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Cervantes: Religious freedom or persecution?

BY CHRISTOPHER CERVANTES | APRIL 06, 2015 5:00 AM

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I am a proud Catholic. Every night I say a series of “Hail Marys” and “Our Fathers,” and I abide by the rules of Lent. I have two godsons, both of whom are loved and absolutely wonderful. My church is important to me, but I understand that others might not agree with my religious doctrine. Because of this understanding, I know that I have no right to use my religion as a tool for bigotry and social condemnation.

The same can hardly be said for lawmakers in the state of Indiana.

On March 25, 2015, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a purported “religious-freedom bill.” This bill is publically known as the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, and it is truly one of the most malicious social actions that I have seen. It gives small business, corporations, and individuals free license to discriminate against any person who does not fit the aforementioned individual’s religious viewpoint. The implicit targets of this discrimination are people who identify as homosexual.

I am both ashamed and deeply disturbed by this bill. In all honestly, it is one of the most disgusting signs of intolerance that I have seen in this modern day. There are several actions that I cannot find any positive aspects worth endorsing. One is the social discrimination of any group of people, and the other is the use of religion in politics. The Religious Freedom and Restoration Act endorses both of these actions and therefore is especially heinous.

In America’s short tenure as a country, I have found that the use of religion in forming a social policy in often both the go-to/last-ditch attempt at justifying persecution. It happened with the Catholic Irish during the Potato Famine. However, the most often remembered use of religious maltreatment came from the middle of the 20th century, and the opposing political and “pious” forces that fought desperately against interracial marriage.

Many individuals, such as Kim Forde-Mazrui, a law professor at the University of Virginia, have noted the mirrored arguments between proponents of same-sex marriage and those of interracial marriage.  Take, for example the 1967 case of the Lovings in Virginia, in which the state’s Supreme Court upheld the state’s law banning multiethnic nuptials, citing religious readings and saying that it was unnatural. The court further went on record stating, “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

If a state tried to do this today, deny civil liberties and rights based on someone’s race, that state would be politically and socially crucified. That type of sickening narrow-mindedness found in the 1960s is exactly what homosexual people of the United States are facing today.

At the time of this column’s publication, the Indiana Religious Freedom and Reform Act has been amended to offer legal defense for anti-gay discrimination. The damage is already done, however. Just like an eye for an eye can turn the world blind, an intolerance spread will turn the world against itself. This bill has made people feel less than human and strangers in their own country. No matter what anybody tells you, to make some feel this way is not “the Christian” thing to do.


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