some representatives of gospel values. American Catholics should be very, very ashamed — and ashamed of the "polite" and "soft" bigotry of centrist Catholic publications and academic leaders who keep giving cover to such raw prejudice masquerading as "civic harmony" and "reason" and "balance" and "civil dialogue" and "religious freedom."

(Thanks to Brandon Meister for sending me the link to the Eureka Springs story.)

The graphic: Naked Pastor David Hayward's "Pizza Christ," which he created in defiance of "religious freedom" laws that would enshrine the right to refuse goods and services to LGBT people in the name of religious belief. Thanks to Jean-François Garneau for sharing this link on Facebook. 

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