Thursday, February 20, 2014
Andrew Sullivan weighs in on the anti-gay legislation nearing passage at the Arizona Legislature:
I know the danger to gay people remains great, and I don’t want to minimize the impact of living in a state where businesses of all kinds are empowered by law to put “No Gays Allowed” or “No Gays Served” in their best practices. But in America in the 21st Century, the movement that seeks to legislate outright discrimination against a tiny minority is doomed to bitter failure. It’s doomed because the principle of non-discrimination is now endemic in American culture — and among the younger generation the first article of their civil religion. Such a principle became embedded in the national identity in the Civil Rights era, where the evil of Jim Crow laws was exposed with fatal finality.
Now, 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. Arizona’s Senate just passed a new bill expanding the concept of religious freedom from being the province of “religious assemblies and institutions” to a much broader category that includes “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity.” So rights once accorded to purely religious institutions are now for anyone — any business, any teacher, any pharmacist, any florist, any hotel-owner and on and on.
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. Among his radical acts was immersing himself with sinners of all sorts — prostitutes, lepers, and collaborators with an occupying power. Segregation — the placing of a group of unholy people outside of mainstream interaction — was anathema to Jesus and should be to all Christians. To construct a legal regime in which those people are fair game for outright ostracism and segregation is a disgusting inversion of both democratic and Christian values.