Saturday, April 04, 2015

The forgotten factor in the "Religious Freedom" debate

The last few weeks have been filled with debates, from town halls to mainstream media, from congregations to social networks, over the merits and intentions of Indiana's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act".


What doesn't seem to be getting mentioned much if at all is one the foundational beliefs those who sponsor and back measures like this hold and believe deeply.

Many religious people, not just Christians, believe that homosexuality is a choice. They believe people make a conscious decision to be gay. Further, they don't accept that there's anything organic about being transgendered. They think that a transgendered person is simply someone displeased with their biologically assigned gender and who wants to think of themselves, and wants everyone else to think of them, as a member of the opposite gender.

The religious ignore any scientific evidence that supports a biological and genetic basis for people who are gay or transgendered. They believe that these are "lifestyle choices", that one day in 1986 little Timmy decided he'd rather have sex with Billy than Marcia, or that he'd rather be Theresa than Timmy. Yet when questioned directly about this belief, I have yet to encounter someone who can tell me exactly when it was they made the choice to be heterosexual. While they often say that gays must have suffered some trauma of a sexual nature in their youth that made them choose to become gay, they dismiss the testimony of those who have been gay since they were first sexually aware who had wonderful childhoods. Of course, there is trauma often suffered when attempting to come out to homophobic family members and friends. That's a whole other issue, a very real and painful one.

These religious people do not see this debate as one over equal, civil rights. I'm sure the majority of them see our treatment of Blacks as an issue that needs to be addressed, a situation that needs correction. They know that no one chooses their ethnic background, but they fervently believe that one does choose their sexual orientation. They cannot separate orientation from behavior. In fact, they see the entire LGBT community as a group who has chosen to behave in ways unacceptable to the majority of "decent" (i.e. religious) Americans. They reject the notion of orientation. Because of their failure to appreciate the difference between behavior and orientation, they cannot equate discrimination toward Blacks or women with discrimination toward LGBT people. 

Thus, this debate over "religious freedom" is less a civil rights matter and more another aspect of the religious right's ignorance of science, their preference for the Bible over biology. As long as they refuse to respect medical science and instead defer to their religiously inspired bigotry, they cannot "in good faith" support the fair and equal treatment of gays and the transgendered. 
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