Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Religious Right Continues to Claim Right to Discriminate Against Gays

I'm still here, gentles.  And I apologize for the several days' delay in posting.  I'm thinking through a situation involving people near and dear to me in which there's quite a bit of pain right now.  And that makes focusing on anything else an uphill battle.

Thinking through: no, that's not quite right.  Praying through is far more accurate.  And for me, that means taking the situation and the pain of the situation inside my soul and letting whatever needs to gestate there as a result of all of this come to life.  The soul is, as you know, a womb--a word with female gender in Latin (anima) and Greek (psyche).

Praying and letting grow whatever needs to grow through this period of pain and mourning involving a number of close family members, none of whom in any way merits this pain that none of us can avoid: and, as always, hoping that, above all, what grows out of the experience for all of us is a greater capacity to love.  Since that is the hallmark of the soul's growth, in religious traditions around the globe.

A great deal of the grief right now in this particular situation stems from the fact that the church is absolutely no help at all, when it ought to be a refuge and a place of healing.  The church is, in fact, the source of much of the pain through which my family members are walking.  It is because these family members have listened to the church, done what the church tells them to do, received blessings and perks for doing so, that the pain they/we are now walking through is so intense.

The church cannot heal a pain that it inflicts in very specific, distinct ways--especially when it continues to promote the idea that people can alter their sexual orientation or pray away their gayness.  And, as recent discussion of the 12-step gay "support" program of the Catholic diocese of Colorado Springs suggests, the church does, indeed, continue inflicting intense pain on gay and lesbian human beings and their families and friends, by inviting them to lie about who they are (to themselves first, to others as a result), to deny their God-given nature, to feel unwarranted shame, to use and hurt others in their futile attempt to become who they are not.

This is evil.  And I grow increasingly impatient with anyone who colludes in and supports this evil behavior on the part of religious groups.  Or who gives any money at all to faith communities who sponsor such evil attacks on the human dignity of gay and lesbian human beings.

And that's all I can say for now about the situation through which we are praying.  In the midst of this struggle, here's a piece of news that catches my eye: from the beginning of this year, I have blogged repeatedly about a new ploy of Catholic pastoral officials to define religious freedom as the fundamental human right.  And to argue on that basis that the "right" of faith communities to discriminate against those who are gay and lesbian trumps the alleged human rights of those who are gay and lesbian.

As I have noted, Pope Benedict himself is pushing this rhetoric at the very center of the church, and it has already cropped up in statements made early in the year by key Catholic church officials in various parts of the world.  I predicted that these claims about how religious freedom is under attack, about the centrality of religious freedom to all human rights, and about the right of faith communities to discriminate against gay and lesbian persons in the name of religious freedom, would be promoted more and more widely in 2011.

Unfortunately, it appears I was correct in this prediction.  I've already surveyed at some length the controversy surrounding the case of hotel owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull in England, who have claimed that they should have the right, due to religious conviction, to discriminate against gay and lesbian guests in their hotel.  That story turns on precisely the assertions being promoted by Pope Benedict and other Catholic leaders, along with leaders of the religious right in both Europe and America, that religious freedom is under attack, particularly as civil law more and more prohibits discrimination against those who are gay and lesbian.

As several recent initiatives further indicate, Benedict's assertions are part of a wider strategy of the religious right now to claim the right, on the ground of the "fundamental" human right of religious freedom, to discriminate against gay and lesbian persons while citing religious conviction as the basis for discrimination.  In Utah, Republican state representative LaVar Christensen last week filed a bill entitled the "Religious Liberty Recognition" bill.  This bill seeks to roll back protections enacted in some Utah communities in the past several years, which would protect gay and lesbian persons from discrimination in housing, employment, and other areas.  The bill argues explicitly that religious freedom is a “valid defense to claims of discrimination by others.”

Precisely as Pope Benedict has recently claimed, and as the Bulls claimed in their case in England . . . . Again, if anyone doubts that this is part of a broader strategy of the religious and political right, in which the same claims are being made over and over again to justify the same old forms of insupportable discrimination, now there's this: as Joe Sudbay reports at Americablog Gay today, in Iowa, House Republicans are now considering a bill entitled the Religious Conscience Protection Act.

Which will, if it passes, permit a person, business, or organization like a charity or fraternal group to deny services to gay and lesbian persons without facing liability, while citing religious conviction as the basis for it discriminatory behavior.

We've been told for some years now by the religious right (and Catholic leaders) that their concerns are about protecting the sanctity of marriage. Not about defending discrimination against those who are gay or lesbian.

It now seems what we've been told by these religious groups has simply not been true at all.  There is a widespread movement at work today, promoting exactly the same claims and using exactly the same terms about religious freedom and the "right" of religious groups to discriminate everywhere this movement asserts itself.  And the goal of that movement and the faith communities supporting it is to protect, defend, and promote discrimination.

And what do the leaders of the Catholic church imagine they're doing protecting, defending, and promoting such discrimination, I wonder?  I don't for a second blame the younger members of my family who are furious at what they have seen their church do to people they love, and who wouldn't be caught dead going to Mass any longer.  If I were in their shoes, I'd be running away as fast as they're running from an institution that is actively harming people who do not deserve harm, while making ludicrous claims about its support for  universal human rights.  And about how God is love and the church is a sacramental sign of God's universal, unwavering love of every human being.

The graphic for this posting: I'm borrowing shamelessly from Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish blog, with its series entitled "A View from Your Window."  This happens to be a view out of our downstairs bathroom window (a frosted window, obviously) I snapped yesterday morning.  Before the latest inundation of snow hit us today.  I've perched several kokopelli figures and a kitschy Baroque cherubim in that window to remind me to hopeAnd celebrate.  Even amidst darkness and struggle.

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