Jesus and Discrimination

Posted: March 27, 2012 in government, South Bend
Tags: , , ,

…now we step into the highly explosive terrain of politics, religion, and sexual identity…

Yesterday, after two previous failed attempts, the South Bend Common Council voted 6-3 in favor of a Bill that would add sexual identity to a Human Rights ordinance that prohibits discrimination.

I have watched this issue with great interest and I’m trying to read everything I can, both for and against, that will help me see the different sides to this issues and what makes this bill “problematic.”  And I have to be honest, I’m not coming up with much in regards to the opposition to this bill.

(If I’m correct, and really…if I’m wrong…someone please correct me) This bill simply affords those who have been discriminated against based on their sexual identity the ability to file a complaint with the board of Human Rights.  What that means is, a good employee cannot be terminated based on the fact that they are GLBT.  It means that a good renter cannot be thrown out of their apartment simply because they are GLBT.  It means that an owner of a restaurant can’t throw out an otherwise good patron simply on the grounds that they are gay.  Right?  Am I missing something here?

Dear Christians who are freaking out that this bill has passed and are opposing this bill – are we for the above mentioned scenarios?  Really?  We’re for discrimination?!  When did we become for that?  And where in the Bible are we going to support that conviction?

Again, I could be wrong – but I’m pretty sure on this – but the bill is NOT trying to redefine marriage; it isn’t trying to legalize same-sex marriage; and it isn’t a vote on whether or not homosexuality and following Jesus is compatible.  And if that is what the bill is about, then let the debate take place!

This bill simply says we are not for discrimination against our fellow human beings.  Are we Christians not for that?!

Historically, I guess that shouldn’t be shocking if it is the case given that we have pretty much initially been on the wrong side of every major social movement:  slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights, etc.  But that doesn’t mean we have to stay that way.  Decades from now we don’t want to be known as the group of people who wanted to perpetuate discrimination.  Trust me on this.  There will be no “win” in that position.

So, I’ve listened to the opposition.  And this is, the best I can tell, what I hear:

1.  A few arguments based on legalities and enforcement.  

Granted…there may be issues of how this bill is upheld legally in the court of law and its enforcement isn’t exactly clear…but we can let the courts figure that out and the executive branch figure out the details of enforcement.  Right?  That shouldn’t change the principle behind the bill which is that we don’t want people to be discriminated against.

2.  A lot of arguments based on “the slippery slope.”  Meaning if you allow this “militant homosexual agenda” (as they say) succeed the next will be gay marriage!

I find all arguments from slippery slopes to be stupid arguments based more on emotive replies than reason.  I don’t know where this bill might or might not lead…what I know is that the issue at hand is this…discrimination.

3.  Arguments that these are not “civil” or “human” rights but “special” rights.

I’m not sure what that means since I don’t quite understand what “special” right has now been extended.  But the main issue seems to be one of identity – chosen or intrinsic (more on this in just a moment).

4.  Arguments that businesses should not be forced in regards to who they hire and keep on as employees.  

This argument is the most compelling to me but that is because I tend to have libertarian leanings.  However, we, as a society, now see appropriate that sometimes the government needs to enforce a law that keeps people who are of different races from being discriminated against.  And for me, theologically, it is because sin exists.  And with sin, comes hate.  And with hate comes exclusion and discrimination.

Yea, but what about churches and religious organizations?  This bill HAS exclusions for religious entities like private schools and churches meaning they don’t have to hire on staff individuals that they believe are living outside of their moral requirements.

5.  Arguments that people who are GLTB are so by choice.

To this I would say, you’ve never honestly spoken to anyone who is GLTB.  Every person I’ve talked to who was gay did not decide on some date to become gay.  It isn’t like on “such-and-such” a date to switch from Nutra-Sweet to Splenda.  In fact, every gay person I’ve talked to (and remember what I do for a living) has shared that if they could, they would choose to be straight to save them the pain and heartache of strained relationships and problems with families, churches, friends, etc.

I’ve read quite a bit on the causation of “being gay.”  And the most unbiased scientists I know concede the intricacies and complexities of sexual identity are so large and so great that no one causation can flippantly be thrown out (e.g., “there is a gay gene” or it is purely “environmental”).  Truth is, we aren’t exactly sure what causes someone to be gay.  And it may be different for each person.

So it is argued that we should not extend discriminatory protection because being gay is a behavior identity and not an intrinsic one (like the color of your skin).  Again, issue of causation are hugely contested here.  But, even if we just conceded that it is behavior identity, isn’t Christianity the same thing?  And we would want recourse if we lost our job simply because of our religion.

So, fire away on the comment section (keep it respectful or I will delete it).  But in my mind, I don’t understand why this is so controversial, or why Christians would be leading the charge against it!!!  The way of Jesus and the promotion of discrimination towards others should not be considered synonymous.  I think if we are serious about wanting to change the world for Jesus, appearing to support discrimination based on an individual’s sexual identity isn’t going to be the route that accomplishes it.

  1. the other ed says:

    I have always respected and looked up to you, my friend, now MORE so than ever.

    Well said! I simply cannot add anymore to this. 🙂

  2. I love you Sam Barrington. Hug.

    But I have to take away 2 points for your confusing use of the bold typeface.

  3. Robert Emery says:

    I agree with you whole heartedly about the dicrimination of GLBT community. I grew up in a church that told the openly gay son of a family that attended the church that the church could not allow him to continue coming to the church because they didnt want him corrupting the church. I remember being told he would hurt me by members of the church so I wouldnt approach a nice man to talk to him. I feel like that is why the church has such a bad reputation in society.

  4. Jennae says:

    Good post Sam. I was thrilled to see South Bend do the right thing, and I really appreciate your explanation of why it is the right thing!!

  5. Cj Rowland says:

    Thank you for your clarity. I plan on sharing this Blog with others. You have laid out many common arguments and have addressed them with common sense and love.

  6. greg says:

    I’m not sure I understand why there needs to be a law for this. Can they not already file a complaint if they are descriminated against for any reason (not really sure on that). I’m not sure that this type of law doesn’t hinder the gblt community more in that people might be more reserved to do business with them in the first place, knowing there is now a law that could be used against them even with a legitimate complaint. The question becomes where do the laws stop. Do we need a law for no descriminating against Christians or religions or people who really like sams blog in these circumstances as well. Let me be clear I am not for descrimination of these groups but wonder if it really useful and thought this is why we had judges to discern legitamite reasoning from wrong.

  7. Greg – right now there is no legal recourse. And if anyone is being discriminated against for liking my blog – I want to know about it!! Just give me name and address of who is doing the discriminating and I’ll take care of it (oh…and we never had this conversation). I doubt we need a law for every last subgroups, but I think the GBLT community can prove adequately that discrimination exists against them. For further proof just go to South Bend Tribune articles on this topic and read the comment section.

  8. greg says:

    did not know there was no way to take legal recourse on that. That makes more sense then.

  9. Sam you are one couragous dude. Good for you.

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