With the phrase “religious freedom” fast becoming this century’s “separate but equal,” it should surprise nobody that all the right-wing Christian groups are biting at the bit to use it against people they disagree with. Whether it’s a Michigan law that uses the phrase to mask its bigotry or Christians weaponizing it to hit everyone outside of their circle with, the phrase that once mean “to each their own religion” now means “the Christian faith above all others.”
And because Christians love grievance politics, pointing that out to them constitutes “discrimination.” Since black is white, up is down, war is peace, ignorance is strength, and slavery is freedom.
A spectacular demonstration of this comes to us from Missouri: State Representative Elijah Haahr (R-Theocracy) is pushing through a bill that would allow Christian groups to discriminate against others, and receive benefits for being Christian groups. The bill, HB-104, bars public schools and institutions from “tak[ing] any action or enforc[ing] any policy that denies a religious student association and benefit available to any other student association.” Really, the Bill is a roundabout way of saying that no college can withhold perks from a bigoted group because they’re bigoted.
Here are the relevant parts:
No public institution of higher learning shall take any action or enforce any policy that denies a religious student association any benefit available to any other student association, or discriminate against a religious student association with respect to such benefit, based on that association’s requirement that its leaders or members adhere to the association’s sincerely held religious beliefs, comply with the association’s sincere religious observance requirements, comply with the association’s sincere religious standards of conduct, or be committed to furthering the association’s religious missions as such beliefs, requirements, standards, or missions are defined by the association or religion upon which the association is based.
It’s a solution in search of a problem.
According to The Friendly Atheist, the bill’s sole raison d’être is to discriminate against LGBT kids, and to keep them from joining Christian clubs. Last year, a number of Christian schools were complaining because they couldn’t discriminate against gays and lesbians without loosing the benefits of becoming a student organization — “free meeting space, access to funding, tables at activity fairs, and more.” The schools noted they were more than welcome to discriminate, they would just lose their status for it.
This bill is apparently trying to fix that:
These Christian groups are trying to prevent LGBT students from being elected to leadership positions within their group — something that just isn’t happening anywhere. I promise you no openly gay people are cutting in line to become President of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. (Even if someone wanted to do it, they’d still need support from the other members.)
Most public universities have only a few requirements when it comes to forming a student group. Things like you have to have officers, fill out some paperwork, have a faculty sponsor, and be open to everyone on campus.
. . .
They can discriminate or they can be a registered student group. They can’t have both. Anti-gay discrimination, faith-based or not, isn’t a value public universities should reward.
It’s also worth noting, as Mehta points out, that you don’t see atheist groups pushing to discriminate against Christians. In fact, in order for Christians to find any discrimination against them carried out by atheists, they have leave the country and go back more than 50 years. Atheists? They can stay right here in the United States and not even have to go back five.
And ThinkProgress reports that this isn’t the first bill of its kind, either; several states have motioned and attempted to pass similar laws like the Missouri one to legalize Christian discrimination against everyone else. A similar bill in 2012 was passed by the Tennessee legislature, but Governor Bill Haslam (R) vetoed it. When Haslam vetoed it, he noted that overturning college enforcement of LGBT protections constituted government overreach, lesson the rest of the so-called “small government” conservatives would do well to learn from.
In 2013, Virginia actually managed to pass a similar law, extending privileges to all political groups, not just religious ones.
If Haahr’s name sounds familiar, that’s because you remember his 2014 bill that guaranteed students’ rights to express their religious viewpoint at school, including in classwork. Because the religious right is working hard on our “self-inflicted radical brain surgery,” the bill became law in July.
This particular trainwreck is in the formulation stage, but given that Nixon is a Blue Dog and he passed Haahr’s last attempt to undermine knowledge and education, if this gains traction — in the Republican dominate legislature of the state — then Nixon will probably sign it.
h/t: Friendly Atheist