This column often cites an ‘unwritten’ American statute that forbids anyone, from politicians to pundits, from speaking out against Christian extremism that serves as the impetus for all manner of Republican legislation. It does not matter whether it is transferring public school funding to private religious schools, restricting women’s right to choose their own reproductive health, or banning gays from marrying the person they love, it is a sin to cite those unconstitutional acts are borne of legislating by religion. Now, a powerful CEO of a giant corporation took the time to say what few others have; “There is something very dangerous happening in states across the country” of people using religion as a legislative weapon.
In a rare Washington Post op/ed, Apple CEO Tim Cook battered the “wave of legislation introduced in more than two dozen states allowing people to discriminate” based on religion. In the op/ed, Cook related that personally he has “great reverence for religious freedom” and that he was baptized in a Baptist church and holds faith as an important part of his life. He also stated something that may be a divine revelation to the neo-Christian community in America; he learned and believes religion should never be used as an excuse to discriminate against other people or to resist laws. Cook reminded readers that there are “nearly 100 bills” specifically designed to ‘enshrine‘ discrimination in state laws across the nation that go against the principles the nation was founded on; all by rationalizing the gross injustice by “pretending to defend religion.”
After referring to the obscene Indiana law Mike Pence said has nothing to do with discrimination, Cook cited the Texas legislation that strips salaries and pensions from any clerk that dares issue a marriage license to same-sex couples even before the Supreme Court rules on same-sex marriage bans. As he said, “these are very dangerous laws that are not only contrary to the nation’s principles of equal rights for all citizens; they pose a very serious danger to the economy.” Cook said the business community has understood for decades that discrimination, no matter what form it takes, is just bad for business and called on others to oppose the new wave of very dangerous legislation that “will truly hurt jobs, growth, and economic vibrancy in parts of the country where a 21st-century economy was once welcomed with open arms.” Of course that was prior to the Vatican-5 ruling that religious freedom trumps everything; no matter the extent of the damage to the nation’s economy or how badly it violates the Constitution or civil and equal rights laws.
It may be that there are too many Americans who are blind to discrimination, or too young to remember what it looks like, but these barbaric laws like Indiana’s, and those under consideration in 23 other states, are vile on a human level; sod religious freedom. This country has made significant progress with religious freedom over the decades regardless it was winning equality for people of color, women, or the gay community. But now Christian Dominionists have been empowered by the Supreme Court to take America back to Puritanism, and it is noteworthy that Puritanism not only harshly enforced its strict religious principles, it defended slavery; the ultimate expression of discrimination.
Cook recalled what it was like growing up in the South in the 1960s and 70s and noted that discrimination then was also “shrouded in laws meant to protect us” which is exactly how Mike Pence defended Indiana’s religious law. It is a sad commentary that these religious laws are the vehicle that will take the nation back to the days of blatant segregation and discrimination “marked by Whites Only” signs on store fronts, water fountains, and restrooms that Cook said “must remain deep in our past.” That was before Republicans in Indiana said their ‘religious’ law would allow businesses to post “No Gays Allowed” signs in the Hoosier state; something Cook said we must never return to in order to preserve America as a land of opportunity for everyone.
Republicans love touting the sacrifice of Americans’ who died fighting to protect this country’s founding principles of freedom and equality, and it is prescient that Cook used one of their favorite talking points to slam abominable license to discriminate laws disguised as defending religion. He said that since hundreds-of-thousands of American men and women fought and died to protect freedom and equality, “we owe it to them, to each other and to our future to continue to fight with our words and our actions to protect those ideals.”
Cook was spot on with his analysis of the very dangerous religious laws threatening Americans, and he was also right that the base issue is “how we treat each other as human beings;” of that there is little dispute. However, he is wrong that “this isn’t a political issue and it isn’t a religious issue;” it is both and perhaps he knows it. It is a religious issue that Republican politicians are imposing on Americans for Christian fundamentalists who have sought to gain power and dominance over every aspect of society for over thirty years. It may even be true that not all Republicans actually embrace religious extremism, but they are as petrified of opposing Christian fanatics as they are the Koch brothers. If Republicans were not busy passing religious laws, there would be no legalized discrimination in Indiana today or laws stripping women’s right to control their own reproductive health.
Cook ended his article saying that “fighting discrimination takes courage and that with the lives and dignity of so many people at stake, it’s time for all of us to be courageous.” He is right, of course, but at this juncture it appears that there is little the American people can do; it is up to those who can exert devastating economic pain on religious Republican states and the evangelical voters who elected them. Particularly since the highest court in the land empowered the fanatical Christians with the supremacy they have yearned for and Republicans execute faithfully. Whether one likes Tim Cook, or Apple products for that matter, the man did more than assail the discriminatory Indiana law; he openly criticized its basis in religion.