Mississippi has joined the “religious freedom” club by passing a bill that is called (predictably) anti LGBT legislation. And, once again, y’all are getting wrong.
There are 18 states in the USA that have not extended full civil rights protections to LGBT people. Those states are; Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. That means that in those states – even without religious freedom laws – homosexual and transgender people can be denied employment, housing, and fair market access.
It just so happens that most of those states have also passed religious freedom laws.
I find it curious that so many people piss and moan about these laws being anti-LGBT, when the very states that pass them have already excluded LGBT people from civil rights protections. The new laws don’t change the status of LGBT people in those states one bit! What those laws do accomplish, however, is call attention to the legalized discrimination that is already occurring in those states.
Imagine, if you will, that you own an electronics store but you don’t sell Blu-Ray players, TVs, computer monitors, extension chords, or even light bulbs. But you do have a large inventory of 8 track and cassette players. You have a big sale in your store, and put a big inflatable waving guy on the sidewalk to call attention to your sale. The wacky waving guy attracts more attention to your store than ever before! Folks come in looking to buy a big screen TV, but you don’t sell them. Those folks tell other people about how shitty your electronics store is (Yelp, Google reviews, etc.), and your business fails. Whose fault is it?
That’s what these religious freedom laws are. They’re big wacky waving guys that call attention to the legalized discrimination that exists in the state. The upfront discrimination still exists, but suddenly additional, previous non-existent discrimination happens.
Take Mississippi’s recent law for example. The law allows a religious based discrimination exemption for people who believe only married people should have sex. That means that unmarried heterosexual adults can legally be denied housing. This was already legal to do to gay people in Mississippi. Now it is legal to do to heterosexual people.
Even before the Mississippi law was passed, an interracial couple was evicted from an RV park because the park owner’s church didn’t “allow that black and white shacking”. Racial discrimination disguised as religion.
My sister-in-law is an author and speaker about Christian parenting. She has appeared on numerous Christian talk shows – TV and radio – discussing parenting from a Biblical perspective. We were recently discussing additional marketing opportunities for her new books and speaking tour, and my wife suggested the home-school market. G said that wasn’t really an option for her because that demographic was very “legalistic” – meaning tied to the black and white rules of the Bible. G is divorced, and even though the divorce was the right thing to do for her kids and herself, there are a bunch of Christians who would exclude her from their network. Imagine my Christian sister-in-law being denied seating in a restaurant because the hostess doesn’t approve of divorce and knows who G is. That is a possibility under many of these religious freedom laws.
See, this is not religious freedom. This is religious exception. Religious freedom is guaranteed under the First Amendment to the Constitution. But in a civil society we operate under civil rule and law, not religious. And that is actually why we have religious freedom. We have it because we have it. The minute we start to make religious exceptions, or codify one sect’s interpretation of some obscure Biblical rule, we head down the path to stripping those freedoms.