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You Don’t Get To Discriminate Just Because You’re Religious

| May 8, 2019

A fair housing protest in 1964 Seattle. (Wikemedia Commons)

A fair housing protest in 1964 Seattle. (Wikemedia Commons)

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).

other-wordsFor 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

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10 Responses for “You Don’t Get To Discriminate Just Because You’re Religious”

  1. Mark says:

    There is a difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. No one should discriminate on any grounds.

  2. Traveling Rep says:

    From Wikipedia: Unfree labour is a generic or collective term for those work relations, especially in modern or early modern history, in which people are employed against their will with the threat of destitution, detention, violence (including death), compulsion, or other forms of extreme hardship to themselves or members of their families.
    Unfree labour includes all forms of slavery, and related institutions (e.g. debt slavery, serfdom, corvée and labour camps). Many of these forms of work may be covered by the term forced labour, which is defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as all involuntary work or service exacted under the menace of a penalty.
    So much for Freedom, I suppose?

  3. Stranger in a strange land says:

    I don’t recall Jesus refusing miracles based on sexual preference. I have seen many people that are exceptional (insert the name any organized Christian religion) that were terrible Christians. They loudly proclaim their piety, volunteer at public, visible church functions, wear and display religious symbols, and shame those that are perceived to be immoral. To be a good Christian is to strive to be Christ-like. What would Jesus do?

  4. Huh says:

    Why would you want to spend time with someone who doesn’t like you based on their beliefs and force them to perform services that you’re paying for? Why wouldn’t you just find services that like and appreciate your money?

  5. hawkeye says:

    I think that anyone should have the right to refuse service to any else, weather its because theyre gay ,pro gun,muslim,christian, white , black etc. Just go some where else and spend your money, I for one ,refuse to spend my money at outback steak house because they dont want people with concealed weapons in there. Besides the fact that palm coast outback is disgustingly filthy,but thats another story. I dont make a big deal about it ,I honor their policy and eat elsewhere.I think these lgbtq people should just go somewhere that they are wanted. P.S at my job they force us to acknowledge this lgbt crap, I made a little sign on my desk that said “liquor ,guns ,bacon, tits and quaaludes MY lgbtq” and was told to remove it ,how is that fair?

  6. Louise says:

    What in the world is wrong with people. Why all the hate for someone who is not like you. The content of this article is absurd! It’s just the same as if all the blue eyed people hated the brown eyed people and vice versa. I just don’t get it. Discrimination is just plan wrong and I’m sorry for you if you think otherwise

  7. wow says:

    Interesting. I lived in another state where (a few) Muslim taxi drivers were refusing to carry passengers who had any alcohol in their luggage, on religious grounds. People went absolutely CRAZY over it. But when it’s good old Christians who invoke their right to be hateful it’s a different story isn’t it? If we’re going to start enacting the commandments AT WORK then I think we need to start by refusing to talk with people who’ve committed adultery, or refusing to serve people who’ve lied or said mean things about their parents. If you’ve coveted something (her clothes are beautiful!) then no service for you! Why woudln’t that be the first place to start. It’s not about judging others – it’s about judging yourself.

  8. Gary says:

    No, letting businesses discriminate will reveal to you just who you were giving your money to in the past. It’s better this way, now you can give your money to somebody who doesn’t hate you on religious grounds. Capitalism works, unlike liberals.

  9. Agkistrodon says:

    Seems to me, that no religion has a “lock” on discriminating against LGBT folks(sorry if that doesn’t include all the letters, I am a Trained Biologist). If I recall correctly, there are a couple religions, that actually kill these people. So, to infer that this is a problem, solely of Christian’s is to make a false narrative. One can “embrace” someone while “sticking a knife” in their backs, so be careful of which “religion” you feel is “better” than any other. More humans have been killed throughout History Over RELIGIONS of ALL types, than any other single thing, yet they all have “tennents” that say”though shall NOT kill”

  10. will says:

    One doesn’t have to be religious to recognize that the practices referenced here are not main-stream. One can like a person but not necessarily agree that what he is doing is right. But that is their right in a free society. Promoting immorality however, will eventually lead to the disappearance to that society. At least that is what history has shown so far.

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