Religious freedom laws give me concern

As a Christian and American citizen, I have concerns over the religious freedom laws and movement. Why? There is a subtle, but important difference between being given the freedom to discriminate and those seeking protection from discrimination.

While our forefathers purposefully included the separation of church and state in our constitution, religious mantras have caused troubling discriminatory practices in our country as well as others. During the unfortunate Jim Crow era, too many ministers preached exclusion and segregation, with some even speaking of white supremacy, using the bible as a weapon not as an invitation.

The following example happened in the UK, but is germane to the US as it easily could have happened here. Alan Turing is a key figure in the creation of computer analytics. During WWII. Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower said Turing led a group of people who shortened rhe war by two years and probably saved 750,000 lives. They broke the Nazi Enigma code. Yet, Turing had to hide the fact he was gay and was even arrested after the war. If he had been arrested before breaking the code, we may be speaking German as a second language.

Vivien Thomas was a black carpenter who was quite skilled with his hands. This led him to wanting to be a surgeon, but his efforts were frowned on, he was denied access and was grossly under paid due to the Jim Crow south, even at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Thomas was not allowed into operating rooms, until a white doctor (he partnered with) said he needed Thomas there. Thomas’ delicate hands and sharp mind helped pioneer the repair of hearts of the “blue babies” in a way that the repair grew up with them. Before, these babies turned blue due to poor citculation and died early on in their lives.

The Vivien Thomas story is captured in the movie “Something the Lord Made” given the groundbreaking nature of the heart surgery. I cite this title, as contrary to ministers who faclitated Jim Crow, a black man was the messenger of a miraculous technique. Overcoming Jim Crow discrimination is also the theme of the movie “Hidden Figures,” as three black women helped NASA land on the moon with their mathematical, engineering and leadership skills.

Along these same lines, a significant amount of groundbreaking mathematical ideas evolved out of predominantly Muslim countries. And, after European Jews escaped fascism before WWII and fueled a piece goods industry in New York city, a high percentage of their offspring became professionals – doctors, lawyers, etc.

Religious freedom laws permit and have permitted unhealthy discrimination in our country. Lately, these laws are permitting discrimination against LGBTQ and Muslim, Jewish and Hispanic Americans. My mantra is when religious leaders promote exclusion, religion is at its absolute worst. When they preach inclusion, religion is at its finest. Jesus said to treat people like you want to be treated – he did not list any caveats. We should not add any to this beautifully succinct golden rule.

27 thoughts on “Religious freedom laws give me concern

  1. Well said, my friend. This nation is becoming one of ‘cliques’, or as some define it, ‘tribalism’, where people value only those who share their own culture, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and skin colour. It is a shame, for we are losing so much when we shun cultural diversity. It seems to be based on a fear of ‘other’ that I do not understand at all. Good post!

    • Jill, too true. What people who support exclusion fail to realize is they a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you exclude, you may find your tribe smaller in the end. There are more than a few churches that have shrunk in size and either closed, merged or subleased space. A big tent church where every one is welcome will grow. Keith

      • Agreed. I cannot help thinking of my neighbors who I have mentioned before, Maha & Ali, Syrian refugees … we have enjoyed so much in the way of cultural exchange, learning each others language, customs, sharing foods … I never would have had the opportunity to try some of the Arabic foods … some I love and some I hate, but that is the joy of it! The warmest, most caring people I have ever known. What if I was narrow-minded, ‘tribalist’? I would have missed out on so much.

      • Jill, well said. Think of the diversity of food, music, clothes, accessories, literature, opinions, ideas, enterpreneurship, etc. that we benefit from. Our diversity is a reason of America’s success. Keith

  2. It is so incredibly sad that people are denied being able to follow their dreams, skills, and lifestyles of choice based on the hate and fear of others. Alan Turing’s story was made into a film too, staring Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game.

    • Janis, so true. The hypocrisy of the religious freedom laws is revealed when you reverse the paradigm. So, a Muslim baker can then refuse to cater a wedding where the father of the bride is a known bigot. Or, a Jewish deli can refuse to serve someone with a derogatory t-shirt. Or, a gay wedding planner refuses to work with the daughter of an evangelical minister. Keith

      • Just this past weekend on Facebook, one of my friends posted a query whether anybody knew of a ‘black-run’ caterer. Isn’t it a sad statement of our society that it matters what skin colour the people running a business are?

  3. As a Christian myself, well said. Most of the time I hear talk of protection of “religious freedom” it is often in the context of having the “freedom” to discriminate and hate.

    • Brendan, so true. One of my pet peeves is bigotry from the pulpit, as I see that as a gross misuse of power, not unlike the US President. Keith

  4. Note to Readers: About an hours drive from Charlotte is a little town that became infamous for a sermon by a southern baptist minister. From the pulpit, this minister promoted putting all gay and lesbian people behind an electrified fence. He said we would feed them pf course, but they would die off. Mind you, this was a minister.

    After his hateful sermon, the small town was flooded with protestors, justifiably so. This kind of thought process drives people away, but when a minister says things like this publicly, his bigotry is even more harmful.

  5. Great post, Keith. My unfortunate belief is that religion has been used around the world as a cudgel of power more often than it has been used as a mister of love and acceptance. Faith is too often left in the hands of narcissists.

      • Well said. The PTL Club was based here. You may recall its founder Reverend Jim Bakker went to jail for defrauding donors. With his solid gold faucets, he told Ted Koppel “The Lord wanted him to have nice things.” Keith

      • Linda, you have a good memory. There was a radio station that aired humorous skits parodying their name PTL Club with “Pass the Loot” Club. Not ironically, these skits were well before Bakker was arrested. Keith

      • What I remember most is after the arrest and his “poor” wife going on and on in front of the camera with mascara dripping off her overly made up face. Yowza!

      • Linda, I remember that as well. True story, I had a colleague who was doing some consulting with the PTL Club during the Bakker problems. He was leading a meeting writing on the board, when someone came in the room and asked for everyone in the room to immediately drop to their knees and pray for their maligned leader. And, they did while my colleague was talking, so he gingerly sst down. One thing that should be noted clearly is Bakker reaped what he sowed. He was found guilty. Keith

      • Linda, I answered the question thinking it was on my Rachel Carson post. Please forgive. I think Bakker would realize a similar fate because he was clearly cheating people. With that said, there are several televangelists who are doing far worse than Bakker did. Keith

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