OPINION – I am not a fan of compromise, never have been, never will be.
That’s why I am not happy with the Utah Legislature’s passing of a bill that guarantees certain rights to the LGBT community.
It’s not that I don’t think that housing, employment, and other rights should be extended to anybody who walks the face of this big marble. People should be allowed to live or work wherever they choose, no matter who they love or marry.
It’s not that I have objections to same-sex marriage, because I don’t.
It’s because it is bad law by allowing, within the framework of that law, ways to circumvent it.
I have heard comments from many who say, “well, it’s a lot better than it was, at least it’s something.”
You see, the bill that bans housing and employment discrimination against members of the LGBT community also includes a provision, at the urging of leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that exempts religious institutions, organizations, associations, and their affiliates, as well as the Boy Scouts of America, from being defined as employers for these purposes.
This exemption also allows for the expression of religious beliefs and commitments within the workplace as long as those comments are “reasonable, non-disruptive, and non-harassing.
In other words, Mormon leaders still want to be able to hire and fire workers based on religious beliefs and behavior standards that require gays and lesbians to remain celibate. The church also wants legal protections for religious objectors who work in government and health care, such as a physician who refuses to perform an abortion or provide artificial insemination for a lesbian couple.
You cannot legislate religion into the law, especially a law that is supposed to guarantee individual rights.
Either you secure equal rights for all, without qualification of individual judgment, or you do not.
This bill does not.
Similar laws are being pushed by the angry Right through state legislatures across the nation. In fact, the Georgia Senate recently approved a similar law about religious exemptions.
If you examine these laws closely, they start to unravel.
For example, corporal punishment of children is accepted religious behavior in some circles. So are forms of domestic abuse. Should we allow some guy to slap around his wife and children because his religion allows it?
I don’t think so.
Extend it further.
There are churches that claim to be the one, true church. Under this law, it is not a stretch of the imagination for a business owner who is a member of one of those faiths to refuse service to somebody not of their faith. Should we allow that on such flimsy grounds as a religious exemption?
I don’t think so.
We have churches that believe in plural marriage, some going so perversely far as allowing older men to engage in so-called “spiritual marriages” with underage girls. Should we allow this as a religious exemption?
I don’t think so.
Faith is a private thing, a personal thing that one undertakes for a variety of reasons, some good, some not so good. I have seen some local business people, for example, convert to the predominant religion in Utah because they thought it would improve their business dealings.
I have also seen local politicians set up special community committees, then name the local church leader of those people chosen from the committee to guide it.
I remember moving to Utah and seeing, in the daily newspaper, rental listings with the proviso: “LDS standards required.”
That is discrimination and is not what the founding fathers had in mind when this nation was formed.
The concept of liberty, freedom, and civil rights is not negotiable. These liberties, freedoms, and rights are either total liberties, freedoms, and rights or they are not. It should not be left up to arbitrary judgment based on a person’s private, religious beliefs. You know, that business about liberty and justice for all and, of course, separation of church and state.
These are dangerous times in the United States as we see the principles of freedom erode around us as those elected, ostensibly, to represent all of us, create loopholes to perpetuate discrimination, greed, and a certain kind of hatred and disrespect, as exhibited by 47 traitorous senators who recently sent a contemptuous letter to the Iranian government urging it to reject negotiations now underway with President Obama regarding its nuclear program.
In an op-ed he wrote for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, singer and activist Elton John voiced his concerns about the pending Georgia legislation.
“Simply put, this bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” he wrote. “It promises religious freedom, but let’s be clear: No one’s religious freedom is at risk! Both the Georgia Constitution and U.S. Constitution very explicitly protect this right.
“What (Georgia) SB 129 will really do is institutionalize the hate some people hold in their hearts against other people. It will turn back the clock on the progress we have made — not only in the fight against HIV, but also in the struggle for a more equal and just society.”
John stressed that he isn’t opposed to religious freedom in any capacity.
Neither am I.
However, the Utah Legislature was dealing from the bottom of the deck with this bill, and, as a matter of fact, made it easier to discriminate on religious grounds, which is oxymoronic if you think about it. It is a theocratic, rather than democratic, piece of legislation.
That’s why this is bad law.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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