Sunday, February 23, 2014

Elias Isquith on Religious Right's "Utterly Self-Conscious Act of Disingenuousness" in Depicting Itself as Victim in War Against Human Rights of Gays

At Salon, Elias Isquith points out what many of us (George Takei included) are saying about the spate of anti-gay laws now being considered by a number of state legislatures in the U.S.--one of which Arizona's legislature just passed: that is, that these laws are a reincarnation of the odious Jim Crow laws of the Southern states in the 1890s:

Needless to say, these are odious bills, so patently designed to allow some Americans to deny the rights and dignity of others that the frequently made comparisons to Jim Crow are depressingly appropriate. And while there are some signs that even those who don’t support the rights of LGBT citizens see this kind of legislation as a bridge too far, the Arizona example shows that this kind of legislation is a frighteningly real possibility for millions of Americans. As Evan Hurst, associate director of the pro-gay rights nonprofit Truth Wins Out, told David Corn of Mother Jones, “[O]ne would think the GOP would like to be electable among people under 50 sometime in the near future” and would thus avoid supporting Jim Crow-style anti-gay legislation. But at this point, it looks like that’s an open question.

But as Isquith also notes, the proposed anti-gay "religious freedom" laws also betoken a certain desperation on the part of the religious and political right, as the right senses that it's on the losing side of the moral arc of history in the battle for human rights for gay people. Isquith sees that desperation on full display in the choice of the religious right to depict itself as the persecuted, victimized, oppressed party in the war it has declared against gay people, and in its choice to adopt (and turn on its head) the language of rights that drives the movement for gay rights:

Yet here we are in 2014, with gay marriage legal in more than a dozen states and with the social stigma against homosexuality less powerful than at any other time in American history. Now, the very same people who would once dismiss the notion that LGBT people have rights are adopting the rhetorical framework of their opponents, hoping to rebrand bigotry as an outgrowth of religious conviction. Instead of making an argument in favor of marginalizing a persecuted group, conservatives are now the ones hoping to claim the mantle of oppression and shoehorn themselves into the sphere of protected persons. 
It’s an utterly self-conscious act of disingenuousness and deception, too. As George Mason University public policy professor Mark Rozell once recommended they do, conservatives, understanding that their culture war language was repelling young people on the left and the right, have adopted “the rhetoric of ‘rights’ and ‘tolerance’ that liberals currently own” in an attempt to “speak to secular types about the value of pluralism and religious conscience.” It may be a savvy move, but the hypocrisy is stunning. It’s as if the shadowy spymasters of the National Security Agency began arguing that their activities should be shielded from public scrutiny in the name of preserving their privacy rights.

As Isquith concludes, the religious right has a steep uphill climb in front of itself as it tries to paint itself as the persecuted party in its battle against the human rights of gay people--especially as more and more American citizens recognize the humanity of their neighbors, friends, and family members who are gay, and defend the rights of gay folks. It's increasingly hard for the anti-gay religious right to play the victim card as headlines like this pop up in the New York Times: "Religious Right in Arizona Cheers Bill Allowing Businesses to Refuse to Serve Gays." Or this one at the Maddow Blog: "'Religious Freedom Is a Shield, Not a  Sword.'"

The tweet at the head of the posting is from the Twitter feed of Caleb Woods.

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