Call It What It Is

As the Friday deadline creeps up on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer regarding a potential veto of SB 1062 in her state, I think it might be time to call the bill what it is.  If you are not familiar with the bill, it was passed under the guise of “religious freedom,” along party lines, with Republicans voting in favor, and Democrats voting against passage.

The bill would make it legal in Arizona for businesses to discriminate against a patron based on their sexual orientation.  Unreal.

So, let’s call that bill exactly what it is…it is hate.  It is hate mixed with fear, and it is being passed off as religious freedom.

Supporters of the bill claim that doing business with gay people somehow violates their right to practice their chosen religion.  I don’t stoop this low often, but I think an exception is necessary.  That is a stupid argument made by small-minded and simple people.

Can someone please tell me how someone’s sexual orientation infringes on another person’s right to practice their religion?  The simple answer is that it does not.  Which brings us to the essence of this bill in Arizona.

It is hate, pure and simple.  Now, I know that not all conservatives or Republicans hate homosexuals, but the voices in that camp sure are louder than the voices of reason.  John McCain’s opposition is being drowned out by the hate-filled ramblings of Rush Limbaugh, and sadly, more people look to Rush to give them their opinions than listen to voices of reason like John McCain (at least on this issue he is being a voice of reason).

I am sick and tired of people hiding behind the Bible and religion to spread their hate.  I thought the Bible was all about love and forgiveness and atonement for sins, but too many people use it as their handbook for hate.

Supporters of this bill that legalizes hate will scream loud and proud (although why would they be proud of being hate-filled people?) that their right to practice their religion is being trampled on by serving gays.  Wrong.  Plain and simple.  Serving homosexuals does not infringe on anybody’s right to practice their religion.  If you think otherwise, you need to think again.

Let me put it another way.  What if Governor Brewer does not veto and allows this type of discrimination to take place?  What would the outrage be if this were law and a Muslim business owner or Jewish business owner refused to serve someone who is a Christian?  I bet Arizona Republicans would be beside themselves if that were to take place.  That, my friends, is hypocrisy in the truest form.

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First and Foremost

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The first thing you read on this page is the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  It’s pretty straightforward if you ask me, but others seem to have allowed confusion to set in.

The confusion I am referencing surrounds the suspension by A&E of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson for comments he made during an interview with GQ.  Mr. Robertson is certainly entitled to his opinion, there’s no doubt about that.  Conservatives from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to former half-Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin are being very critical of the suspension, claiming that A&E is curtailing Mr. Robertson’s First Amendment rights.

They are wrong.

Just as Mr. Robertson has the right to his opinion and to voice said opinion, A&E has the right to suspend or fire him for voicing his opinion.  Last I checked, A&E is not Congress, and as such is not bound to allow anybody who represents their network to speak freely on any topic.  In this case, A&E is the employer, and Mr. Robertson is their employee.  A&E has a brand to protect, and if they think that a representative of their brand (Mr. Robertson) is not casting them in the light they feel is appropriate, they can respond in any manner they see fit.  Free enterprise, if you will.

I find it oddly ironic that people like Jindal and Palin constantly rail against “government intrusion” into our lives and into private enterprise, yet want to criticize A&E for acting as an entity in the free market.  You cannot have it both ways.

Where Are They Now?

When Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson could not get their faces on TV fast enough to decry it as a “racist” act.  They shouted from the rooftops at anybody who would listen and those who tried not to that it was a racially motivated killing by a white man (Zimmerman is of mixed heritage) of a black teenager.  When Zimmerman was acquitted, Sharpton called for sit-ins and protests over the decision.

Fast-forward to this week, and I have to wonder where Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson are on these stories:

In Oklahoma, a college baseball player was randomly shot and killed by three teenagers, two black males and one white male.  It has been reported that they killed him “because they were bored” and were caught a few minutes before possibly killing someone else.  The only thing that Christopher Lane did was to go for a run one afternoon, and he ends up being shot and killed.

In Washington, a WWII veteran was brutally beaten and killed this week by two black teenagers.  It has been reported that this beating was also random.

So, I bring up the question again, where are Al and Jessie?  Why are they not classifying these attacks as senseless and racist?  To them, is it only a racist attack when a black person is the victim?  Are white people (and mixed race people like George Zimmerman) the only ones who are racist?  To me, it is people like Al and Jessie who fuel the racial attitudes and tensions that are bubbling to the surface in not holding everyone accountable for their actions.  If they were serious about protecting civil rights, they would call out the racist thugs who shot Christopher Lane and beat Delbert Belton for what they are.  Instead, there has been silence from them, and that is beyond sad.

If you want to know my honest opinion, Al and Jessie are the epitome of hypocrites.  When something happens to a black person, there is not a camera they won’t get in front of to scream about “racism,” but when it comes to the senseless murder of a white college baseball player or white WWII veteran at the hands of black teenagers (and the one white teenager who was involved in the shooting), they remain silent.  Why is this ok with anybody?  To me, racism in any form by anybody is sick, ignorant, and wrong; there is no place for it in my view.

If Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson want to really tackle the issues of racism and civil rights, the best place to start would be with the person they see in the mirror every morning.  Once they eliminate their racist attitudes and view of the world, only then should they jump in front of the nearest camera to decry racism in this country.

Put Down Your Pitchforks

On numerous occasions on this very blog, I have admitted that I am no Biblical scholar.  But, just because I am not one, nor am I a pastor, priest, or rabbi, that does not exclude me from finding variations and such from the Bible fascinating.

Take, for example, the widely accepted premise that Judas betrayed Jesus.  This belief was accepted, of course, because it appears in the Bible, and people like to point out that everything in the Bible is true and accurate.  However, it seems that Judas may not have betrayed Jesus after all, so it might be time to put down the pitchforks, people.

According to scientific evidence (those are like swear words to some people), there is a Gospel of Judas that was excluded from the Bible that appears in its present form.  Sort of like the Gospel of Thomas, it was omitted because somebody did not like what it portrayed and because it differed from what “mainstream” Christianity was at the time.

But, how can that be?  I thought the Bible was God’s word, and that it was true and accurate.

It is reported that, “A “Gospel of Judas” was first mentioned around A.D. 180 by Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon, in what is now France. The bishop denounced the manuscript as heresy because it differed from mainstream Christianity.” (source)  But how can one person decide which of God’s words are to be included, and which are to be left out?  Weird.

If, as the science suggests, the Gospel of Judas is legit, wouldn’t Christianity basically be turned upside down?

A lot of people balk at the suggestion that the Bible may actually be incomplete, but I do not understand why.  It is like they are scared to question anything, and would rather stand firm in thinking that the Bible is 100% complete.  I do not fall into that camp.  I believe that the Bible is but a fraction of what it could and should be, and that we are doing ourselves an injustice by not seeking more.  While time has most likely eroded away a vast majority of what was excluded, the stuff that is out there, like Thomas and Judas, should be considered for inclusion going forward.  It does not make me “un-Christian” or a non-believer or “lost” to hold a view that there is more out there and that someone can have a right relationship with God without going to church on Sunday; the folks who see my view as a bad thing do more damage to Christianity than they imagine.

I hope the Gospel of Judas, and that of Thomas are legit, and I hope they are included in future publishings of the Bible; their inclusion will only serve to give people more insight and allow them to open their minds even more.  Of course, there are some who wouldn’t want that.

Can Someone Clear This Up?

I don’t know that this is a recent source of confusion for me or not, or just maybe it is just coming back to the surface now that same-sex marriage is in the news so much.  Who knows, maybe the Supreme Court will do the right thing and strike down both California’s Prop 8 and the federal government’s DOMA, but that is not what has me confused.

What has me confused is the argument that opponents of same-sex marriage seem to use as a fallback, especially when it cannot be proven that such marriages would “erode the institution of marriage” as we now know it.  You know, the one that is so strong that about 50% already end in divorce.  Seems like a weak foundation is already in place.

Anyway, the general fallback argument is to reference Bible passages, as if we are some sort of theocracy.  In particular, those against same-sex marriage cite Leviticus 18:22, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” (source)  This is where my confusion starts to set in.  I am no Biblical Scholar, pastor, or priest, but I do know that Leviticus is in the Old Testament.  With that knowledge in hand, I then assume that people who use this passage as a reason believe that all Old Testament laws should be followed; often, I am corrected and told that the New Testament supercedes the Old Testament.  Talk about confusing.

To briefly recap, the Old Testament says that homosexuality as an “abomination,” thus same-sex marriage should be banned.  But, where the Old Testament says, for example that people should not eat shellfish (Leviticus 11:10 “And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you”), that was erased by the New Testament.  Strange.

Maybe it is my “if, then” kind of thinking, or maybe it is because I don’t necessarily see how people can just randomly pick and choose which Biblical laws are to be followed, but I see it as having to be one way or the other.  If you want to use the Old Testament for one thing (homosexualilty), then you must for everything else (including shellfish).  Likewise, if you want to use the New Testament when it comes to shellfish, then you cannot quote Old Testament in opposition to homosexuality and same-sex marriage.  That is just basic common sense to me.

As I often do, I read a lot of article online, especially when the subject is controversial.  Same-sex marriage is pretty controversial.  I like to read the comments on the articles because, while the tone of the article will vary based on what site I am on, the comments, when on an article hosted on a news site (NBC, CBS, CNN, etc.), tend to really give me insight as to what people really think about the subject at hand (although sometimes the comments become nothing more than playground name-calling).  I would like to share a comment I read on an article about same-sex marriage (I apologize for not having linked to the article as well) where the commenter responds to someone who used Leviticus 18:22 as their argument against same-sex marriage:

"Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. When someone tries to defend thehomosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advicefrom you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to followthem: When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates apleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claimthe odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them? I would like to sell mydaughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, whatdo you think would be a fair price for her? I know that I am allowed no contactwith a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15:19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women takeoffense. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male andfemale, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mineclaims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Whycan't I own Canadians? I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath.Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated tokill him myself? A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is anabomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. Idon't agree. Can you settle this? Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach thealtar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wearreading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle roomhere? Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair aroundtheir temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. Howshould they die?I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes meunclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves? My uncle has a farm.He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, asdoes his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread(cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is itreally necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole towntogether to stone them? - Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death ata private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws?(Lev. 20:14) I know you have studied these things extensively, so I amconfident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging."

I thought that this commenter, while obviously sarcastic in their tone, did a nice job in pointing out the blatant hypocrisy of the argument presented by another commenter.

 

This Has To Be A Joke

From the state (Arizona) that brought us a prolonged and ridiculous battle over President Obama’s birth certificate and that allows police to profile drivers to determine their citizenship status (“papers, please”), there is now a representative who is introducing a bill that would basically require people in Arizona to carry their birth certificates with them at all times, just in case they are out and need to use a public restroom.

A PERSON COMMITS DISORDERLY CONDUCT IF THE PERSON INTENTIONALLY ENTERS A PUBLIC RESTROOM, BATHROOM, SHOWER, BATH, DRESSING ROOM OR LOCKER ROOM AND A SIGN INDICATES THAT THE ROOM IS FOR THE EXCLUSIVE USE OF PERSONS OF ONE SEX AND THE PERSON IS NOT LEGALLY CLASSIFIED ON THE PERSON’S BIRTH CERTIFICATE AS A MEMBER OF THAT SEX.

I’ll give you one guess as to the party membership of Representative John Kavanaugh.  Hint: it is the party of “smaller government” that wants to tell people what they can do in their bedrooms or with their bodies, among other things.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, if Republican John Kavanaugh gets his “Bathroom Bill” passed and signed into law in Arizona, you can be charged with a misdemeanor if you dare to enter a public restroom without your birth certificate.  You have got to be kidding me.

To be honest, the law is aimed at one particular group of people: transgender people.  I really do not know why so many Republicans fear transgender or homosexual individuals.  Neither is contagious, so really the only reason to constantly be drafting legislation aimed at impairing their rights would be the individual insecurities of those who have written the bills.  Basically, could there be some projection of their own closet homosexual or transgender tendencies in said legislation; you know, yell loud enough against something in order to try to convince others you are opposed in order to try to suppress their own desires?  It’s a theory that has not been proven, but still may be valid.

Take, for example, Pastor Ted Haggard.  He was the pastor of New Life Church, and he spoke out loudly against homosexuals and the lifestyle they lead, yet he was busted with a male prostitute.  He also admitted to having an “inappropriate” relationship with a 20 year-old volunteer at his church. (source)  To recap, Ted Haggard was a pastor who screamed loudly at anybody who would listen about how terrible homosexuality is (his view, not mine), yet he repeatedly engaged in the exact same behavior he was so forceful in hating on.

And who can forget former Congressman Mark Foley of Florida?  The same person who chaired the House caucus on missing and exploited children and who wrote the sexual-predator provisions of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (2006) resigned from Congress after basically engaging in predator-type activities.  Foley, if you don’t recall, sent sexually explicit messages to a former Congressional Page (Pages are teenagers who live in a Capitol Hill dorm while serving in the House and Senate, and attend a special school while serving). (source)

But, let’s circle back to the Arizona law.  If passed, make sure you have your birth certificate on you at all times if you happen to be in Arizona.  It would really be crappy if you didn’t and ended up being charged with a misdemeanor for not having it with you when you used a public restroom.

 

Starting To Get It

I have to admit, when I first saw that Republican Ohio Senator Rob Portman had changed his stance on gay marriage, I figured he was a candidate for what has become my “Hypocritical Much?” series.  Portman had previously come out (no pun intended) against gay marriage, only to change his stance after his son revealed to him that he was gay.

But, I always like to dive a little deeper into stories like this, just so I can be sure to be fair and present most accurate information that I can.  So, I went ahead and read the article, which you can read as well by clicking here.

Generally speaking, when you hear or read about people coming out (again, no pun intended) against gay marriage, the argument tends to center on how gay marriage erodes at the foundation of marriage and family, or how it goes against someone’s interpretation of the Bible.  And, oddly enough, Rob Portman provided a great quote on exactly those two reasons that people cite as why they are against gay marriage.

Portman said that he “considered his Christian faith” and then continued with this:

“…in a way, this strengthens the institution of marriage.”

“The overriding message of love and compassion that I take from the Bible, and certainly from the Golden Rule, and that fact that I believe we are all created by our maker, that has all influenced me in terms of my change on this issue.”

I think he hit the nail squarely on the head when he said that the “overriding message of love and compassion” he takes from the Bible were strong influences in him changing his position.  He even had the nerve to say he believed that gay marriage “strengthens the institution of marriage.”  Well done, Mr. Portman!

Personally, I am all for gay marriage.  I don’t believe that it is any religion’s right to dictate who can or cannot get married, especially considering that before I got married, I had to apply to the state for a marriage license, not to a church.  I performed a wedding last fall, and I am performing a wedding next month, and I am not a member of the clergy, yet each of these marriages will be legal in the eyes of the State of Florida.  How can marriage be religiously defined when someone (me) who is not a member of the clergy can legally perform a ceremony?  If one chooses to adhere to the view that marriage should be defined by what religion says, then I believe that they must also hold the view that only clergy can perform a ceremony.  Yet there is not a single state among our 50 in which it is required for wedding ceremonies to be performed by a member of the clergy.  As for gay marriage, since there is no religious requirement to enter into what is basically a legal contract between two consenting adults.  I do not see how the argument can be made that gay marriage weakens the “institution of marriage” at all; I have friends who are gay and have been married in states that are not close-minded and allowed them to do so, and their marriage is in no way undermining or weakening my marriage.  In fact, their marriage has no bearing whatsoever on my marriage.

When people use the “weakening of marriage” argument, is it possible that they are really saying that their particular marriage maybe isn’t as strong as it should be?  Why would the marital status of anybody be of concern to anybody else?  Like I wrote above, gay marriage does nothing to erode at my marriage, nor does it undermine what Amber and I teach our daughter.  Gay marriage does not erode at the foundation of my family.  Other friends of mine who are gay (not the same couple I mentioned above) will have, once they are married, a combined family with four children.  And having seen the love they have for those four kids, I can safely say that the sexual orientation of the parents makes no negative impact in the way they are raising those kids.

It is time for our country to get out of the Dark Ages, and realize that our First Amendment and the whole “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion” extends to our laws regarding marriage.  By restricting the rights of gay people to get married, Congress, by default, is yielding to religious doctrine, which is just short of fully endorsing or establishing a national religion, which would be in clear violation of the First Amendment.  (We can save the whole “we were founded on Christian principles” myth/argument for another time.)

Kudos to Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio for finally starting to get it.  All it took was the discrimination he was supporting to hit close to home to open his eyes.  Sometimes the path to doing the right thing is long and circuitous, but once his eyes were opened, he saw the light.