At Truthout, Stephanie Guilloud points out who (in addition to the U.S. Catholic bishops) is promoting the spate of new "religious freedom" laws in state after state today: as she notes, it's not accidental that half of the state-level laws of this sort already on the books are in the South, and it's in the South, Midwest, and Southwest that there's most impetus for more such bills. Guilloud observes that the "religious freedom" bills now being presented to legislatures in state after state are new drafts of old laws crafted in Southern states in the period after integration to justify religion-based discrimination against African-American citizens.
The Hobby Lobby decision in 2014 led to these state-by-state bills. The strategy is to test the social and legislative climate for how far states are willing to recodify discriminatory, exclusive, segregationist and violent practices.
At the height of Jim Crow segregation and violence, groups who were against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 argued that individual people, businesses and churches have the right to exclude and segregate particular groups of people based on religious liberty and individual freedom.
Fifty years later, those same arguments are being written into new drafts of old laws. The religious freedom bills sweeping across the South, Midwest and Southwest this year are about more than protecting gay people from mean bakers.
Religious freedom is being recodified to justify discrimination based on an individual's beliefs, making anyone who falls outside of a narrow moral vacuum a potential target. If religious beliefs are legally allowed to disregard, diminish or oppose other religions, people's behaviors or even people's existence as humans, we are not on a slippery slope: We are swimming in the muck of a new era of social control and segregation.
Note what Guilloud is saying here:
1. The purpose of the state-level anti-gay "religious freedom" laws is to extend the logic of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision as far as it can be pushed at the state level: private businesses are declared persons with religious belief and consciences, and a demand is made that those businesses-as-persons be allowed to discriminate against LGBT peiople on the basis of their alleged religious belief.
2. This is the very same argument advanced by white Southerners in the mid-20th century when they found themselves on the losing side of an historic battle about civil rights for African-American citizens.
3. And so it is not in the least an accident that these state-level anti-gay "religious freedom" laws are most strongly supported in the South.
4. "Religious freedom is being recodified to justify discrimination based on an individual's beliefs, making anyone who falls outside of a narrow moral vacuum a potential target," and this places us, as a society, on a very slippery slope whose terminus will be, if the process is not checked, "the muck of a new era of social control and segregation."
To the shame of American Catholics, the pastoral leaders of our church are leading the way, for American society as a whole, to that slippery slope and the muck at the end of the slope. It's what they want. It's what they are actively promoting, the glib, misleading transsubstantiation of businesses and corporations into persons with religious beliefs and consciences, who should be permitted to discriminate against targeted minority groups on the basis of their alleged beliefs and alleged consciences.
The American Catholic bishops, through their political alliance with right-wing white evangelicals, are now seeking to dismantle the legal protections for minority groups that have been painfully put into place over the course of American history, at great price to many people who have struggled to extend participatory democracy to those on the margins of society. They are, to their shame and the shame of the church they lead, replicating the gesture of Southern segregationists in the mid-20th century, who offered the very same arguments the bishops are now hotly pushing in the public square to justify the re-segregation of Southern schools, facilities like swimming pools, and so forth.
I'll say it again: this is shameful.