Laws purported to protect “deeply held religious beliefs” seem to be a hot-button issue right now. We saw it in Indiana, and now in North Carolina, Mississippi and Tennessee. Some cities have tried it. Other states are discussing it as well.
But as I pointed out in a previous post, (What About MY "Deeply Held Religious Beliefs?") these laws are not only misnamed, they’re bogus. They only protect the “religious freedom” of a small fragment of only one religion: Conservative/Fundamental Christians, and are designed to give these Christians permission to legally discriminate against LGBT people.
As I continue to think (and fume!) about these laws, I'm increasingly baffled...and annoyed...at the irony. Those who claim they need these protections profess to be Christian—followers of Jesus. However, when we put these laws under scrutiny, they don’t line up with either the teachings or the example of Jesus. And it’s not subtle; there’s a major disconnect. Just off the top of my head I came up with numerous statements made by Jesus that would contradict both the need and the purpose for these laws, as well as the potential results of their implementation.
Consider these differences between the instructions of Jesus and the message (implied, subtle or overt) of these laws:
Religious Liberty Law: I am a Christian, but I only want to serve those who align with or live up to my "deeply held religious beliefs." I don’t want LGBT people in here because it goes against my beliefs. I don’t want to even associate with them because they are sinners.
“[A]nyone who comes to me I will never drive away.” John 6:37 (NRSV)
“Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. ‘What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?’ Jesus, overhearing, shot back, ‘Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.’” Matthew 9:11-13 (The Message)
“Levi gave a large dinner at his home for Jesus. Everybody was there, tax men and other disreputable characters as guests at the dinner. The Pharisees and their religion scholars came to his disciples greatly offended. ‘What is he doing eating and drinking with crooks and sinners?’”
Jesus heard about it and spoke up, ‘Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders—an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.’” Luke 5:29-32 (The Message)
Religious Liberty Law: I should not be required to serve LGBT in my place of business, because I am a Christian.
“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” Matthew 5:41 (NET Bible)
“To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst...If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life...Live generously.” Luke 6:27-30 (The Message)
Religious Liberty Law: My rights and my beliefs should override the rights and beliefs of others, especially LGBT people.
“All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12 (NRSV)
Religious Liberty Law: I am a Christian, and my business is a reflection of my devotion to Jesus and my "deeply held religious beliefs." I should be allowed to discriminate.
“You’re hopeless...Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, but...things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look...?” Matthew 23: 23-24 (The Message)
“You...neglect the more important matters of the Law, such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness...You strain out a small fly but swallow a camel.” (CEV)
Religious Liberty Law: As a Christian, I support laws that will further ostracize and target LGBT in our society.
“Whenever you failed to help any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do it for me.” Matthew 25: 40 (CEV)
Religious Liberty Law: I think LGBT people are sinful and do not deserve to be treated like everyone else. As a Christian, everyone is welcome in my business, as long as I know their birth gender and approve of who and how they love.
“But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but you don’t have to make it worse—and it’s doomsday to you if you do.” Matthew 18:6-7 (The Message)
“Let the children come to me, and don’t try to stop them! People who are like these children belong to God’s kingdom.” Matthew 19:14 (CEV)
Religious Liberty Law: As a Christian, I will prove my religious faith by refusing to serve those whom I deem as unworthy. I will be defiant, I will call them nasty names, I will scorn them and promote injustice towards them...all because of my beliefs.
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.” Matthew 5:43-47 (The Message)
“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” Matthew 5:46 (NRSV)
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have...” John 13:35 (The Message)
Religious Liberty Law: The sin of LGBT people make it impossible for me to serve them. I may be a sinner, but these people are worst. I will provide products or services to other sinners, but not these sinners.
“Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5 (NRSV)
Religious Liberty Laws: These people are asking me to provide a product or service. I demand a law to stop this persecution. I need this law to protect me from those who disagree with my "deeply held religious beliefs."
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5: 11-12 (NRSV)
For me, this is not about religion, but about bigotry, hidden in palatable terminology. This is about targeting a vulnerable group and spreading fear, in the Name of the One who regularly told us to "Fear not!" This is about codifying discrimination.
If you tell me you are a Christian, I will assume that means you aspire to be a Christ-follower (from Whom we get the name CHRISTian), to pattern your life after His example and what He taught. Like me, you are probably appalled that the teachings of Jesus—the Founder of our Faith—are being so distorted.
On the other hand, if you tell me you are a Christian and you support these laws, I'm gonna have to call belief bullshit!
The message of Jesus is “Come unto Me.”
The intent of these laws is “Get out of here!”
Disclaimer: Again, I am not advocating for the words and commands of Jesus to be implemented into law; I see that as a violation of our Constitution. I am merely pointing out the inconsistency of such laws, supposedly based on religious beliefs. The fact is, what I did here with the teachings of Jesus, I could do the same...with just as many examples...from many other teachings of the New Testament.