TRUTH IN PROGRESS AFFIRMS THE TASK FORCE AS IT WITHDRAWS ITS SUPPORT FOR ENDA
"...religious exemptions are being used as an excuse to discriminate"
- Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
I have not forgotten as I attended racially segregated public schools in the south, I wondered what did those words mean in the Pledge of Allegiance that we recited, "With liberty and justice for all.” The schools that I attended were racially segregated as was the community in which I lived, the movie theaters that I attended, the buses and trains that I rode, and much more. I learned in time that the religious institutions of the community, because they too were racially segregated, supported the racial segregation that I experienced in public institutions.
I soon realized that religion was an accomplice, sometimes a leader in the practice of racial segregation. Today, the United Methodist Church which is the successor to the Methodist Church in which I grew up, continues its history of discrimination by saying in language and legislation, "...the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching."
What is it about religion that allows it to appear to believe that the exclusion of some people for a host of reasons is an important expression of religious freedom?
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in its statement says: "The broad religious exemptions (of ENDA) are creating loopholes to discriminate in federal, state and local legislation."
Theologian James Cone in his 1999 article, "Looking Back, Going Forward" * raised these questions that are extremely relevant in these moments:
"Is racism so deeply embedded in Euro-American history and culture that it is impossible to do theology without being anti-black? After the Jewish Holocaust Christian theologians were forced to ask whether anti-Judaism was so deeply woven into the core of the gospel...that theology was no longer possible without being anti-Semitic?...Feminists asked...whether patriarchy was so deeply rooted in biblical faith...that one could not do Christian theology without justifying the oppression of women? Gay and lesbian theologians are asking whether homophobia is part of Christian faith."
My personal religious faith was deepened as I participated in the Civil Rights Movement that was led by a clergyman, Martin Luther King, who in word and deed believed and practiced a religious faith and a commitment to religious freedom, that included rather than excluded. It is apparent that some adherents of religion believe that the best expression of religious freedom is in being able to restrict or limit the freedom of some persons. This expression of religious control in the name of "religious freedom" is at variance with the Constitution and American democracy. It’s fundamentally unconstitutional.
Kenneth Davis in the October 2010 Smithsonian Magazine in an article titled, "America's True History of Religious Tolerance" writes this that seems to be descriptive of the USA in 2014. "From the earliest arrival of Europeans on America's shores, religion has been a cudgel used to discriminate, suppress and even kill the foreign, the 'heretic' and the 'unbeliever' - including the 'heathen' natives already here."
How many times will the oft-repeated words; "The more things change, the more they remain the same" be true?
92 years ago, May 21, 1922, Harry Emerson Fosdick, known best for his leadership of the beginnings of Riverside Church in New York City, preached a sermon titled; "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" His controversial message expressed his understanding of the Bible as being a record of God's will and intent, rather than being the literal "Word of God.”
There are two choices facing us in the debate about how far religion is allowed to go in restricting the rights of people. Some persons would suggest that in 2014 with the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision and the religious exemptions of ENDA, Karl Marx's critique of religion is valid, that religion exploits the oppressed. I would counter and suggest that a re-visiting of Harry Emerson Fosdick's 1922 sermon in 2014, is in order. “The first element that is necessary is a spirit of tolerance…”
Religious fundamentalism, regardless of the religion, whether it is Islamic Sharia Law, or Christian teachings, or any other religious law or teaching may serve the adherents of the religious believer. But, if we continue to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in schools and public places and end it with the words, "With liberty and justice for all," then we cannot allow so-called “Religious Freedom" to make a mockery of those words.
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