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For Such Persecuted People, They Sure Are Eager to Enshrine Persecution

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

As Pagans, we're more used to being discriminated against than to discriminating against others.  Those of us who run businesses or sell our wares are, especially in these economic times, generally only too happy to get a new customer.  And so we're usually quite happy to read Tarot, even for the devout Christian who slips off to see us behind her pastor's back, or to perform a computer upgrade even for the atheist who thinks that devotion to any deity is a sign of mental illness.  After all, we're pretty much a live-and-let live group.  We're not out to convert others to our ways and we generally don't presume to determine what religion is best for anyone else.  (Heck, I can think of a number of people whom I hope don't become Pagan.)  Honest pay for honest work or honest wares is generally all we ask. 

Our main concern with laws (such as the one that was recently vetoed in Arizona) that would allow businesses to discriminate based upon "religious convictions" has been the impact those laws could have on QLTBG, etc. people.  Of course, those laws could have been used to discriminate against even those of us who are "straight but not narrow," as well.  Wear a pentacle around your neck when you take your child to the farmers' market and the lady selling apples could refuse to sell your child an apple because her religion teaches her that you "shall not suffer a Witch to live," and selling apples helps you to live.  If the sleeve on your jacket slips, the nurse at the 24-hour medical center could see your tattoo and refuse to sew up the cut that you got doing woodwork because he says that your pentagram offends his religious sensibilities.  You finally grab a cab late at night in a sketchy part of town only to be told that the cab driver doesn't believe that women should be out, unescorted and won't give you a ride.  If you get mugged a few minutes later, well, that just proves his point.

It's easy to imagine that the next step is some method that will allow the discriminating religious to easily determine whether the potential renter, car buyer, or restaurant patron meets all of the necessary requirements.  (Why stop at refusing to sell a cake to a same-sex couple?  What about a couple that includes a previously-divorced person or a couple not willing to specify that they are entering a "covenant marriage" where the man will "exercise headship."  (Don't blame me; that's the way they talk!)  What about selling nursery furniture to prospective parents who won't agree that sparing the rod spoils the child or selling a house to people who won't commit to attending your church every Sunday?  To voting Rapeublican since they are generally more favorable to rightwing Christians?)

Jonathan Merritt has an interesting post* at The Atlantic discussing how such laws could even backfire against the rightwing Christians who are pushing them.  We've all heard the lament that Christians are oppressed nowadays (which complaints generally come down to the fact that they are now less able to impose their dictates on the rest of us).  Yet, as Mr. Merrit points out, one has to wonder why a group that views itself as oppressed would want to put in place laws that would allow others to discriminate against them.  He proposes the following example:

“I’d like to purchase a wedding cake,” the glowing young woman says as she clutches the arm of her soon-to-be husband. “We’re getting married at the Baptist church downtown this coming spring.”

“I’m sorry, madam, but I’m not going to be able to help you,” the clerk replies without expression.

“Why not?” the bewildered bride asks.

“Because you are Christians. I am Unitarian and disapprove of your belief that everyone except those within your religion are damned to eternal hell. Your church’s teachings conflict with my religious beliefs. I’m sorry.”

Maybe, despite their oft-repeated concerns about being oppressed, rightwing Christians are too used to being the catered-to majority (see, e.g., every politician, ever) to imagine such an event.  Yet, as Mr. Merritt notes, their rhetoric suggests that maybe they should be concerned:

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who supports these bills, also once wrote, “The most basic contours of American culture have been radically altered. The so-called Judeo-Christian consensus of the last millennium has given way to a post-modern, post-Christian, post-Western cultural crisis which threatens the very heart of our culture.”

If Christians really believe they are becoming a marginalized movement, why would they want to disempower marginalized people in the marketplace? It’s easy to codify your own biases when you’re part of the majority and get to be the one refusing services to others. But what if you’re the minority? What if others are turning you away because they think you are the abominable one?

Interestingly, it turns out that large businesses were instrumental in persuading Arizona's Governor to veto the proposed law.  They were concerned about boycotts and loss of business. 

Maybe the rightwing Christians don't believe their propaganda about being oppressed.  Maybe they're so used to their privilege that they are unable to imagine how these laws could be used against them.  In the end, the reason doesn't matter.  These laws are bad for America, bad for business, and bad for Pagans.  It's a good thing they're failing.

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HecateDemeter is a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an ecofeminist, a lawyer, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth.


  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward Thursday, 06 March 2014

    I want to thank you for using the specific descriptor "right-wing Christian" rather than the much murkier "religious conservative" that is bandied about in an attempt to avoid pointing fingers.

    Since I practice a religion that predates Christianity by a hefty chunk, I wear the badge of religious conservatism with honor, and with a fair bit more legitimacy than some of the folks it's placed upon. I'd like to see more people who practice what they call the "old ways" reclaim the word "conservative," and start working towards a more sane and just world using those old ways.

  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys Thursday, 06 March 2014

    Perhaps the word "evangelical" would be more important. Evangelists want to try to convert others to their way of thinking; "conservative," technically, simply refers to a desire to maintain (or "conserve") certain traditions, values, etc.

  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys Thursday, 06 March 2014

    Oops, I meant to type "appropriate," not "important."

  • Hec
    Hec Thursday, 06 March 2014

    Good point, Terence P. Ward. In so many ways today's ultra-right wing is anything but conservative. In particular, one hopes that as the word gets reclaimed, conservation of the land and our natural resources will once again become a conservative value.

  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward Saturday, 08 March 2014

    That's exactly what I'm all about: putting the "conserve" back in "conservative."

  • Gabriel Moore
    Gabriel Moore Thursday, 06 March 2014

    Something that really concerns me about the way this whole situation unfolded was first, the fact the bill passed the Arizona state legislature. Then went to Govenor Brewer who allowed big business to influence her decision in vetoing it. Who is pulling the strings here?

  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Thursday, 06 March 2014

    So is it now illegal to refuse to purchase GMO food because you believe it is harmful? I can see why big corporations would oppose this law. Is it illegal to refuse service to the Westboro Baptist Church because you disapprove of their fervent anti-gay beliefs? Be careful what you wish for.

  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys Thursday, 06 March 2014

    I think it's ironic that a group formerly subject to oppression (see the Decian persecution) now seeks to impose its beliefs on others in the name of religious rights. It's even more ironic considering its founder's famous "do unto others" maxim. Sadly, the persecuted often become the most vicious persecutors if given the chance.

  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Saturday, 08 March 2014

    One of the problems with laws is that they apply to everyone. Suppose a gay couple is running a bakery and the Westboro Baptist church wants a decorated cake for their anti-gay rally. The requested cake is supposed to say "God hates fags" in big letters, typical of their beliefs. Should it be legal for the gay couple be allowed to refuse to produce and sell such a cake? I think it should be. This proposed law would have allowed that, but under current law in Arizona the gay couple would have had to produce and provide the anti-gay cake. Be careful what you wish for.

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