Whether we want to admit it or not, the fight for civil liberties is far from over in the United States, let alone in other parts of the globe. We can see that by looking at the continuing saga/drama in Rowan County, Kentucky with county clerk Kim Davis. We can see that by looking at the BLM movement. If we open our eyes even a little, we can see that the fight for civil liberties, civil rights, is far from over.
Despite having announced that she will abide by a Federal judge’s ruling and allow her deputies to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Davis still holds that allowing that to happen through her office is “forcing” her “to disobey” her God; she will not permit her name to be on those marriage licenses. Kim Davis wasn’t alone in her decision to not issue marriage licenses, she made national news and became a cause celeb for the conservative members of our US culture who still stand again marriage equality. Many of her fellow clerks in Kentucky struggled with their own decision on whether or not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, only two others decided to violate their oath of office and decline to issue licenses to same-sex couples – or indeed any marriage licenses for a time.
George Takei, who needs no introduction, took to the interwebs and stood strong against Kim Davis and others who supported her. In an article he wrote for MSNBC, published on September 15, he compared Davis to former Alabama Gov. George Wallace:
When I view her behavior, however, I am reminded of a different character from the early civil rights era: Gov. George Wallace of Alabama. For those who weren’t born yet or simply don’t remember, Wallace was a staunch and vocal opponent to racial desegregation. For him, the sanctity of white privilege was a cherished way of life. When he took the oath of office, standing on the same spot where Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as the President of the Confederacy more than 100 years earlier, Wallace famously proclaimed, “I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
Religious freedom is something that is very important in the United States. It is something that most, if not all, Pagans would say is a major principle to the Pagan world – regardless of what country they live in. I’d wager to guess that most of you reading this page would agree that freedom of religion is one of the most important rights we have in the United States.
I cannot and will not deny an individual, acting as a private citizen, the right to believe as they believe or to act on those beliefs (without trampling on the rights of others). When it comes to an elected official, a person in public office, a civil servant… Well, those people need to learn to separate their religious beliefs from the expectations and responsibilities of those positions or offices held. Let me clarify: I have no problem with Kim Davis, as Kim Davis, believing that it is against her God’s wishes for same-sex couples to get married. I do have a problem with Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis refusing to do her job because of her religious beliefs. If you feel that your beliefs prevent you from doing the job that you were elected to, appointed to, or otherwise took, then you need to step down from the job and let someone who can separate their beliefs from their duties or can reconcile those beliefs and duties take those offices.
In the second GOP debate, aired on CNN last night (Wednesday, 16 September 2015) both Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush said (and this is a paraphrase) that “an elected official should be given religious accommodation and be allowed to practice discrimination.” Essentially giving a license to discriminate. Rick Santorum, in a rare show of political solidarity, has sided with the sentiments expressed by both Huckabee and Bush.
Earlier this year a number of states and politicians proposed, voted on, passed, and attempted to implement what became known as Religious Freedom Restoration Acts. These pieces of legislature were “licenses to discriminate”. Even after being signed into law by the highest authority for those states, these RFRAs were challenged and failed. Some called those challenges an attack on Christianity. There have not been any attacks on Christianity on the level that political pundits are saying; the “war on religion” is not what many in the conservative field would have us believe. There is a “war on religion”. That war is a big “us versus them” war. Christianity is the leading religion in the United States. Conservative Christianity is a lesser leading factor in this country. It is the extreme conservative Christians who are waging the war, a war against any beliefs that do not match theirs.
The war on religion is aimed against Muslims, atheists, even Pagans and more liberal leaning Christians. Any attempt to increase the level of civil rights in the United States is called an attack on Christianity.
A recent incident in Texas highlights that Muslims are often scapegoated and profiled as terrorists. A 14-year-old student, Ahmed Mohamed, was arrested after bringing a hand-made clock to school to show his engineering skills. School officials assumed it to be a bomb.
The recent SCOTUS decision to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States has been labeled an attack on conservative Christianity. It was not an attack, it was a “win” for those who believe that people, not religions, should decide what is right for the nation.
Yes, I focus on LGBTQIAA-etc issues when I talk about civil rights. I’m a gay man. It only makes sense for me to focus on such issues. I’m not Black or Hispanic, I’m not a woman, I’m not physically handicapped. I support our brothers and sisters of color, our sisters who fight the good fight for equality, and our brothers and sisters who suffer or thrive under the physical limitations that they have been given in this life. I cannot speak first hand to most, if any, of their issues. I can, however, stand in solidarity with them. I can stand up and learn from their examples. I can rally behind them, or even beside them, for the civil rights – the human rights – that we all, as living and breathing beings, deserve.
I leave you with the words of the New Colossus by Emma Lazarus, the words engraved on
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”