How Religion is in the Crosshairs I’m very troubled by recent events and have spent a great deal of time trying to sort things out in my mind. My first reaction was anger, but if you want to discuss a topic, you have to let go of anger and fear and look at things objectively. If you can formulate logical arguments, then hopefully your conclusions will hold up to scrutiny. So during the week I contemplated these developments.

In North Carolina, a ‘bathroom bill’ was duly signed into law. It’s premise was simple: You go to the bathroom corresponding to your gender. However, the attorney general of North Carolina has said he would refuse to defend that law on the grounds that it was discrimination and therefore unconstitutional. So in my own home state, and in fact my own region of the state, the bathroom issue is going to be debated further.

Last week Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, a Republican, said he would veto a law passed by his state’s legislature which would have offered protection to religious organizations. Using the same rhetoric that is used all too often Deal said the veto was “about the character of our state and the character of our people. Georgia is a welcoming state. It is full of loving, kind and generous people… I intend to do my part to keep it that way. For that reason I will veto House Bill 757.”

To me, these issues and the laws in question raise serious issues and unintended consequences that aren’t being fully considered. I believe the answers should be derived from an evaluation of common sense, universal moral laws, public safety, and identification of the real potential victims.

In regards to gender identity, suppose I accept that it is a real issue for certain individuals. I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist, so admittedly my understanding of such things is limited. If my understanding is correct, gender identification is not necessarily the same as homosexuality. For example, there are men who identify with the female gender but are nevertheless sexually attracted to women.If I am willing to accept mental disorders such as depression and schizophrenia, then it’s only fair to assume there are adults who really are confused in regards to their gender identity.

I feel compassion for those who suffer and feel isolated because they suffer from the above conditions. Every person is unique. Cultural norms in society are harder for some than others. I understand that. I also believe hate groups and unprovoked acts of violence are inherently amoral. However, I think a proper balance must be struck. Society cannot be designed in such a fashion that every single person is appeased. The goal should be to base societal norms on what 90% of the population finds acceptable as opposed to changing everything to appease the 10% of society that finds societal norms cumbersome and difficult. Even if it’s 70% to 30%, a healthy compromise needs to be reached. Is it healthy, long-term, to change everything to appease 30% of the population while at the same time making 70% of the population uncomfortable?

The best example of this phenomena occurred at one of my alma maters. It’s a perfect example of how as a nation, we have begun to handle our differences. If just one person complains that something benign offends them, whatever offends them is quickly removed. At the same time, if something truly offensive occurs, those who complain are quickly deemed as narrow-minded and out of touch with the times, if not downright prejudiced.

Here is the true translation of promoting a ‘loving, accepting, environment in which everyone feels welcome’ (rhetoric that is commonly heard these days): If you point to something that offends you or request unusual accommodations, then society should bend over backwards to make sure you are appeased. If you are of a religious faith, and say something offends you, you are labeled as intolerant and unwelcoming. The ‘loving and accepting’ speech is given by lawmakers, politicians, and policy makers reflects the view that the LGBT community are always the victims and everyone else are always the aggressors. In actuality, it is the reverse. The reason I find recent legislation ostensibly designed to protect LGBT as dangerous is because I believe members of the LGBT will use such laws in a vindictive or inappropriate manner. If I had assurances that they won’t target religious organizations, I would be far more comfortable with things. Live and let live.

I think the debate should first identify (using reasonable bounds) what is and isn’t discrimination and what constitutes a religious faith. There is no way to definitely identify either concept, but I do think some basic parameters should apply.

First, what is “discrimination”? I guess the starting point for that debate should focus on qualities possessed by an individual at birth. This would include race and gender..and any other unique qualities. Along those lines, discrimination based on traits possessed at birth would be inherently wrong. In a perfect world no one would discriminate along those lines, but we don’t live in a perfect world.

There are things we can and can’t change about ourselves. Laws are often designed along the broad lines of common sense and general public interests. Everyone is different, but if something is based on subjective elements, it may not be in the best interests of general public. The fact is that a person can only be one of two genders. Therefore, it seems reasonable that if you possess male anatomy, you go into the door labeled ‘Men’ and if you possess female anatomy, you go into the door labeled ‘Women.’ If a person has a gender change operation, I’m even ok with them using the bathroom corresponding to their new gender. The only objective way to determine this issue is actual gender.

What criterion does a female have to meet in order to use the Men’s room and vice-versa? If I go to the mall with my daughter and she has to go to the bathroom, it would be illegal for me to enter the women’s bathroom because I am a man, not confused about that concept, and thus dress like a man. Call me nuts but it would be obscene for me to walk into a Women’s restroom. My 8 year old daughter (my only child) is the most precious thing in the world to me. I don’t like ever letting her out of my sight in public. The only time I am forced to do this is when she uses the bathroom. Every woman in a Women’s restroom is someone’s daughter, wife, or mother. Am I supposed to be ok if a man strolls into the women’s bathroom if I know my daughter or wife or mother is in there? Someone can just proclaim themselves ‘transgender’ and be able to go into any restroom they please? How can one determine whether it is a person who truly has some legitimate gender confusion issues and means no harm to others or a person who is deliberately taking advantage of the law to serve some sinister purpose?

Where do we draw the line?

If we are going to let people count as what they think they are as opposed to what they truly are, then let’s go all the way.

If you hire a ‘transgender’ man, then it should count as affirmative action because you hired a woman.

Why stop at ‘transgender’ in regards to affirmative action. If you hire a white person who identifies themselves as African-American, that should count too.

Suppose I go see a movie and leave the theater convinced I am Batman. If that’s the case then I should be allowed to show up to work dressed as Batman. If I perform my work duties properly and someone insists I not dress as Batman, that is outright discrimination. They aren’t being sensitive to the fact I think I’m Batman.

Here is a better example: Suppose I am a NASCAR fan and have a Mustang capable of going over 200 MPH. Let’s say I decorate my car to make it look like what you would see on a track and I wear a driver jacket-uniform. If I get pulled by the police for going 180 MPH, do I get a free pass if I explain to the officer that it’s ok for me to travel at such a velocity because I’m a professional stock car driver? If I get a ticket isn’t that discrimination?

Where does it end? If I want to pretend to be a professional race car driver, it doesn’t give me the right to drive like one on public highways. If someone thinks they belong to a gender other than the one corresponding to their anatomy, it creates a similar problem. The speeding example is ludicrous because it involves an issue of public safety. Using that same logic, I believe the same principle applies to bathrooms.

It’s not an issue of discrimination. The day we start installing urinals in Women’s restrooms is the day we can officially say this country has lost its mind. It doesn’t get more insane than that.

Discrimination applies not only to natural aspects of a person, but also the choices they make as well. However, the choices in question involve beliefs, morals, and codes of conduct, not beliefs where a person decides to be something they are not. Religious beliefs and the place where a person worships, especially in regards to organized religious denominations, often provide a clearly defined set of written and established beliefs. I don’t believe there are any major religions or denominations of those religions that keep their beliefs secret.

The Supreme Court made same-sex marriages legal. If members of and supporters of the LGBT were content to leave it at that, I don’t think religious organizations would be afraid. There are certain moral universals: don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t abuse others, don’t participate in unnecessary violence, and don’t do anything that would endanger the public safety. As long as a religion operates within those moral parameters, whose place is it to say their beliefs are valid or invalid?

I get sick of hearing about companies and government officials discussing an atmosphere of acceptance. It’s an insult to my intelligence. I’m Southern Baptist. My minister would never officiate over a gay wedding. It doesn’t mean members of my church go out and harass or harm or mistreat gay people. There is a big difference between active hatred and refusing to do something based on religious beliefs. It should also be noted that Muslim Mosques would be equally defiant in refusing to marry gay couples. It isn’t just Christianity. The way things are headed, I’m scared that religious leaders will be imprisoned for refusing to perform gay weddings.

Anyone opposed to the LGBT agenda is labeled as the bad guy. In reality the true fear about losing religious freedom centers around the fact that people belonging to faith-based organizations know full well that it is only a matter of time before the LGBT targets them with malicious intent.

Here is the deal: I’m a Christian. Therefore, why would I go to a Jewish Synagogue or Muslim Mosque? If I vocally proclaim Jesus Christ as my Savior, it would be offensive to Jews and Muslims because such a belief is in conflict with their beliefs. If I decide to attend services of another faith and cry discrimination because they refuse to acknowledge beliefs that are completely inconsistent with their doctrines, who would be in the wrong? I would. They only reason anyone would do such a thing is to cause trouble and create havoc. It’s not a complex idea. If I am a Christian I should attend a church. If I start to disagree with the doctrine adopted by that church regarding key issues, I am free to leave and join another church. Religious beliefs are sacred and the courts shouldn’t allow people to impose their beliefs on any religious faith. That’s why a Synagogue or Mosque shouldn’t have to accommodate a Christian and why faiths opposed to same-sex marriage should be persecuted.

One would have to be a fool not to see the inevitable: To aggressively attack religions a gay couple will ask for a minister to marry them. When that minister refuses, they will sue. What will the courts do then? My guess is they will send the minister to jail. A liberal interpretation of the Constitution is one thing, but to some Christians, the laws of the Bible aren’t subject to interpretation nor or those laws meant to be changed in order to conform to the times.

Governor Deal is the poster child for all that is wrong with the GOP. He is a sell-out who lacks the courage and will to stand up for conservative values. He needs to rejoin the Democratic Party…of which he was a former member. If conservatives can’t rely on conservative leaders standing up for conservative values, then who are we to trust?

I also refuse to buy into the notion that everyone is accepting of everything. The proof is tangible. Donald Trump could care less about political correctness, and as a result I can understand why some people support him. He has massive support. Corporations and the like can try to impose values upon us that we disagree with, but ultimately we have the ability to think for ourselves.

My argument is that the LGBT community needs to be held to a standard of decorum and practice the acceptance they preach. I respect other Faiths. That’s why I don’t attend services of other religions. Why would I want to go to a place of worship if I don’t believe as they do? Why would I want to cause trouble over it? If the LGBT community wants to found their own church or if existing denominations agree to perform same-sex marriages, fine. There is no conflict. Live and let live.

Michael Russell

A native, of Indiana, Russell has always been interested in politics. He is a Libertarian and strong supporter of conservative causes. He has spent the last 20 years as an investment analyst. Russell and his wife Ginger have 3 children.

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