By Jill Richardson
A bill in Texas would allow professionals of all kinds — doctors, pharmacists, electricians — to deny services to LGBTQ customers on religious grounds.
This comes alongside the Trump administration’s rollout of a rule that would allow health care providers to actually deny service to LGBTQ people on religious grounds.
I’m sorry, but I don’t care if you have a strongly held religious conviction that says I’m going to hell, or I’m not worthy of being treated like a human being, because I’m gay.
If that’s the case, you can go ahead and stay far away from me, and you can hate me all you want. Or you can love me and hate my “sin” of being myself and loving who I love, and then you have the right to tell yourself that’s not hateful.
But you don’t have a right to legally discriminate against me or anyone like me. At least, not outside of your own church — though even there, is it really necessary?
First off, several sources say the passages in the Bible that condemn homosexuality have been mistranslated and misinterpreted. A more accurate reading, they argue, finds that homosexuality isn’t an “abomination” after all.
Even if the Bible is the literal word of God, God didn’t give that word to humans in English. Humans translated it into English. Humans are fallible.
Second, even the most devout Jews and Christians don’t literally follow every single word in the Bible. They pick and choose. If one followed every commandment in the Leviticus to the letter, the result would be gruesome murders (a theme the book The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo explored in grisly detail).
For instance, Deuteronomy 21:18-21 says that children who disrespect their parents should be stoned to death. If anyone actually followed that, few children would live long enough to get their driver’s licenses.
But you know what? Nobody follows that. Because they shouldn’t.
And although our Constitution protects religious liberty, if someone stoned their disrespectful child to death out of sincerely held religious conviction, they would still go to prison for murder — rightfully.
I support religious freedom. But when religious people pick and choose which (possibly mistranslated) commandments they want to follow — and they choose the ones that discriminate against a group of people for the “sin” of loving — I don’t think it’s reasonable to say that their right to discriminate is more important than an LGBTQ person’s civil rights.
Go ahead and do what you want inside your own church. You have that right.
LGBTQ support groups are filled with the fallout of anti-gay church teachings — people who’ve lost their entire families, their friends, and their faith. Plenty believe they’re going to hell for being LGBTQ, while others even entered into doomed heterosexual marriages that fell apart when they couldn’t hide their true selves any longer.
Our community has a lot of trauma in it, but I suppose you have the religious freedom to keep heaping more of that trauma on us — within your own home and your own church.
I support religious freedom, which I guess means I support the right of any faith to exclude LGBTQ people based on a cherry-picked misinterpretation of scripture if they wish. But that right does not extend to discriminate in a non-religious workplace, emergency room, or anywhere else.
Half a century ago, some people claimed they had a deeply held religious conviction supporting racial segregation. Our government passed civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race anyway, even if it’s based on religious conviction. It shouldn’t allow them to deny services to LGBTQ people either.
Jill Richardson is the author of “Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.” She is a columnist for OtherWords.org.