‘Re­li­gious lib­erty’ crowd re­veals true col­ors

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

As they’ve lost ground in the cul­ture wars, con­ser­va­tives have been cry­ing wolf about the en­dan­gered na­ture of faith in Amer­ica, in­sist­ing that our coun­try was stray­ing from its found­ing prin­ci­ple of re­li­gious lib­erty and be­liev­ers were be­ing per­se­cuted by the govern­ment (or the courts, or Hollywood, or cor­po­rate Amer­ica, or pro sports leagues, or which­ever main­stream so­cial in­sti­tu­tion was not­ing that their god, as de­scribed by his fol­low­ers, was a bigot).

Now that the wolf has ap­peared, the prophets are silent. They have not fled in fear, nor mounted a fight, as they bravely would have had the wolf asked them to bake a cake for a same-sex wed­ding; rather, some have ig­nored the cur­rent as­sault on Mus­lims, but most gid­dily cheer on the beast as he mauls the al­legedly in­alien­able rights of fol­low­ers of a dif­fer­ent god (a lesser god, an un-Amer­i­can god; a, some peo­ple are say­ing, fake god).

At the start of this year’s Ge­or­gia leg­isla­tive ses­sion, Repub­li­can state Sen. Josh McKoon, the mes­siah of “re­li­gious lib­erty” ef­forts in this state, of­fered a clever anec­dote to “those who say that we do not have a prob­lem with re­press­ing peo­ple and be­ing able to ex­er­cise their faith the way they choose.” McKoon told the story of a Na­bila Khan, a young Mus­lim woman who was ad­mon­ished by her col­lege pro­fes­sor for wear­ing a tra­di­tional veil to class, which McKoon called “an un­com­fort­able ex­am­ple” for op­po­nents of his Re­li­gious Free­dom and Restora­tion Act be­cause it proves “re­li­gious lib­erty” is broader than just dis­crim­i­nat­ing against LGBT Ge­or­gians.

“I may not look like Ms. Khan, we may not share the same faith tra­di­tion, but we rise and fall on the same le­gal pro­tec­tions of the Con­sti­tu­tion,” McKoon said in his most no­ble tone, while con­ced­ing that many of his fel­low re­li­gious con­ser­va­tives would have no prob­lem with dis­crim­i­na­tion against a Mus­lim woman. “A govern­ment that can tell Ms. Khan not to honor her faith tra­di­tion in a lec­ture hall at a pub­lic col­lege or uni- ver­sity can do the same thing to a Chris­tian, the same thing to a Jew, the same thing to some­one of any faith tra­di­tion.”

How­ever, Khan’s un­for­tu­nate ex­pe­ri­ence is more of “a con­ve­nient ex­am­ple” for McKoon, sug­gest­ing he was in­ter­ested in all forms of re­li­gious free­dom, and not just the ver­sion that al­lows Chris­tian store own­ers, land­lords, hos­pi­tals and other pub­lic ac­com­mo­da­tions to refuse ser­vice to folks they con­sider abom­i­na­tions. Now that Khan’s faith has been sin­gled-out by Pres­i­dent Trump as un­wel­come in the United States, and as peo­ple, in­clud­ing law­ful U.S. res­i­dents, were de­tained in air­port jails be­cause they were Mus­lim, the nor­mally ver­bose McKoon has said not a word about the per­ilous state of “re­li­gious lib­erty” in this coun­try.

Over the past 15 years, white Chris­tians have re­peat­edly tried to ally with AfricanAmer­i­cans, Lati­nos and even Mus­lims, ap­peal­ing to their shared dis­ap­proval of ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity to help pass anti-LGBT laws. But lead­ers of the anti-LGBT move­ment come from the same strain of po­lit­i­cal the­ol­ogy that faith­fully cham­pi­oned seg­re­ga­tion, in­sists on a bor­der wall to keep Mex­i­cans out and says that lit­tle Mus­lim chil­dren de­serve life (and death) in a war zone more than the re­li­gious lib­erty that Amer­i­can Chris­tians take for granted. Ryan Lee is an At­lanta writer.

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