Thursday, April 21, 2016

In the News: Attacks on Transgender Community, with Commentary on Catholic Bishops' Support of Discriminatory Laws

Another in-the-news posting to follow the one I just posted about the ongoing story of the abuse crisis in the Catholic church in the U.S.:

For the Maddow blog, Steve Benen notes that the ruling this week by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the right of transgender students in schools to have equal access to bathroom facilities has implications for the new law targeting the trans community in North Carolina. He writes:

When North Carolina Republicans rushed through its controversial HB2 law, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) insisted the discriminatory policy wouldn’t affect job creation in the state. The evidence is now overwhelming that the governor was wrong, with another tech company scrapping a job-creating project in North Carolina this week.

What McCrory needs is a way out of the mess he and his allies created. Last week's executive orders were intended to help resolve matters, but they did little to end the controversy.

Is there a face-saving solution that North Carolina Republicans could implement before matters get even worse? Maybe. Consider MSNBC's report yesterday on important appeals court ruling out of Virginia.

However, as Mark Joseph Stern reports for Slate, the 4th Circuit's ruling poses a problem for the controversial anti-gay president of University of North Carolina, Margaret Spellings, who served in the administration of George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas. Spellings has announced she intends to uphold the state law. The 4th Circuit ruling may now call into question the right of institutions discriminating against LGBT students, faculty, and staff to receive Title IX funding:

Although the University of North Carolina's anti-gay president has declared that she will enforce the law against trans students, the 4th Circuit’s decision makes clear that such enforcement would be illegal. If UNC (and other North Carolina schools) move forward with their plan to discriminate against trans students, they stand to lose $4.5 billion in Title IX funding.

But note that the Catholic college in North Carolina, Belmont Abbey College, has gotten a right-to-discriminate pass from the federal government allowing it to continue receiving Title IX funds while explicitly discriminating against trans students, faculty, and staff, while claiming its Catholic faith requires such discrimination.

Also pertinent to this discussion: as Kimberly Winston reports for Religion News Service, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has just issued a statement that violating the human rights of targeted minority communities in the name of "religious freedom" is discriminatory behavior that cannot be justified by appeals to "religious freedom": Winston writes, 

Citing "religious liberty" as a reason for denying one class of citizens bathroom access, equal housing or services is a human rights violation. 
That's the finding of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent, bipartisan agency that advises the president and Congress on civil rights matters. The commission issued a statement Monday (April 18) saying it "strongly condemns recent state laws passed, and proposals being considered, under the guise of so-called 'religious liberty' which target members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community for discrimination." 
The commission is referring to recent laws and proposed laws like one passed by North Carolina last month that requires transgender people to use public restrooms that correspond to their genders at birth.

For National Catholic Reporter, Catholic moral theologians Michael Lawler and Todd Salzman look at the determinaion of the U.S. Catholic bishops to oppose rather than support laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ people, and conclude, 

The burden of proof is on the church to demonstrate that homosexual acts are destructive of human dignity and cannot serve "the good of the person or society." So far, it has not offered a compelling argument. An unproven assertion should not be advanced as the basis for an abusive use of religious freedom aimed at preventing or repealing nondiscrimination legislation and imposing the church's morally questionable doctrine on the broader society. 
The bishops have every right to advocate for their moral position and to protect religious institutions from participating in what they perceive as immoral activity, but they do not have the right to impose their moral teachings legislatively in a pluralistic society. That, we conclude, would be the very worst kind of proselytism. 
One final comment on the bishops' 2012 statement on religious freedom: The bishops should be ashamed of themselves for citing Martin Luther King Jr., the genuine and undisputed "conscience of the state" for civil rights, to trample on the equal civil rights of homosexual, bisexual and transgender citizens.

Finally, for those contemplating the unthinkable horror of having to share a restroom with a transgender person, I recommend the ReasonTV video at the top of the posting.

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