With a new wave of conservative initiatives meant to preserve people’s putatively god-given right to discriminate against people who are different from them cropping up across the United States, it seems time to revisit an issue that is growing exceedingly tiresome. The basic thrust of this recent batch of state-level legislation, enacted in Indiana and Arkansas and under work elsewhere, is that individuals have a right to disobey or ignore laws that would have them violate their religious ethics.The practical, real-world manifestation of these laws is anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
Let’s first take a moment to laugh at the very notion that anything like a coherent set of “religious ethics”, as a matter of actual practice, exists, rendering the boundaries of what does and does not count as protected behavior either infinite or sufficiently preferential to mark the legislation a clear violation of the Establishment Clause. Now that everyone has had a good chuckle, let’s pretend to take these laws seriously and suggest (as I’ve done elsewhere) that they come with a litmus test. Business owners can refuse to serve or employ any individual on religious grounds if – and only if – their refusal is consistently in strict adherence to a literal interpretation of the laws codified in whatever religious text they point to as a basis for their ethical decision-making.
This mitigates the slippery-slope problem of potentially infinite religious-based exclusions. Further, it would be the best means of proving that the business owner’s discriminatory practices are motivated by piety, rather than bigotry. Perhaps best of all, it would have the effect of driving every single one of these fuckwits – either by virtue of their senseless religious zealotry or savage bigotry – rapidly out of business.
Let’s not mince words here: I’m all for building an inclusive society, but improving that society demands that we brook no obstruction from its most regressive elements. Those among us who support universal equality shouldn’t feel burdened with a need to practice universal tolerance. People have a right to practice religion as they will in private, but when their beliefs trample the rights of others and become a millstone slowing social progress, it becomes practically incumbent upon the rest of us to ridicule, condemn, and ostracize them until they have been driven from our ranks and left to wallow in the shameful recesses of history with communist witch-hunts (and real witch-hunts, for that matter), Jim Crow laws, and slavery.
So, by all means, refuse to serve or employ people on religious grounds. Just be consistent in doing so. Best of luck in finding customers that aren’t in some way in violation of the Bible’s myriad, often nebulous, and occasionally contradictory strictures.