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Wed Feb 26, 2014, 11:38 PM

It is dangerous to attribute blame solely on "evangelical rednecks"

Last edited Thu Feb 27, 2014, 11:27 AM - Edit history (4)

Note: I had originally composed this post for the LGBT forum but when a poster on DU wondered what Pope Francis might say in response to all the anti-GLBT legislation, I amended it somewhat. This is a copy of the post I made to a thread on General Discussion.

It is heartening to see the support at DU in the battle against discriminatory laws being proposed in state legislatures across the country. It's almost as disheartening to read too many posts in which these bills are assumed to be the legislative flailings of a simple and single-minded bunch of "redneck" evangelicals. The peril is to underestimate the forces at work here, unlikely alliances that have been forged over decades specifically to derail any progress for the rights of women and LGBTs.

This war was declared with Roe vs Wade and when the battle was lost at the federal level, the strategy turned to one of chipping away at Roe by focusing on state legislatures. Towards that goal, political lobbying by fundamentalist evangelicals and the Catholic church found success, especially by pressing for laws that forced the closing of many clinics that provided need contraception and abortion services. (It didn't matter that many of these clinics provided needed health services for both women and men who could not otherwise afford care.) The strategy was so effective the battle front was then expanded to fight gay marriage and in that cause the Mormon church became part of the alliance. Millions were spent either fighting gay marriage initiatives on the ballot or for initiating legislation by the states that would outright ban gay marriage or civil unions. This met with mixed success, though gay marriage is recognized in but a minority of states.

Emboldened by their victories at the state level and as a backlash against new federal laws banning discrimination against LGBTs, the battle expanded and morphed again under the banner of "religious liberty" -- in effect, an effort to legalize broad discrimination against LGBTs, state by state. It would probably surprise many people to learn that the Catholic church has been actively lobbying for these discriminatory bills; in Arizona and Kansas, for example, the Arizona Catholic Conference and Kansas Catholic Conference were backers of both bills. What surprises me is that anyone should be surprised at all. At every turn the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been fighting against the rights of women and LGBTS, filing scores of lawsuits against the HHS contraception mandate, ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act), shutting down adoption services rather than accept gay parents, withdrawing support and money from immigration groups in places like Illinois and Colorado because they would not divorce any pro-LGBT connections, even though organizations such as Colorado's Companeros were assisting poor immigrants with their basic needs. The Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA, no group was immune from being cut off if they refused to denounce pro-LGBT affiliations.

As President Obama speaks out more forcefully for LGBT rights, the coordinated bombardment of pro-discrimination and anti-choice bills in state legislatures has escalated to a fever pitch. These are the last ditch counterattacks mounted by this alliance of religious conservatives in the face of at what appears to be, at least in this country, an inevitable defeat in the war against social evolution. Their efforts are still well-funded, well organized and determined, though sensing perhaps that the battle is lost here, the alliance has turned its attention to developing nations in Africa, Asia and South America, considered to be more fertile ground for their own brand of misogyny and homophobia.

In some African countries these efforts have been rewarded, to alarming results. But again, it took an alliance of religious conservatives to achieve that success, with the hatemongering evangelical Pastor Scott Lively (currently facing charges of war crimes) carrying the banner for the movement. Yet we cannot overlook the role played by representatives of other faiths, particularly the Anglican and Catholic churches. Catholic Bishops and Archbishops in Uganda, Nigeria and Cameroon have all backed their country's anti-gay bills. The Ugandan Bishops took a rather seesaw path to their current stance, first backing the "kill the gays" bill then withdrawing it, then backing the bill again once the death penalty clause was removed from the bill to be replaced by life imprisonment. Now that the bill has actually been signed, they have stated they will reserve judgment on the new law. Ironically, Ugandan Archbishop Lwanga, who had previously expressed support for the bill, is the same man who suspended Catholic cleric Anthony Musaala for speaking out on the Ugandan church's sexual abuse of children.

There are those who might be wondering that while LGBTs are battling for basic human rights and in some cases, for their very lives, where is the voice of justice to be heard from Rome? Why, Pope Francis wouldn't dare tolerate this nonsense, this injustice! The silence must be disappointing and perhaps confusing. Considering all his forceful statements decrying the corrupting influence of unbridled capitalism, his touching concern for the poor and strong support for workers, his admonishments over environmental destruction, where is that voice as LGBTs are being arrested, beaten, tortured and murdered from Russia to Nigeria, even here? Why haven't we heard the same impassioned condemnation from Francis that we have heard from the likes of a Bishop Desmond Tutu? Because, in reality, by denouncing the war against LGBTs and women's rights he would be condemning his own bishops and the battles they are currently waging against LGBTs both here and abroad. He is, after all, a son of the Church, as he himself has said with regard to these issues.

The fact is, Francis is not and has never been a supporter of equality for LGBTs. Before being elected Pope, he practically built his career on condemning gays in the most vile terms. Likewise, he has never been nor will he be a champion for the equal rights of women and reproductive choice. If you're expecting anything different, you will be sorely disappointed.

To repeat those words of warning, it is dangerous to underestimate the current crusade for discriminatory legislation as simply the last gasp of a bunch of "evangelical rednecks". The forces behind the legislation, the lawsuits and lobbying are much more powerful than you know. The fundamentalist evangelicals may be the loud, drunk, obnoxious cousins invited to the family reunion but there are others mingling at the picnic of bigotry. Maybe some folks just never noticed they were there.

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