As we speak, the whole nation (and even the world) waits for Gov. Jan Brewer’s decision. And we are all wondering, “What is taking her so long?” One side is wondering why it is taking so long for her to sign a piece of legislation that both houses of her state’s legislature have passed insuring that the “rights” of business owners to discriminate by refusing service based on their “deeply held religious beliefs” are not infringed upon. The rest of us are wondering why it is taking her so long to veto legislation that so blatantly violates the constitution and is so obviously discriminatory. Currently, the word on the street is that she is leaning toward a veto. It is my belief that if she does veto the measure it will be based purely on economics. First, “gay people have money and they buy stuff“. Second? The Super Bowl. So far the Arizona Cardinals, the NFL and the Super Bowl Committee have all come out with statements urging the governor to veto the legislation. Here are their respective statements:
“Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard…We are following the issue in Arizona and will continue to do so should the bill be signed into law, but will decline further comment at this time.”
– NFL spokesman, Greg Aiello
“We share the NFL’s core values, which embrace tolerance, diversity, inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination.”
–Super Bowl Host Committee
“What so many love about football is its ability to bring people together. We do not support anything that has the potential to divide, exclude and discriminate. As a prominent and highly-visible member of this community, we strive to bring positive attention to the state. We are concerned with anything that creates a negative perception of Arizona and those of us who are fortunate to call it home.”
As Bob Dylan once said, “the times they are a changin’”and thank God they are. Sadly, it seems, not fast enough, with laws such as this one cropping up all over the country, Uganda’s new law making being gay a crime punishable by life in prison, the lobbyist who is drafting legislation to make it illegal for gay men to play in the NFL, a thing I learned about today called “gay denialism“, and this article about Vladimir Putin which praises him as a “man of Christian faith and values” because of his stance on homosexuality. Yikes!
If you have been on my blog for long you know that I am an ally. I have written extensively in support of full equality of LGBT persons both in the church, politics and society at large (you can use the search box on the right to see some of my previous posts, try searching homosexuality or LGBT). It is my prayer that the time is coming when legislation like this is looked back upon with embarrassment and contrition. For those of you still holding on to the notion that your rights as a Christian are being violated by being asked not to discriminate against LGBT persons, I came across a handy quiz you can take to see if that is indeed the case. Here are the questions from Rev. Emily C. Heath:
1. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to go to a religious service of my own choosing.
B) Others are allowed to go to religious services of their own choosing.
2. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to marry the person I love legally, even though my religious community blesses my marriage.
B) Some states refuse to enforce my own particular religious beliefs on marriage on those two guys in line down at the courthouse.
3. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am being forced to use birth control.
B) I am unable to force others to not use birth control.
4. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to pray privately.
B) I am not allowed to force others to pray the prayers of my faith publicly.
5. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) Being a member of my faith means that I can be bullied without legal recourse.
B) I am no longer allowed to use my faith to bully gay kids with impunity.
6. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to purchase, read or possess religious books or material.
B) Others are allowed to have access books, movies and websites that I do not like.
7. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) My religious group is not allowed equal protection under the establishment clause.
B) My religious group is not allowed to use public funds, buildings and resources as we would like, for whatever purposes we might like.
8. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) Another religious group has been declared the official faith of my country.
B) My own religious group is not given status as the official faith of my country.
9. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) My religious community is not allowed to build a house of worship in my community.
B) A religious community I do not like wants to build a house of worship in my community.
10. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to teach my children the creation stories of our faith at home.
B) Public school science classes are teaching science.
If you answered “A” to any question, then perhaps your religious liberty is indeed at stake. You and your faith group have every right to now advocate for equal protection under the law. But just remember this one little, constitutional, concept: this means you can fight for your equality — not your superiority.
If you answered “B” to any question, then not only is your religious liberty not at stake, but there is a strong chance that you are oppressing the religious liberties of others. This is the point where I would invite you to refer back to the tenets of your faith, especially the ones about your neighbors.
If you are a Christian and you are for this law, I have only one question: What do you think Jesus’ answer would be today if we asked him the same question the young lawyer asked him in Matthew, “Who is my neighbor?” Knowing Jesus’ penchant for parables, it is a safe bet he would tell us a story…
“A gay couple was going down from Phoenix to Tucson to pick up a wedding cake he had ordered. The Christian owner, upon seeing that he was gay, invoked his right not to make the cake because of his deeply held religious beliefs. Now by chance a pastor was in the same bakery and heard the whole thing but rather than get involved he sat quietly eating his danish. So likewise the Governor, when faced with the opportunity to veto the measure before her, stalled. But a baker who worked in the next town, who happened to be an illegal alien, heard about the couple and had compassion on them. He not only offered to bake the cake for their wedding, he also set about helping them find a caterer and a venue. He even helped out with the flowers and bought the couple a wedding gift. Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the men getting married?” And we would say (I hope), “The one who baked the cake.” And Jesus would say to us, “You go, and do likewise.”
Jesus left us with only one law with two parts, love God with all you are and love your neighbor as yourself. That is the essence (or spirit) of Christ. This law (and laws like it) are the essence (or spirit) of antichrist. Is that a strong statement? You bet. But in 1 John 4:20-21 it says, “If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also.” When we truly love others we will afford them the same rights we claim for ourselves. Until then, we are self-deceived and we are loving neither God nor our LGBT neighbors.