Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act… Shenanigans

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HB 1547, a bill passed in my home state of Tennessee, proposes to protect the rights of religious students by granting them special rights that will allow them to freely voice their religious views and protect their religious views from discrimination.

Essentially, a person may use religion as a free pass.

Don’t understand that final answer on your biology quiz about evolution? God is the answer.

Why did you just harass the foreign exchange student from the Middle East? God is the answer.

Why are you wasting class time sharing the Gospel instead of studying Edith Hamilton’s Mythology? God is the answer.

Why did you just terrorize your classmate who is gay, or at the very least doesn’t fit in with the kids from your church’s youth group? God is the answer.

Why is God the answer? Because religion is sacred and should be above discrimination. And this is where I call shenanigans.

That’s right. Tennessee proposes to sanction religious based bullying as a protected right.

As a gay person who went to school in this state, I can honestly say that I didn’t experience any bullying because of my sexual orientation. Because I kept it a secret.

I lived in terror that someone would discover I was gay. I feared the ridicule I would experience for being gay. I loathed myself for feeling different in a way that others seemed not to deal with. I felt shame that other “normal” people were happy and that I was only pretending to be. I maintained this painful facade carefully for many years, and many choices in my young life were made based on this facade.

I avoided actively pursuing interests that would betray my attempt at deception. I acted contrary to my true self to uphold that false image. I let opportunities pass me by because they would make my identity harder to maintain.

Imagine living like that. And imagine that if you were discovered that “Christians” would have legal freedom to persecute you like a witch in the Dark Ages.

But it isn’t just about being gay. What of the intelligent young person with a mind of science, with a love of logic, and a future in discovering the mysteries of the universe? Imagine how ignorant young people will stall education because their “religion” forbids them to learn evolution or the Big Bang.

What of an aspiring young author who is unable to study Shakespeare or Keats in peace because her classmates are railing against the ungodly secular literature that offends their sensibilities?

To be clear, I am not implicating all people of faith as ignorant, because I have known many intelligent people who have coupled their faith with a love of learning. I have also known many religious people who are truly gracious and accepting of other people.

But those are not the people for whom this bill was written. There is a huge wave of equality rights sweeping this nation, and it has been cresting for decades. This bill is an attempt to thwart progress.

This isn’t just a war against equality. This is also a war against the mind. The very mind which can love a person is the same one that thinks and produces art and science that fills the future of our world.

Whether or not this bill is made into law, consider the implications of something like this. If Tennessee is willing to sign over the rights of its citizens to medieval theocracy, then what other travesties will follow?

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