• Source: Chris Wieland/Flickr
  • Has The Time Come To Be Intolerant?

    Op-Ed: Guest author and veteran journalist Brody Levesque argues the LGBT community will never be free and equal as long as religious extremists are allowed to harm their fellow citizens.

    There are now 107 pending pieces of anti-LGBT – and therefore, anti-human – legislation in statehouses across America. As the 2016 legislative year commences, lawmakers are filing bills spanning everything from so-called religious freedom acts (RFRAs), to bills exempting public officials or private businesses from serving LGBT people, to bills voiding the marriages of same-sex couples. There is even one particularly onerous bill in Virginia that would require a sex organ check of school age children to "ensure" compliance with gender-specific restrooms.

    The Washington, D.C. based progressive non-profit advocacy organization, Americans United for Separation of Church And State notes these bills "would allow individuals, businesses, and government employees to harm others in the name of religion. The most common bills would allow discrimination against LGBT Americans and deny access to reproductive healthcare, but these bills have other negative and far reaching consequences as well."

    Which brings this writer to observe that the United States has once again reached a critical breaking point in its society and culture where human rights, civil rights, and even common decency are being trumped (no pun intended) by the more radical elements of the so-called Christian Right stirring up the masses with fear mongering and, quite frankly, hateful rhetoric. But here's the thing: No one is calling out the stark reality. There is absolutely no way for this issue to be resolved without a major traumatic event. 

    Screen_Shot_2016-01-15_at_11.45.44_PM.jpgI cringe every-time I hear a liberal or progressive activist or politico express the need to "work through our differences" when engaging in public discourse about the onslaught of anti-LGBTQ, anti-women's reproductive rights, or racial inequalities and religious bias. At this juncture, that is never going to happen. Human rights, civil rights, basic daily life is not possible as long as there are those who judge, belittle, insult, and demonize their fellow citizens all in the name of their religious beliefs, and as long as their so-called freedoms are protected from censure or forced moderation of their speech and behaviors.

    The root cause of these issues is contained within the framework of the American Constitution's Bill of Rights, specifically the First Amendment’s Speech and Religion clauses. Therein lies the reason there shall never be a resolution. In these modern times and particularly since the Christian Right infected the political process some 40-plus years ago, these hard-liners have fought every step, every inch, every millimeter towards the battleground and conflict that the American nation now collectively faces.

    The radical American Right has a long and bloody history of suppression dating back to the very foundation of the nation. In recent times one needs to look no further than the Civil Rights Movement, or even the seemingly never ending series of Black Americans being lynched in the early 20th century. Prior to that it was "No Irish," "No Chinese," No– well the list goes on.

    Sadly though, the United States has been in decline since the 1970's. Religious interference dramatically increased and influenced American educational systems – from history, to the sciences, to reproduction – coupled with this bizarre idea that millions of poor people can simply live without some form of assistance by the public sector via government programs. Make no mistake about it, the culprit is religious fundamentalism. 

    Screen_Shot_2016-01-15_at_11.48.41_PM.jpgI always ask those on the so called Christian Right this simple question: What are you going to do with the people who are poor, or gay, or trans, or – wait for it – Muslim? The answers back are either a blank stare or some preachy biblical quote taken completely out of context, or in some cases out of reality itself. I find that the vast majority of so-called "biblical scholars" are not even remotely that well educated in the very book and deity they insist "rules all." I fire back pressing my point. These folks exist and aren't going to simply go away, or not be gay or Muslim or what have you. What are you going to do about them?

    To date I have yet to get a coherent response.

    The scope of the larger issue is that America has become increasing ignorant, in part thanks to the so-called Christian Right's interference in public policy, education, government, society and culture. One might also argue, and rightly so, that the other factor is that America is changing in plurality from a strictly "white" majority to a more balanced multi-racial mix of human beings.

    So what does this mean? For the LGBTQ community, yes the freedom to marry may have been won, but that is being pushed back against by any number of the aforementioned bills. There are also still too many on the right who are wrongly convinced that trans folks are mentally ill. Of course even though women are winning the right to be equal on the battlefield and serve alongside men, which includes the members of the LGBTQ community, there are those actively seeking to reverse these hard fought gains. Even worse is the fact that women are once again losing control of their rights over their own bodies.

    Unless progressives begin to push back and push back hard against the sum of this peculiar American ignorance, and be willing to simply not be tolerant any longer of those pushing these chosen and so-called religious freedoms that abrogate basic human and civil rights, then I have news for America: If we don't disempower these religious extremists, their speech and hateful rhetoric will ultimately lead to violence on a scale not seen in modern memory.

    Screen_Shot_2016-01-16_at_12.05.23_AM.jpgThink that can't happen? I'd point out that the Americans have collectively decided that the right to unfettered ownership of a gun and the mere fact that mass shootings are an apparent acceptable norm would bear out the fact that potential violence is more than a likely possibility. 

    If there are those who are willing to reach across the divide and work out differences, that's great. But as far as the hard-liners go? No, the left needs to start exposing them for what they really are. Ignorant, dangerous, religious zealots who have absolutely no interest in the human or civil rights of anyone else other than themselves or like-minded peers.

    My favorite expression to those who label me a deviant or just plain evil because I am gay is simple: Your religious rights do not override my human rights and the right to exist. I am no longer tolerant of these persons and nor should be anyone with a modicum of common sense.

    Freedom of religion does not give anyone the absolute right to harm another.

    I'll end with this question: When is the left going to get the collective nerve to be no longer willing to tolerate religious extremists, be willing to limit their ability to harm their fellow citizens?


    Brody Levesque is a veteran journalist and the former Washington Bureau Chief of LGBTQ Nation magazine. 

    The New Civil Rights Movement from time to time publishes op-eds and personal stories, like this, to share views and experiences of our diverse community. 


    Image by Chris Wieland via Flickr and a CC license

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    • commented 2016-01-17 21:28:02 -0500
      To be frank, as a queer person, I’m a lot more concerned about the religious fundamentalism espoused by Muslims and Islamic societies than Christian-dominated ones, where – forget squabbling over the definition of marriage or which bathroom to use – coming out or even being “perceived” to be gay or gender non-conforming can be a death sentence, sometimes sanctioned by the state, sometimes simply by generations of unyielding tradition. But that’s a bloody inconvenience to the left, isn’t it?

    • commented 2016-01-17 13:50:33 -0500
      Want better representation? Stand for the ratified congressional apportionment amendment of the Bill of Rights.
      Scott Neuman for Congress 4th CD NJ 2016
      If someone tells you the amendment that says we are short 6000 Representatives isn’t, visit Boldtruth.com to see historical records that clearly show it is.

    • commented 2016-01-16 23:00:29 -0500
      We are – at best 10% of the population. How can we fight back against a religion system that sucks in 70-80% of the entire population? My own family was very entrenched in religion, and they didn’t mind preaching it till people stopped coming around – but to actually live it? Nope. Still, they felt it their place to judge people like me at every opportunity.
      The promise of living on forever in the afterlife is a strong pull in tactic. Many christians don’t care how they treat others – as long as they keep getting told their forgiven anything just for the asking.
      How do we become to overcome the intolerant teachings of the various religions, were we are the pariah of Leviticus? Seriously – does anyone have some ideas – is anyone forming a group to fight back? I lost most of my family when I admitted who I am – and I was never successful in changing any of their minds. My father and sister just refused to consider they might be wrong.
      It honestly feels hopeless to me.

    • commented 2016-01-16 19:51:02 -0500
      it’s a shame that the persecuted Christians no longer have churches to turn to, since obama closed them all and turned them into combination mosque-gay strip clubs. but at least the legally mandated polygamous marriages of 2012 ensure that they’ll always have a shoulder to cry on about all those seized guns.

    • commented 2016-01-16 19:50:59 -0500
      it’s a shame that the persecuted Christians no longer have churches to turn to, since obama closed them all and turned them into combination mosque-gay strip clubs. but at least the legally mandated polygamous marriages of 2012 ensure that they’ll always have a shoulder to cry on about all those seized guns.

    • commented 2016-01-16 19:18:18 -0500
      It is absurd to accept abuse of any kind. When religious extremists discriminate they must be discriminated against. No one has to tolerate the stupidity of others, or born-again kooks like Pat Robertson or Scott Lively. Call them out! Shut them down! I applaud BJ Lincoln for a measured response, and regret the arrogance of Joe Aleks who does not make a case, as Daesh (ISIS) is a cult of genocide and the LBGT community neither advocates or pratice wholesale slaughter. Aleks is mentally unbalanced to think that as that is beyond the borders of sane thought.

    • commented 2016-01-16 17:08:20 -0500
      There is nothing more extremist than LGBT activism. Like ISIS, it demands that the world conform to its agenda. And fortunately, also like ISIS, LGBT activism is hopelessly outnumbered by sensible people who respect things like freedom and privacy..

    • commented 2016-01-16 15:48:50 -0500
      I’ve just flat out started telling people that their religious beliefs are irrelevant to my life, and that I don’t agree with them. I’ve also started saying that it’s preposterous to believe in god figures and anyone with basic critical thinking skills would agree.

    • commented 2016-01-16 14:11:09 -0500
      Excellent observations.

    • commented 2016-01-16 12:29:00 -0500
      I’ve been advocating a more strict stance for decades. The idiots still hold sway, though, since they refuse to vote.

    • commented 2016-01-16 10:50:59 -0500
      When the Moral Majority was welcome into our government, things started going down hill from the the gains made during the Civil Rights Movement. Our government has allowed religion to seep into everything and every argument with impunity. “We don’t serve your kind here” should have been erased from our vernacular. Instead it has become a calling card of the Right! We do need to push back EVERY single time discrimination happens against ANY American for what ever reason.
      If the GOP get into office, they will make discrimination the law of the land. They will force millions to go hungry, homeless and without medical care and do not see a problem with that. Trump has managed to give ignorant fools the go ahead to be out and proud bigots which makes freedom for all even harder to achieve. Voting will be the best way to make sure that doesn’t happen and we have back up from the government to stop discrimination.
      Great piece. I am no longer tolerant of ignorance or discrimination in any form.

    • commented 2016-01-16 09:25:54 -0500
      This is incredibly moving. How long do we stand aside and continue to let them be bullies?

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