The New Jim Crow – Religious Liberty Laws
Estimated reading time: 10 minute(s)
It seems almost banal to make these points about the barely veiled same-sex marriage discrimination laws sweeping the country’s republican controlled state legislatures. But when it comes to the codification of hatred in the American justice system, we cannot and should not remain silent. Religious liberty laws are the new Jim Crow.
As Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” I would add that it is not a smooth curve. As the civil rights movement can attest, shifting from a mindset of African—Americans being property to full citizens has taken the full lifespan of this country. The mind of this nation is slow to change and if often has little to do with reason or consistent application of morality.“The arc of the moral universe ... bends towards justice.” I would add that it is not a smooth curve. Click To Tweet
It is not hard to draw an analogy between the so-called “Religious Liberty” laws and Jim Crow. Both are expressions of the painfully slow way in which society admits and moves on from its failings. In defense of our failings we employ all the greatest attributes of humanity in a sinister way. These include our sense of morality and our power of reason, as well as our evolutionary traits of tribalism and fear of the unknown.
In a universe that is neutral to justice and the plight of the individual, there is little negative feedback to fend off the regressive tendencies of humanity. Evolution in society can only occur through relentless pursuit of justice within the jurisdiction of our nation’s constitution.
The New Jim Crow
In many ways religious liberty legislation is the same if not worse than Jim Crow.
- Jim Crow provided a means for businesses to deny service to someone based on a genetic trait. Religious liberty legislation does the same.
- Jim Crow supporters cited cherry picked Biblical references to support its position while ignoring the contradictory teachings of Jesus.
- Jim Crow rationalizations were focused on Christian ethics (however inaccurately). But it ignored other religious ethical systems. Does religious liberty include Sharia Law? A true religious liberty law would allow anyone of any religious affiliation to refuse to comply with state and federal laws that violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. For instance it would allow Muslims, Christians, and Jews to be exempt from murder charges when they stoned adulterers in accordance with their scriptures.
- Religious Liberty is provided for in our nation’s constitution. How is it that these so-called religious liberty laws are needed to supplement the first amendment?
Let’s not hide behind the concept of religious liberty. These laws are no such thing. They are same sex marriage discrimination laws, pure and simple.A true religious liberty law would allow anyone to refuse to comply with state and federal laws Click To Tweet
I see two practical assessments of this legislation that would appeal to those who may support it. First, this is a costly effort, when so many red states are slow to recover from the great recession. Is it in your best interests to be paying your legislators for this kind of work? Second, why are we providing businesses with a way to do less business? Is it desirable to help businesses find ways to decrease their own revenues. How does that play out for their employees; lower wages; fewer hours?
These bills don’t make moral sense and they don’t make economic sense. If you’re looking to be consistent with conservative values, religious liberty laws don’t feel like it.
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Wisdom lies neither in fixity nor in change, but in the dialectic between the two. - Octavio
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