Friday, November 4, 2011

Michigan Republicans Gut Anti-Bullying Bill, Using Religious Freedom Arguments Echoing U.S. Catholic Bishops

Remember that I mentioned to you yesterday that the U.S. Catholic bishops are now lobbying Congress for special religious exemptions for groups that do not want to comply with the guidelines of a proposed new Health and Human Services recommendation to provide contraceptive coverage in health care plans?  The bishops have argued for some time now that religious groups must have the "religious freedom" to discriminate when and if they wish, if their religious views require such discrimination.

And so their "right" to discriminate becomes central to their contention that their "religious freedom" is being attacked when the state of Illinois does not renew child services contracts with Catholic Charities, because Catholic Charities insists it will not comply with state non-discrimination laws in dealing with same-sex couples.  Their "right" to discriminate becomes their right to overrule the human rights of others, including minority groups already experiencing discrimination, even as they claim that they are defending human rights by insisting on their right to discriminate.

This very week, Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, chair of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference's Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, wrote Congress to say that the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Obama administration is refusing to defend since it discriminates against a vulnerable minority group already susceptible to discrimination, serves "the human dignity of all persons."   Discrimination serves human dignity . . . !  Cordileone also asserts that DOMA actually serves human rights by taking away the rights of a targeted minority group, and the Catholic bishops' insistence on keeping this discriminatory legislation in place is an attempt on their part to protect and defend human rights.  

(I'll have more on Cordileone in a subsequent posting.  Daniel Avila, who wrote the abominable piece linking gays to the devil for the Boston Catholic archdiocesan paper that is now causing such a stink, sits on the USCCB committee headed by Cordileone.  Cordileone boasts that he removed the right of civil marriage from gay citizens in California.  And Avila's rhetoric about gays and the devil crops up in statements Cordileone himself has made.)

And here's where all this toxic nonsense about discrimination serving the common good, and about how "we're protecting religious freedom and human rights by denying freedom and rights to you," ends up: the Republican-led Senate of Michigan has just gutted an anti-bullying bill by insisting that those inspired by religious convictions to discriminate against gays must retain the "right" to discriminate on grounds of conscience.  Their right to bully must, at all costs, be defended.  The religious freedom of people of faith opposed to humane treatment of gay and lesbian persons must be defended, even when young people are being bullied to death in our schools due to the discriminatory attitudes fostered by these people of faith.

My religious freedom means my right to trample on your human rights.  And to pummel you into the ground if necessary.

Because it's God who stands behind me and whom I serve and whom I represent.  And my God is all about love and acceptance.  And human rights and human dignity.  Because I say so, and I'm the one speaking for God in these negotiations.  Not you.  Because you're gay and allied to the devil.

What some people of faith, with the United States Catholic bishops leading the charge, are doing to their gay brothers and sisters these days in the name of God, and the arguments they're using to justify what they're doing, are twisted beyond belief.  Twisted and cruel to the very marrow of the heart.

Later today: for those interested in the Michigan debate, here's a powerful video of Michigan senator Gretchen Whitmer calling the bluff of the religious bigots behind the "conscience protections" movement that has gutted the Michigan anti-bullying bill.  She tells them they are "creating a blueprint for bullying" with their conscience protections, and are further endangering bullied children by creating sick excuses for bullies.

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