Wednesday, July 23, 2014

They will know us by those we discriminate against

The outsider vantage point is an interesting place to be so far as Christianity is concerned, offering a less obstructed view of the absurdity involved when a major religion allows itself to be defined by its reactions to a relatively small group of people, most recently the LGBT community.

Especially in light of words attributed to the guy from whom the outfit takes its name: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Love that KJV.

So while it was gratifying on Monday to watch President Obama sign an executive order barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by federal contractors --- without the additional religious exemption sought by Christianist zealots --- it will be interesting now to watch the religious right work the loopholes. And there are a couple of those.

Many "faith-based" programs offered by religious organizations with their noses in the public trough are funded by outright grants from the government, not through contractual agreements. So the new restrictions do not apply.

In addition, Obama left standing an exemption that dates from the George W. Bush administration that allows faith-based contractors to discriminate when hiring and firing on the basis of religion. A faith-based charity, for example, may hire only co-religionists if it wishes to do so --- Roman Catholics for a Roman Catholic-administered program, Baptists for a Baptist-administered program.

The boundaries of this exception really never have been tested, but now may be. What would happen, for example, if a Southern Baptist-run contractual charity discovers a gay Southern Baptist among its workers, then imposes the denomination's general understanding that gay people are not Christians, let alone Southern Baptists, and fires him or her? There's the potential for all sorts of other interesting twists and turns here.

And then there's the recent Hobby Lobby U.S. Supreme Court decision that opens the door for "closely held" public corporations to decline services to people if those services are deemed religiously objectional. More room for mischief. What if the courts hold people can be religiously objectional, too, and so it's not necessary to either employ or serve them?

It's going to be fun to watch Christians poke and prod and squirm now in order to legally avoid behaving like Christians.

By most estimates, the Obama order will cover about 20 percent of the nation's workforce and is the most significant act by the president involving LGBT Americans since the demise of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Obama had delayed the executive order in the hope an Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) might clear Congress, which now seems unlikely as progressives become increasingly uneasy with the religious exemption clauses included in a Senate-passed measure.

Progressive Christians generally applauded the Obama order and many had hoped, too, that the Bush-era religious exemption would be eliminated. That seems only fair when you're dealing with public funds.

And there are, by the way, quite a number of religious organizations --- some of them quite conservative --- that decline to accept public funding for their good works. To do that, however, requires familiarity with one of the basic rules of life --- if your nose is in the government trough, eventually there will be a ring in it --- and then a string attached to the ring to lead you where the government wants you to go.


Since we're on the subject, sort of, I was intrigued by this piece by Neal Broverman on the The Advocate Web site, "All Gay People are Screwed Up and It's OK."

Some might argue that Broverman shouldn't play the "victim card," but there's a good deal of truth in what he writes and it's good to acknowledge that, to one degree or another, all LGBT people are through no real fault of our own damaged goods. Or at least I've never met a gay person who wasn't.

That doesn't imply that we were born damaged, nor does it mean gay folks aren't entirely capable of transcending the damage. Most actually do. But damage to date has been inevitable, and continues.

And it's important to realize too that LGBT folks are neither the only nor necessarily the most important victims. We live, after all, in a society whose racist and sexist roots still are clearly evident at all levels.

The church always has been the principal instrument of damage, although that is changing to a degree now. But it should come as no surprise that many if not most LGBT people lack faith in the Christian experience.

No comments: