February 26, 2015

Andrew Sullivan and the conscience clause

My illustrated tribute to Andrew Sullivan I drew for the Huffington Post.
Paul Givan, theo-unionism and the ecumenical religious right regard gay people as the greatest threat to religion.

They're losing their position of power and privilege as the benevolent tide of equality rises. We're in the end game. Behold the conscience clause. The bulwark against modernity. A legislative amendment that proposes to alter the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 ("Sexual Orientation Regulations"). Now we watch the stand-off, between those who cherish the freedom to buy services and those who cherish the freedom to avoid that they hold sinful.

The cornered beast, the  Ancien RĂ©gime of Romanism and Protestantism, Catholicism and Calvinism, so long so axiomatically divided, have united. My chubby little flanks are involuntarily jumping as I write this. Illustrating patently and potently how desperate they are. Now the once privileged beast is lashing out legislatively. Their stand, the religious, will be felled. Fallen by a Northern Ireland and mother island who live in a different social and political reality. And the Petition of Concern of course.

Sinn Fein and other parties will torpedo it. The bill will not have its day. That we know. What we also need to know is the wider context of the religious right in the world we live in. A good place to start is America's clerical conservatives. I want to look specifically at the writings of Andrew Sullivan on the nashing of the religious right in America. I'll explore the law and other details in more depth at a later stage.

The Kansas legislature saw a discrimination bill come to it, euphemistically spun in the language of freedom and justice. Unnerving. The legislation proposed to protect religious individuals and their businesses from having to provide goods and services for gay marriages. Tennesse too; later withdrawn. Arizona legislators also tried it; they got taken down too. And Idaho. In Oregon a baker refused to bake a cake for a gay union. In Colorado a baker refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding. A photographer in New Mexico refused to take pictures of a gay wedding. America also experienced the fundamentalist flowerist as explained here. Copious more examples as Google will elude to.

Andrew Sullivan responded to the Kansas discrimination legislation in a loudly titled piece, 'What The Hell Just Happened In Kansas?', where he wrote, February 17 2015:
"It is premised on the notion that the most pressing injustice in Kansas right now is the persecution some religious people are allegedly experiencing at the hands of homosexuals. As Rush Limbaugh recently noted, “They’re under assault. You say, ‘Heterosexuality may be 95, 98 percent of the population.’ They’re under assault by the 2 to 5 percent that are homosexual”."
"The wording of the bills in question – from Kansas to Arizona – is a veritable, icy piste for widespread religious discrimination."
Andrew continued, saying that the religious freedom legislation was an inversion of Christianity. He wrote:
"As for the allegedly Christian nature of this legislation, let’s not mince words. This is the inversion of Christianity. Even if you believe that gay people are going to Hell, that they have chosen evil, or are somehow trying to subvert society by seeking to commit to one another for life, it does not follow that you should ostracize them. The entire message of the Gospels is about embracing those minorities despised by popular opinion. Jesus made a point to associate with the worst sinners – collaborating tax-collectors, prostitutes or lepers whose disease was often perceived as a sign of moral failing. The idea that Christianity approves of segregating any group is anathema to what Jesus actually preached and the way he actually lived."
He underscored this point in a later post, writing
"I’ve had my say on this, but it’s worth reiterating that this bill has absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. It is, rather, is an attack on Christian principles and a betrayal of the Gospels. If there was one aspect of organized religion that Jesus opposed, it was its attempt to draw lines around the unclean, the marginalized and the sinners."
He looked at the wider cultural implications, writing:
"It’s a misstep because it so clearly casts the anti-gay movement as the heirs to Jim Crow."
And
"Some critics have reacted to this law with the view that it is an outrageous new version of Jim Crow and a terrifying portent of the future for gays in some red states. It is both of those. It’s the kind of law that Vladimir Putin would enthusiastically support."
And in 'What The Hell Just Happened In Kansas? Ctd', Andrew wrote:
"Some good news: the sheer breadth of the sanctioned discrimination in the bill designed to protect religious freedom has apparently doomed it."
Saying
"Maybe it was because, as I noted, it would be a terrible self-inflicted blow for the forces who want to stop gay couples from having stable marriages; or maybe because anti-discrimination really is now a universal maxim for the far right as well as everyone else."
He considered the thoughts of some readers here in 'AZ’s Discrimination Bill: Not Just Bad For Gays'. In 'The Death-Throes Of The Anti-Gay Movement' he wrote:
"The Christianist right is putting its full weight behind legal discrimination against any groups or individuals who might offend someone’s sincerely held religious conscience."
In that post, 'Erick Erickson Has A Point', Andrew Sullivan makes the killer point, saying:
"Allow a religious exemption for interacting with gays, and you beg the question: why not other types of sinners? If the principle is not violating sincere religious belief, then discriminating against the divorced or those who use contraception would naturally follow. I’ve yet to read an argument about these laws that shows they cannot have that broad effect.
And of course, as is so relevant to Northern Ireland and Ireland (with that much known and maligned ecclesiastical law Ne Temere), Sully called it out: 
"Why no consideration of those whose religious beliefs demand that they not bless marriages outside their own faith-community?"
Continuing in the same vein of uncovering elementary inconsistencies in the logic of the religious, in 'Religious Liberty Or Anti-Gay Animus?', Sully wrote:
"With devout Catholics, the acid test is divorce. The bar on divorce – which, unlike the gay issue, is upheld directly by Jesus in the Gospels – is just as integral to the Catholic meaning of marriage as the prohibition on gay couples. So why no laws including that potential violation of religious liberty? Both kinds of marriage are equally verboten in Catholicism. So where is the political movement to insist that devout Catholics do not have to cater the second weddings of previously divorced people?"
And this final bit by Andrew Sullivan covers where we're at and how we best react. He wrote:
"The truth is: we’re winning this argument. We’ve made the compelling moral case that gay citizens should be treated no differently by their government than straight citizens. And the world has shifted dramatically in our direction. Inevitably, many fundamentalist Christians and Orthodox Jews and many Muslims feel threatened and bewildered by such change and feel that it inchoately affects their religious convictions. I think they’re mistaken – but we’re not talking logic here. We’re talking religious conviction. My view is that in a free and live-and-let-live society, we should give them space. As long as our government is not discriminating against us, we should be tolerant of prejudice as long as it does not truly hurt us. And finding another florist may be a bother, and even upsetting, as one reader expressed so well. But we can surely handle it. And should. 
Leave the fundamentalists and bigots alone. In any marketplace in a diverse society, they will suffer economically by refusing and alienating some customers, their families and their friends. By all means stop patronizing them in both senses of the word. Let them embrace discrimination and lose revenue. Let us let them be in the name of their freedom – and ours’."
Sully says restraint has to be the watchword for liberals. No shrill, splenetic screaming. Cool and calm. Saying what liberals have to do:
"Allowing space for those in society whose religious convictions make homosexuality anathema, even Satanic, is what true liberals do."
Time is up. The argument is won. You cannot deny to others rights, privileges and freedoms you enjoy. I don't care if your bigotry is divine, it's still bigotry. As Gabriel Arana wrote:
"Seeing defeat on the horizon in the gay-marriage wars, social conservatives have shifted gears. Instead of trying to stop the tide of social change, they are seeking to exempt themselves from it under the banner of “religious liberty”."
The whole religious argument is a fabrication. One that inverts logic, baffles the senses and emphatically does not deserve the dignity of my attention. If you want polygamy you don't need gay marriage, you need the religious argument for that. So away with you with that pathetic argument. Smearing good living non-heterosexuals and white-washing the great freight of immorality wrought under biblical license.

Any way, polygamy is discrimination against women; so no one is arguing for it. That's the example of the fabricated, affectated argument spun up in the white heat of desperation.

Let me look at the logical and lexical inversion a little more. The hyperbole of the privileged in the face of change is bewildering. Wild with overstatement - which is said and often heard so persuasively - does not deserve the dignity of a response.

Loyalists who claim their civil rights are denied. Republicans in America who compare Obama to Hitler. The religious right who say they are being attacked by a gay-liberal front.

Splenetic and stirring, but always utterly baseless. Look here at how this African American GOP politician paints the Obama administration and Obamacare:
"[Dr. Ben] Carson has taken such linguistic sleight-of-hand to a new low by claiming that Obamacare is “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.” The equating of government-run health care, however much one abhors it, to an institution that killed, raped, tortured, and incarcerated its human victims, is so morally repugnant that it amounts to a form of Holocaust denial. And Carson, as it happens, has a comparable take on the actual Holocaust, since he routinely complains that America is “very much like Nazi Germany,” a judgment likely to affront any voter, Jewish or not, who wonders what in the American landscape Carson deems to be death camps."
As with loyalism, it is the duty of right thinking people to put phony arguments down.

On a more local perspective, here's a local thinker, the Canon Charles Kenny, who wrote:
"People quoted the bible against Darwin’s theories and the suggestion that women should do the same jobs as men. They quoted the bible against the abolition of slavery. The bible says that we shouldn’t eat prawn cocktails but that we should stone adulterers to death."
And
"The same failings of the Christian Church, and the presentation of the Gospel, which led to sectarianism in the past are playing again now in relation to homophobia."
Andrew Sullivan also rigorously covered Hobby Lobby, writing:
"ENDA includes provisions that would allow religious employers, such as a religiously affiliated hospital, to refuse to hire LGBT people. “ENDA’s discriminatory provision, unprecedented in federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, could provide religiously affiliated organizations — including hospitals, nursing homes, and universities — a blank check to engage in workplace discrimination against LGBT people."
This is all a bit loose at the moment. I'll come back with something tighter and wider later. Respond to the consultation document here.  
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