Say you have a person A. He’s a politician. He ran on a platform of protecting certain people’s rights and making their lives better by making sure they are treated fairly. He gets elected. He decides to put his promises into law. The people he promised to protect now have legal protections and feel safer.
Now say you have a person B. He is also a politician. He also ran on a platform of protecting people, but he says he will protect everyone. He gets elected and also puts his promise into law. Now everyone has legal protections and everyone feels safer.
Which do you think did a better job of protecting people? Which would you rather have working for you? Have a poll:
Okay. Now, depending on your political leanings (American style), you will associate each of these politicians with a certain party. There’s no poll to tell me which one you prefer. Sorry.
This sounds like an oversimplification, but it’s really not. If you listen to what the adherents of opposing political persuasions say, then the difference between them becomes starkly obvious. Let’s take, for example, the new law in Indiana, SB101.
SB101 is a “religious freedom” law which provides legal protection for religious business owners who deny service to people because of their beliefs. Despite existing Constitutional protections, supporters of the bill see it as necessary. Lobbyist Eric Miller from conservative group Advance America said, “It was therefore important to pass Senate Bill 101 in 2015 in order to help protect churches, Christian businesses and individuals from those who want to punish them because of their Biblical beliefs!” The biggest instance of this seems to be gay rights, which many conservatives see as a direct attack on their religious beliefs.
Don’t believe me? The LA Times published an article which printed the substance of Miller’s website, which specifically references the LGBT community as well as those who support LGBT equality under the law.
Under this law, Christian business owners may be able to refuse service, not just to members o the LGBT community, but others. The law is vague enough to allow for a wide range of interpretations, prompting the Indiana newspaper, the Indy Star, to publish an article on the issue which notes that “what the law could actually accomplish, experts agree, will have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, probably in court.” At this time, Pence is seeking to clarify the bill with further legislation. Pence has said numerous times about the bill, “The issue here is still: Is tolerance a two-way street or not?”
That is exactly the point, so let’s examine it. Religious freedom is already protected by the United States Constitution and is enshrined in politics as the separation of Church and state. Because of this, churches and individuals are protected from discrimination because of their religious beliefs. That means, if a religious couple walks into a bakery run by an atheist, they can order a religious themed wedding cake and expect to be served. In fact, that exact situation happens every day in the country and there are no problems at all. In fact, when was the last time you heard of a case like that? When was the last time any religious individual was persecuted for their faith?
Correction: when was the last time a Christian individual was discriminated against because of their faith?
The fact is, you can’t. Right Wing Watch with the organization People for the American Way have published a long documentation of “The Persecution Complex: The Religious Right’s Deceptive Rallying Cry” which discusses the matter in more depth than I can here. I highly recommend you reading it. Back to the matter at hand, though, I can point to numerous instances in which LGBT people, Muslims, African Americans and others have been discriminated against (sometimes violently) because of who they are.
In America, we protect those who face discrimination no matter who they are. Members of any religion can expect to be protected under the Constitution. Others have had to have their protections enshrined into law in other areas and that protection is not the same across the board. In particular, LGBT people are seeking protection from local, state and federal government because there are still places where they can be discriminated against.
People like Pence and Miller are trying to deny that protection to people who can demonstrate that discrimination exists and they have no recourse to fight it. Christians are not one of those groups. So what Pence and others like him are really saying is that they only want to protect one group, their group, the Christian group.
On the other side of politics, no one is saying that Christians should not be protected from discrimination. They are saying, however, that others should enjoy the same protections that Christians already do. I could go in to a long explanation of how this is true, but honestly I do not have the time. In many respects, I am preaching to the choir on this, and that’s fine with me. But in the spirit of fairness, I do want to point out that there is no clear dichotomy between Republicans and Democrats. In Indiana, the Republican mayor of Indianapolis has opposed it, along with others. I applaud them for standing against the majority of their party in order to do the right thing.
So back to our original question: who protects you better? A or B? R or D? I know which one I would choose. What about you?