When it comes to body language, few moves are as strong, or as symbolic, as turning away from someone. The move is perhaps the most ancient show of disrespect for another person, and especially for authority. Turning your back on royalty could get you killed. The time has come to turn our backs on those who enable discrimination, no matter who they are or what office they hold.
- 1,000 Jews leave Drancy, France, for Auschwitz concentration camp
- 2,000 Jews are murdered in Kaunas Lithuania
- 40 Jewish policemen in Riga, Latvia, ghetto are shot by the Gestapo
- Children’s Aktion-Nazis collect all the Jewish children of Lovno
In case there is any question on the matter, what starts small, simply refusing to provide a service to a certain group of people, grows and when left unchecked and unopposed leads to the deaths of millions.
As a nation, we never have been too good at remembering history. As people who experienced an event die off and are no longer around to tell the stories, we have a horrible tendency to forget. What started World War I? What started World War II? There are no WWI veterans left living and WWII vets are dwindling quickly. Many of those who do remain are nearing the century mark in age, but they remember why we fought that war: to stop hate in its tracks.
Religious freedom is something we take seriously. The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 was designed specifically to prevent the federal government from imposing laws that restrict the free exercise of one’s religion. Its major test came in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, 546U.S. 418 wherein the United States Supreme Court ruled that native tribes must be allowed to use peyote in tribal ceremonies and that tribe members carrying peyote for religious use could not be arrested.
However, in City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, the high court ruled that the federal RFRA does not apply to the individual states. In this particular case, a church was prevented from building an addition to its facilities that would have violated local historical ordinances. There is some scholarly assertion that the ruling completely sets aside the full RFRA, but that has yet to be challenged in court. Almost immediately, individual states began enacting their own versions of the federal law, most duplicating the language exactly.
While the federal RFRA intended to supplement the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and are implemented with that intent. However, at the state level, intentions seem to be much different with a blatant and obvious appearance of being a reaction to the inevitability of legal same-gender marriages. At this point, the laws become less about protecting religion versus using religion as a bullying tool of hate and at times protects what would otherwise be considered criminal behavior.
For example, RFRA laws contributed to a federal judge’s decision in a Utah case where a church member had been subpoenaed to testify in a child labor case regarding a church-run farm. The judge ruled that forcing the church member to testify violated his religious freedom.
In other states where RFRA has been enacted, even where the intention may have been honorable, the actual use has been detrimental and increasingly are seen as being detrimental to civil rights. Civil liberty organizations that once supported RFRA bills are now changing their mind after seeing how the laws can be used to discriminate and even clergy members decry the potential for harm in such bills.
Human Rights Campaign legal director Susan Warbelow states: “These bills do not address a legitimate problem with current law. Rather, they are written with the intention of creating harmful consequences. They put minority groups at risk of being denied service everywhere from the convenience store to the doctor’s office—and they send a harmful message that fairness, equality and the principles of our constitution are secondary to personal discomfort and prejudice.”
Sure, RFRA looks harmless on the surface, but it’s an open door to discrimination and oppression the likes of which have not been seen since, well, Nazi Germany. For many of us, to jump from RFRA to Naziism seems like an unrealistic leap. For those who have experienced the severity of discrimination, however, this is like a nightmare coming true.
A dear friend, who happens to fall into multiple minority categories, expressed tremendous fear yesterday in the wake of Indiana’s RFRA being signed into law. She already knows how discrimination leads to torture, rape, harassment, and murder. She has seen these things happen before in the name of protecting one group’s rights over another’s. She worries that it is about to happen again.
I cannot mitigate her fear. If good people do not stand up against the reality of what RFRA allows, then bad people will inevitably use it to their advantage. Understand, good people don’t need laws to force them to do good things. Bad people, however, will exploit every loophole offered them to its fullest extent.
What is left, now that RFRA is law in Indiana, but to turn our backs on those who are responsible for it and those who support it? We cannot ignore their behavior, we cannot condone their actions through the slightest inference or else we leave the door open for continued abuse of a system that is already of questionable value. We cannot support them in any way.
Remember, on this day in 1944:
- 1,000 Jews left Drancy, France, for Auschwitz concentration camp
- 2,000 Jews were murdered in Kaunas Lithuania
- 40 Jewish policemen in Riga, Latvia, ghetto were shot by the Gestapo
- Children’s Aktion-Nazis collected all the Jewish children of Lovno
Replace Jews with gay, or black, or Hispanic, or any other people group. Don’t think it can’t happen again.
My back is turned, Indiana. I want nothing to do with your discriminatory ways.