Tag Archives: religious freedom

Freedom of speech or hate speech?

In trying to write about anti-bullying legislation a few years ago, I came across the difficulty of trying to determine what constitutes freedom of speech – respect for religious liberty included therein. This seemed pretty obvious to me: Don’t use your religion to make other people feel like shit about themselves.

But apparently this idea is a little too evolved for some.

All that some straight Christians really want is to be able to tell the gays how much they love them – even if they’re going to hell.

I follow NOM on Facebook, and I’ll be upfront with you: Sometimes when I read through the comments that people leave, it takes me back to a dangerous place. While a lot of people are happy to ignore NOM, and probably with good reason, I have a hard time doing so. Not because I think that NOM is a reputable organization that should be listened to and respected or that I think that our country is headed down that road. I think NOM is becoming an increasingly fringe organization, and though they try their best to make the general population fear the gays, truth is outing.

I don’t follow NOM because I need their approval or because I want to win arguments in the comments section of news stories.

I follow NOM because I care about all sorts of different people and perspectives. When we write people off, I think we lose something of our humanity. When we talk in terms of “us” and “them”, when we make people who look, act or think differently “the other”, we head in a dangerous direction.

Of course that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Of course that doesn’t mean I always like what I read. My heart breaks on a daily basis when I see some of the things that people write on NOM’s Facebook page, counseling homosexuals to seek “therapy”, reducing homosexuality to a cesspool of STIs, hookups and debauchery and then mocking LGB people for making things “always about them” when we’re not the ones who have founded a national organization to deny someone else the right to marry the person their heart desires.

Before I get too far off track here, let me try to bring it back.

Freedom of speech is a sacred right. Simple as that.

Just as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are also innate, human rights. If your “freedom of speech” is coming at the expense of others’ misery, then there’s something amiss here. I happen to feel very strongly about this because I both care passionately about religious liberty and the right of every single human being to live in a respectful society where we can treat one another with civility and decency even if we’re very different people.

What does that mean? That means that no one should go to a school where administrators and teachers get to propagate lies about your identity. No one should have to worry about whether or not they can mention their significant other in the workplace for fear of getting fired.

Freedom of speech is your right. Making people miserable to the point of wanting to kill themselves, however, is not. Firing someone because of their significant other is discrimination.

I don’t go around every day demanding other people’s validation. I don’t have a questionnaire for people to fill out before I consider them my friends with a list of questions about their thoughts on my orientation and gender presentation. It doesn’t affect me. I’ve had people anger, even just recently when someone I work with refused to acknowledge that I even have a boyfriend, instead referring to him as “your friend”. But guess what? It doesn’t matter. They were only words, words to which you are perfectly entitled. No one can make a law to stop you from being an ass-hole. (How about a USA cheer for that one?)

You know, as a Christian, as someone who has read the Bible cover-to-cover more than once in his life, who knows that the Bible talks a fair bit about love and the downtrodden and the outcast and oppressed, I’m always astonished that there are so many people in the world who think that this love has something to do with making people who are already marginalized feel even more oppressed.

If you don’t approve of my life, that’s fine. But why do you feel the need to have some sort of special privilege to let me know that by discriminating against my relationship? By discriminating against my gender presentation?

Of course, there is some folly involved in trying to deal with discriminatory beliefs. Can you imagine if MLK had gone around the South back in the 60s telling the KKK that he thought it was cool that they didn’t like black people, just please would you mind not bombing our churches?

I make no apologies for myself or my gender or the guy I’m so lucky to have in my life. And there’s no ambiguity about my goals: A society in which everyone is free to comport themselves in such a way that they don’t need to fear attacks for the people they love or for the way they choose to present their gender identity. And more than simple “tolerance” but instead a broader celebration of all of our sexuality. A friend of mine who runs an awesome blog that I helped name sent me a video this week of a sermon by Gene Robinson, who really hit the nail on the head, I think, when he talked about there being as many sexualities in the world as there are people. Freeing transgender, lesbian, bi, and gay people to express themselves and live their lives without reproach frees straight people to express their own sexuality and gender without fear of the labels that might be thrown at them.

I’d simply like to end by saying that as easy as it is to get discouraged by the number of hateful people who wish to force their views on the rest of us and create their own sort of Middle Ages theocracy, I am equally encouraged by others who make me believe in a brighter future and help me to believe I see the face of God sometimes in their words, their actions, their conviction.

As a friend told me recently, the fact that I come from such a conservative background and that in my coming out process and that in the last 5 years since then I’ve had such a normal life in relation to my family speaks to hope for us, not just as LGBT people, but as people period. Any time we can look beyond the superficial differences and notice that we’re really still not so different, we’re winning a victory for ourselves and for our future.


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Filed under Religious Wrong

Wheaton College’s Religious Freedom Predicament

In case you missed this gem, Wheaton College is suing the Obama Administration for requiring them to provide emergency contraception on their health care plans… Oups, they already did!

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Filed under Religious Wrong, US Politics

Everyone’s right to health coverage

A new week, a new controversy about “government overreach” from the Right.

The latest is a clause in the healthcare reform bill which requires some religious employers to offer contraception as a part of health coverage for employees. (For a more detailed explanation of the bill, take a look at this Washington Post article that Ezra Klein shared on Facebook.)

The opposition claims that this mandate that religious employers like Catholic hospitals offer employees contraception with their health insurance is government violation of religious institutions’ right to self-determination in accordance with their values. (Additionally, please note that churches are exempt.)

That’s the argument.

The reality is that 99% of women will use contraception in their life. (ASIDE: I’m actually not sure where that number comes from – someone wanna fact check it for me? I’ve been hearing it often enough on the TV machine, though. For the sake of my article I’m gonna run with it.) Somewhere around 25% of Americans are Catholic so let’s say that 10% of Americans are Catholic women (rounding down for the sake of an easier number than 12.5%). Guess what that means? Catholic women use contraception. That’s how people live their lives in reality.

In my mind, this debate is somewhat akin to homosexuality in the church.

Stop scratching your head for just a minute and hear me out.

When I was at Calvin College, a religious school in Grand Rapids, MI, a fair few people suggested that I find another school to attend because I’m gay and didn’t like (and still don’t like) the school’s policies on homosexuality. But the fact is that transgender, lesbian, bi, gay, and queer people are born into religious families every single day across America and some of them want to retain these religious convictions beyond their youth. Naturally, there are going to be queer people at any institution of higher learning because, for many of us, religion is still as important to our identity as anything else and we refuse to jump ship just because of our sexual orientation or gender identity.

I think that there’s something of a parallel with the Catholic Church, women and contraception. I know it’s not a perfect parallel, but the general idea is the same: On the one hand, there is a long standing precept that the church has been promulgating (no contraception, no queers) and on the other hand is the real world where most women would like to be able to have sex without worrying about popping a baby out and queer folks actually do exist. Also, have you noticed it’s men telling women that they can’t use contraception just like it’s heterosexuals telling homosexuals not to get married or have otherwise meaningful, healthy relationships? Funny how easy it is to interpret God’s will when it doesn’t affect you.

My point is basically this: While people have been arguing against Catholic hospitals, etc. having to offer contraception free of charge (if you want to get contraception from your insurance provider, work somewhere else! if you’re gay, go to school somewhere else!), I’m guessing that there are probably a number of women working for these institutions who would gladly accept the coverage – and probably a fair number of men who would also profit vicariously.

Struggling to understand why this is even an issue in the first place.


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Filed under US Politics