Devastating Effects of Religious Liberty & Phelps

nicole lashombNicole Lashomb, TRT Editor-in-Chief
Photo: TRT Archives
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nicole lashomb

Nicole Lashomb, TRT Editor-in-Chief
Photo: TRT Archives

By: Nicole Lashomb*/TRT Editor-in-Chief—

Freedom of Religion has recently been coined the new phrase to justify discrimination again LGBTQ people. Based on this premise, LGBT people and women are being denied needed services. These objections come in many forms. For instance, schools are firing women because they became pregnant while not married, counselors are refusing to provide services to gay people, and pharmacies are declining to fill birth control prescriptions for women. Services for the LGBT community have been denied in virtually every setting, as long as such discrimination is linked to religious liberty.

In a recent report by NBC, Rose Saxe, senior staff attorney at the ACLU LGBT Project reminds us that “Fifty years ago, businesses were allowed to turn people away because of the color of their skin and we as a nation decided that was unacceptable,” she said. “Treating people differently simply because of who they are is discrimination and we think it’s inappropriate to allow just a little bit of discrimination here just as it would have been in any other context.” [pullquote]Yet, at Phelps’ funeral, counter protesters also demonstrated their thoughts towards Phelps and his congregation displaying humanistic signs that read: “Sorry for your Loss” and “Live your Life and be Awesome.” Those protesters made an attempt to help shatter hate that day and lead by a true loving example.[/pullquote]

History repeats itself, and that it does. In the 1960s, organizations and other institutions claimed the rights to discriminate against the integration of races in society citing “religious liberty” and God’s will for the people that the races are meant to be separate. Hogwash! At the same time, universities tied to religious affiliations would not permit interracial dating, amongst many other instances. Regardless of the date and time, discrimination has forged forward, often justified by those who are the most self-righteous.  As society evolves, the right-wing conservatives are still using the same argument to harm others. However, the good news is that this type of mentality is starting to fade out. Marriage equality is being upheld in states where I once thought would not be the case. Judges and courts have struck down laws that disenfranchise gay people’s rights, the right to marry just being one of many. The transgender community is finally being recognized and their rights are beginning to take form in various parts of the country with gender identity non-discrimination clauses, just not ENDA yet. The entire community has a long way to go still, but one day, we will get there. It cannot be done without the army of LGBTQs and allies demanding rights and fighting on the front lines to secure them. We will always be faced with adversity until unequivocal equality is reached.

I fully support religious liberty. However, I do not support the ignorant using it to shield their right to discriminate and inflict harm on others. It always strikes me how the most “holy” are usually the ones to inflict the most damage. That is not religious liberty. That is hatred disguised as righteousness. [pullquote]I fully support religious liberty. However, I do not support the ignorant using it to shield their right to discriminate and inflict harm on others. It always strikes me how the most “holy” are usually the ones to inflict the most damage. That is not religious liberty. That is hatred disguised as righteousness.[/pullquote]

In the fight to obtain equal rights, Rev. Fred Phelps, Sr. and his small congregation, comprised mostly of his extended family, was at the core to ensure that did not happen, “while he exercised his free speech guarantees by violating accepted societal standards for decency in their unapologetic assault on gays and lesbians,” according to an ABC News report.  Perhaps he is best known for picketing the funerals of LGBT service members and those lost to HIV/AIDS or victims who died tragically like Matthew Shephard, who was murdered for being gay. In the process of it all, I believe that his vitriolic stance against the LGBT community helped to move our struggles forward, calling into the light the religiously perpetuated hatred that the LGBT community faces. It has forced a nation that is often numb to the adversity of others, to open their eyes to see the truth of hate at its finest. It was written all over the funeral picket signs, “God Hates Fags, You’re Going to Hell, Fags Die and God Laughs, Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” amongst countless others. Unfortunately, there are many more “Phelps” out there. Yet, at Phelps’ funeral, counter protesters also demonstrated their thoughts towards Phelps and his congregation displaying humanistic signs that read: “Sorry for your Loss” and “Live your Life and be Awesome.” Those protesters made an attempt to help shatter hate that day and lead by a true loving example.

*Nicole Lashomb is the Editor-in-Chief of The Rainbow Times. She holds an MBA from Marylhurst University and a Bachelor’s degree from SUNY Potsdam. To reach her, please send your feedback and thougths to: editor@therainbowtimesmass.com.

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