Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Faith-Based Discrimination

Saturday afternoon the Missouri University basketball team won their second close game in three days. June and I are Mizzou basketball fans, so we really enjoyed watching those two games as well as most of their other 16 wins this season. Watching their 7 losses is another story.
Although we did not see the halftime activities, the MU football team was honored for their stellar season, culminating with their winning the Cotton Bowl last month. (I am a big Mizzou football fan also, but, unfortunately, June won’t watch football with me.)
MU football team’s “most valuable player” this past season was their 255-pound defensive end, Michael Sam. As most of you know, Sam has been much in the news this month, for he openly announced that he is gay.
(Sam’s teammates had known that, and accepted him without a problem, already.)
Also, as many us of might have guessed, the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) was not happy with Sam’s announcement—or with the University of Missouri. Thus, last Saturday WBC called for a demonstration against “fag football player shameless Michael Sam” and his supporters.
On the church’s website (GodHatesFags.com), the 2/11 announcement of the picketing plans at Columbia on 2/15 ends with the words, “God hates fag football players and their enablers.”
Admirably, some 2,000 students and townspeople rallied to form a peaceful “human wall” to separate the basketball arena (and the football team) from the hateful protest of WBC.
Westboro Baptist Church members, however, were not the only ones practicing what can be called “faith-based discrimination.”
While most members of the Kansas House of Representatives probably do not approve of the extreme measures of the Topeka church, on February 12 they passed a bill which would allow discrimination based on religious beliefs.
Though the short title of Kansas House Bill 2453 is “Protecting religious freedom regarding marriage,” the language of the bill would broadly give commercial establishments the right to discriminate against gay couples on the basis of the religious beliefs of those who own and/or operate those establishments.
(This issue is closely related to opposition to the health insurance mandate on the basis of religious beliefs, a matter about which I recently wrote.)
Even though HB 2453 was passed by a 72-49 (60%) vote, it seems to have little chance of being approved by the Kansas Senate. Still, it is troublesome when a legislative body will “use religion as a vehicle for bigotry.”
The above quote is from a Feb. 14 editorial in The Kansas City Star, which says that HB 2453 “would make it possible for Kansans to cite religious belief as an excuse to deny services to gay and lesbian persons.”
The Star followed up their editorial by printing Lee Judge’s cartoon in the Sunday paper:

Whether it is the misguided actions of a church or of a state House of Representatives, faith-based discrimination is not only wrong, it also tends to blight the reputation of Christianity as a whole and of church groups and individual Christians who seek to accept, and to treat, all persons as equals, regardless of racial, ethnic, gender, or sexual orientation differences.


  1. Dear Leroy! Thanks for your inspiring blogs every week. I was flummoxed when I read about the KS Legislature's promotion of House Bill 2453. I thought the day of the American christian Taliban were coming to a close. Not so. It must be remembered that there is a BIG difference between 'christian,' and "Christian." People don't think about that enough! Again, my sincere appreciation for your work!
    George M Melby

  2. I think we're sometimes too quick to compare people and events to Hitler and Nazi Germany, but the Kansas bill seems to me eerily similar to the "Juden Verboten" (Jews Forbidden) signs that appeared on shop windows in Nazi Germany. I can't imagine even our ridiculously right-wing Supreme Court ever upholding such laws. However, I've seen a lot in the U.S. in recent years that I didn't think I would see here. :-(

    1. It seems that one of the reasons the Kansas Senate is not going to pass (by all reports) the House bill is because of the likelihood that it would be ruled unconstitutional. But, as you say, it is hard to know for sure what the right-wing courts might do.

  3. It's just possible that the Westboro Baptist Church, with its display of vicious hatred, has done more to stoke sympathy than intolerance for differences in sexual orientation; one of those sociological ironies.

    1. Yes, I think Westboro Baptist Church has made a definite contribution to increasing and/or strengthening public support for LGBT people.

  4. when thChristian Church (disciples of Christ) held their annual convention in Kansas City, they, too were picked by the Westboro group since we had "gay" ministers in their midst

  5. Local Thinking Friend Eric Dollard has again sent comments that deserve to be read widely:

    "There is a column in today's K C Star on the opinion page by Mary Sanchez about homophobia in Kansas. As she correctly points out, these evangelical 'Christians,' who are concerned about freedom of religion, have never experienced discrimination. How many of them have been refused service somewhere because of their religious beliefs? What would happen if a gay shopkeeper refused to serve someone who is opposed to homosexuality? There would be no end to the screaming.

    "It is sad that we have legislators who are more interested in idiotic distractions than in the real problems we are facing."

  6. According to yesterday's "Arizona Daily Star" newspaper,

    " [Arizona] State senators voted Wednesday to let businesses refuse to serve gays based on owners’ 'sincerely held' religious beliefs.

    "The 17-13 vote was along party lines, with Republicans in the majority."

  7. You beat me to it!

    It's said that the only natural disaster in Arizona is the State Legislature,

    Patrick (Tempe, AZ)

  8. It seems the GOP is playing games with this subject. Idaho considered an even more extreme version of the "religious freedom" bill, and then pulled it at the last minute, resulting in a situation much like in Kansas. It is hard to say at this point whether prudence won out, or whether it is all just political ploys which they do not intend to pass. Which is to say it may be more like a fake blitz by a football team than an honest proposal.

    For those who want to read about the Idaho legislation, check this link: http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/02/19/idaho_anti_gay_segregation_discrimination_against_gays_will_be_legal.html

  9. And this was on yesterday's online Washington Post:

    "The Arizona Legislature gave final approval to legislation that allows business owners asserting their religious beliefs to refuse service to gays, drawing backlash from Democrats who called the proposal 'state-sanctioned discrimination' and an embarrassment.

    "The 33-27 vote by the House Thursday evening sends the legislation to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and puts Arizona back at the forefront of a polarizing piece of legislation four years after the state enacted an immigration crackdown that caused a national furor.

    "Similar religious protection legislation has been introduced in Ohio, Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee and Oklahoma, but Arizona’s plan is the only one that has passed. The efforts are stalled in Idaho, Ohio and Kansas."

  10. No surprise, Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer vetoed it.