Mary Sanchez: Discrimination in God’s name?

02/16/2014 12:00 AM

02/14/2014 5:51 PM

A bill that sailed past the state’s representatives tells Kansans: You can be as discriminatory as you like against homosexuals and the state will have your back. Just be sure and do it in God’s name.

The bill is meeting push-back from Kansas senators, who object to a provision that would allow government employees to refuse service to same-sex couples and are concerned about the bill’s impact on businesses. But this won’t be the last we’ll hear of it.

The legislation is a pre-emptive strike to ensure that people “with sincerely held religious beliefs” against homosexuality will be able to turn gay couples away if they request flowers for a wedding or a banquet hall for a reception, or wish to hire a photographer for their civil ceremony. Also covered are those involved with adoption, foster care, counseling or social services, including government employees. Like a city clerk who might want to cite a Bible to avoid legally recognizing a gay marriage declared valid elsewhere.

The politicians who support this nonsense have no clue of what discrimination looks like, feels like or how it historically has functioned in society. The constant cry rationalizing this bill and similar measures elsewhere is that it is religious conservatives – not homosexuals – who are apt to suffer from discrimination.

Really? I’m doubtful that any have entered a public business to be told that their money is no good there – because they’re Christians. Nor have they suffered the added humiliation of being slurred as they were shown the door. So the idea of ensuring such denial of public accommodation as a legally protected “right,” something no aggrieved person could ever sue for, feels just dandy to them. Justified even.

What’s really happening – what’s threatening the religious conservatives of Kansas – is that the general public’s views on homosexuality are shifting. Rapidly.

So religious conservatives now take up the mantle of a minority. That’s one of the few honest things about this conversation. Their view of homosexuality will soon be (if it is not already) a minority opinion.

Yet they miss crucial points. No government authority – neither the courts nor the executive branch – is telling people that they can’t continue to decry homosexuality. They can quote the Bible to condemn it all they want. Churches can continue to bar gay couples from marriage and any other sacrament.

But that long-enshrined First Amendment protection of speech and religious freedom isn’t good enough for these folks. No. They want the assurance that they can also run a public business, advertise their services to one and all, and still maintain the right to tell gay people they aren’t welcome. And never face the legal ramification of a lawsuit, if such a thing could ever transpire in Kansas.

The Kansas bill’s sponsor points to one clause as a measure of fairness to gays. When an employee of a business or a government office doesn’t want to deal with a gay person, another employee should.

This only underscores the bill’s absurdity, especially from a Christian perspective. Jesus of Nazareth was infamous for supping with prostitutes and tax collectors, and yet these supposedly upright followers of Jesus cannot bear to act with charity and decency in public and commercial life?

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