There are different concepts of liberty, or the quality individuals have to control their own actions and how it relates to life under a social contract. In a civilized society, liberty requires boundaries to prevent a person who claims their right to control their own actions means imposing on other members of society’s right to liberty. There is a war going on in America where one specific group of Americans is claiming their religious liberty affords them power to abridge other Americans’ rights in spite of state and federal laws or guarantees of freedom in the U.S. Constitution. What the religious right and their Republican enablers are pushing in Congress and GOP-controlled states under the guise of religious liberty is religious tyranny, and now another group of Republican fascists are passing legislation to violate the Constitution and other Americans’ rights. Americans should not be deluded for one second that theocratic-driven laws denying Americans their Constitutional rights will stop until this country’s rule of law comes from the Christian bible and the people are ruled by a theocracy along the lines of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
Every politician that holds elected public office swears an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution, but Republicans in Kansas swore allegiance to the right wing extremist version of the bible and pledged to nullify the 1st and 14th Amendment. The Kansas House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a piece of legislation crafted to legalize anti-gay segregation under the guise of “religious liberty” that any respectable American would admit is religious tyranny. The bill will pass the Republican Senate with ease and be signed into law by the Republican religious tyrant Sam Brownback. The consequence of the law to gay and straight people in Kansas is that every area of their lives will be controlled by religious bigots and the bill is written in such a manner that the victims have no recourse but to accept religious tyranny or leave what is rapidly becoming a Christian dictatorship in Kansas.
The Kansas law is not the first of its kind sweeping Republican-controlled Christian dictatorships, but it is certainly vying for the most extreme. According to the legislation, any private business, government entity, individual, public servant, or group has the legal right to refuse to provide services to gay couples if “it would be contrary to their religious beliefs.” The bill gives any private employer the right to terminate gay employees, stores can deny gay couples goods and services, hotels can throw gay couples out or deny them entrance to the building, and businesses providing public accommodations such as theaters or restaurants have the right to deny gay couples admittance to their businesses. The bill is set up to punish any gay person who dares filing suit for discrimination because they will automatically lose and forced to pay the defendants legal fees, but it is worse.
Christian lawmakers give government employees the right to deny services to gays in the name of “religious liberty,” and every government employee will receive explicit permission to discriminate against gays including any Kansas government worker. For example, if a gay person calls the police because they are being assaulted, an officer can refuse to help them if interacting with gays violates their religious principles. State hospitals can prevent gays from entering and deny them treatment with impunity, and gays will be barred from public parks, public pools, or any institution operating under the aegis of Kansas state theocracy; including the public school system.
The theocrats supporting the religious law claim it only applies gay couples, as if that makes the edict acceptable, but the text of the bill is absent any principles limiting it to gay couples, or straight people, whose very existence Christians feel violates their religious liberty. It is true there is a blanket clause that allows businesses and government employees to discriminate against gays if the discrimination is in any way “related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement,” and it is that loophole that gives Christians a free pass to discriminate so long as they claim to “believe” their service is linked to gays in any form. Subsequently, since anyone denying service to any person is completely shielded from any legal charges because they cannot be sued, they will never have to prove their actions fell within the soon-to-be law because they exercised their religious liberty and it puts every citizen in Kansas at great risk.
The Kansas law is similar to an Arizona bill that gives any Arizonan the legal right to break any law if they claim it conflicts with their religious belief and they exercised their religious liberty to execute their personal religious edict. There is nothing to stop a hospital from refusing to admit an unwed pregnant woman hemorrhaging to death if any hospital employee claims it violates their religious liberty to provide medical treatment to an unwed woman. An ambulance driver can refuse to administer emergency medical care to a Latino if they claim doing so violates their religious belief that America is a white Christian nation and they exercised their religious liberty to withhold treatment for an injured person suffering a heart attack. When religious fascist governor Sam Brownback signs the legislation into law, and he will sign it into law, there is nothing to prevent a homophobe from claiming they were exercising their religious liberty in capturing and stoning a gay person to death, or a parent from murdering their disobedient child because it is their biblical duty under the bible’s Ten Commandments. These examples may sound extreme, but these are Christian extremists passing extreme religious laws under the banner of exercising religious liberty they claim is protected by the First Amendment.
There is a sense of irony in these foul abominations of religious law in that extremist Christians proposing and voting for them are using the Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom to restrict other Americans religious freedom as well as their constitutionally-guaranteed equal rights. But that is the new definition of “religious liberty; the dog-given religious freedom of extremist Christians to control other Americans based on their bastardized interpretation of religious liberty. Their religious liberty is sheer religious tyranny and yet no judge, no politician, or civil rights group filing suit to stop the extremist religious right has the fortitude to cite the laws violate the First Amendment’s prohibition on laws respecting the establishment of religion. It is all well-and-good to cite the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal rights under the law, but the biblical laws are patently unconstitutional because they are purely religious laws. Commenters often take issue with claims these discriminatory statutes are religious laws, but like the Arizona and Kansas laws legalizing discrimination, using the justification of “religious liberty” based on Christianity makes them abject religious edicts and it is damned high time it is called what it is; unconstitutional religious tyranny.
The religious right is wont to claim, ad nauseum, that opposition to their religious edicts are tantamount to waging a war on Christianity, but they have it completely backwards; extremist Christians are waging a war on democracy, the Constitution, equal rights, and other Americans’ freedom to not be burdened with biblical edicts that have no place in America. There is a religious war in America, and Americans loyal to the Constitution have to go on the offensive and take the war to the extremists because if any American thinks extremist Christians will stop at passing biblical edicts targeting gays, women, or science, they need to peruse the historical record and understand that there are no bounds religious extremists are willing to acknowledge. Remember, according to Republican bible laws in Arizona and Kansas, all a person has to claim is they exercised their religious liberty to avoid a lawsuit, or prosecution, for any action they claim is a violation of their religious beliefs and it applies to discriminating against gays, unwed couples, pregnant women, or employee’s using prescription coverage in their health plans for contraception. There is no reason to believe Christian extremists will let Democrats, African Americans, or immigrants exist if they are allowed to claim exercising their religious liberty justified killing or imprisoning them. The Founding Fathers fled religious persecution and set up the Constitution to ensure that no American would ever face religious oppression again, and although their protection endured for over two-hundred years, 21st century Americans face a religious right crusade and inquistion that will not stop until Americans start acting like Americans and not frightened villagers in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.