Today I went to pick up some tacos for dinner. When I got home, I saw that they had given me flour tortillas instead of corn tortillas. Normally this wouldn’t cause a sane person to find herself on the verge of a meltdown. But I have Celiac disease and I can’t eat flour tortillas. I also can’t eat the stuff inside of the tortilla, or anything else that was within touching distance of the tortilla. So no taco, beans, and rice platter for me tonight.
Instead, I popped some gluten-free chicken nuggets into the oven and logged on to read the news while I waited for them to cook. I was feeling pretty flammable to start with, so it’s not surprising that when I read this article about the Arizona legislation that “would allow business owners, as long as they assert their religious beliefs, to deny service to gay and lesbian customers,” I started to feel a rant coming on.
Things are changing in the 21st century, and there is an increasing number of issues in which the conflicts between secular demands and religious beliefs constitute a legitimate political debate. We are being forced to tackle contentious questions about how far our religious beliefs can go in dictating the way we implement laws, and how far those laws can go before they encroach on our freedom to practice our religion according to its particular theology. These are serious questions. But they have nothing to do with this piece of legislation coming out of Arizona.
I am going to go out on a limb and assume that the “religious beliefs” lawmakers are referring to are of the Christian variety. I have been a Christian since August of 1979 when I was baptized into the Catholic Church. I went to Catholic schools from Kindergarten through graduate school, with the exception of the four years I spent in public high school.
I’ve learned a fair amount about the basics of what we believe, but I don’t know everything. Nevertheless, there is one thing I can say with confidence: nowhere in our canon of beliefs does it say that we can’t sell stuff to gay people. There is no verse in the Bible that I am aware of in which Jesus or any of the major biblical players pronounce that “thou mayest not sell thy meatloaf platter to a man who lieth with another man.”
Seeking to establish legislation that couches discrimination in terms of religious freedom is really just an attempt to assert the righteousness of a certain kind of intolerance. There is no doctrinal basis for refusing service to anyone for any reason. It is self-justification, pure and simple.
The only religious liberty that is relevant to this legislation are the liberties these lawmakers are taking with their faith — with my faith. And what they have shown us is that they are willing to commandeer a faith based on love and redemption and sacrifice it to the alter of their bigotry.