Other People Existing Doesn’t Violate Your Religious Freedom
It’s not an awesome time to be a religious social conservative. To be fair, I bet no time is really that great to be a social conservative because the times, as they say, are always a-changin’, but still. Gay people are everywhere, women are having sex without having children, and kids these days! Don’t even get me started on kids these days! Everything was so much better when white men could dominate everything without question and anyone who thought or felt or acted differently hid in the shadows.
While today’s society isn’t perfect, we’ve certainly come a long way. This week is the 10 year anniversary of the Goodridge decision, which made Massachusetts the first state to allow marriages for same-sex couples. Now we have 17 states plus DC that recognize marriage equality. The gay people have also infiltrated that bastion of unmitigated hyper masculinity: football.
Listen, I don’t care about football. It’s physically impossible for me to hear the phrase “first and goal” and not immediately fall asleep. But I understand that sports is an area where gay men in particular have had a hard time making inroads, so I’m glad to see an openly gay man drafted into the NFL. It feels momentous, even if you couldn’t give a crap what the difference is between a running back and a tight end.
Not everyone is so pleased, however, which is unsurprising. One man, DC lobbyist Jack Burkman, is out to hit the NFL where it hurts. He’s out to organize a boycott of the NFL.
Good luck, man. Where do you think you live? Maybe that DC culture has seeped a bit too much into his brain. Out here, there may be a few people who feel strongly enough to stop watching football games, but I’m unconvinced you would be able to find very many.
So his foolhardy effort to single-handedly take down the biggest sport in the United States is fraught with pitfalls and peril. Let it go, you might say. Let him tire himself out, like a toddler, and we can go about our grown-up business. Not so fast.
This is just one of the latest incidents in a long line of hissy fits over religious freedom. To quote Burkman from The Christian Post, “The NFL, like most of the rest of American business, is about to learn that when you trample the Christian community and Christian values there will be a terrible financial price to pay.”
Trampling on the Christian community? Please. A gay guy is playing football. I’m sure it’s happened before, the only difference is now you know about it. And, really, is it worse than rapists, animal abusers, and domestic abusers?
More broadly, the existence of other people and their right to live fulfilling lives free of discrimination does not count as “trampl[ing on] the Christian community.” But that doesn’t keep religious social conservatives from trotting out that tired argument every time they have to do something they don’t want to do.
I see it all the time and I think people only take it seriously because golly we have to protect religious freedom! But really, it all boils down to wanting society to stand still in some mythical Good Old Days.
Take the Hobby Lobby case, in which a for-profit business wants to get out of following Obamacare, a law that was passed by Congress and affirmed by the Supreme Court. But Hobby Lobby argued — with a straight face — that corporations have a right to exercise religious freedom and that somehow providing health coverage that actually covers what their employees need violates that freedom. You know, the same way your employer can keep you from using your paycheck to go out and buy contraception or an abortion yourself if you want or need it. Wait, that’s not right.
Then there is the anti-LGBT contingent in Mississippi, which recently passed a religious freedom law that would allow businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian people on account of the business owner’s religious beliefs. This has prompted some businesses to put “We Don’t Discriminate” stickers in their store windows. Which, when you think about it, makes complete sense. Why on Earth would a business choose to alienate customers? It’s the market at work.
Good for them, though. It’s not every day you see that kind of response to that kind of thing. Bsinesses still have the ability to discriminate if they so choose, but maybe gay-hating isn’t as lucrative as some might have thought.
However, the ability to discriminate at will isn’t enough for some anti-LGBT Christians. You have to let them discriminate and not draw attention to it. The American Family Association is very upset:
Ironically,this sticker represents the very promotion of discrimination…against the freedom of religious convictions.
Businesses that display this sticker believe Christians should be forced, by law, to embrace homosexuality and deny their faith in personal business practices.
I guess it’s just discrimination if you don’t like it. Otherwise, it’s your sincerely held religious belief.
What the NFL boycott, Hobby Lobby and this Mississippi kerfuffle all have in common is breathtaking entitlement. Entitlement to have the way you do things prioritized above everything else. No one is forcing you to personally embrace something you don’t want to. But we live in a society, one that is interconnected and diverse. In a connected and diverse society, we need to treat each other with respect. And no, respect is not automatic deferment to how someone else does things. It does mean that everyone is entitled to be treated with a little basic decency.
The fact that other people exist in the world and have wants and needs does not mean you are being oppressed. Despite what it seems some people think, oppression is not the inability to do whatever you want at any time you want without question. The fact is that oppressed groups are getting out there and living the lives that the majority have taken for granted for a long time. I’m sorry if that makes people uncomfortable, but that’s not a good enough reason to turn back the clock.
Image credit: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr