A story from Mississippi illustrates precisely the outlook I’ve seen in many Arkansas politicians. Religious freedom means the imposition of discrimination against despised minorities by the state. I expect this battle to arrive here before long.
Mississippi has passed a so-called religious freedom law. It’s vaguely worded, but it’s meant to provide cover for businesses that want to discriminate against gay people by refusing service. It takes effect July 1.
But the American Family Association, which denies it has discriminatory intent, makes plain that discrimination is exactly what it wants to empower and that it wants to punish those who proclaim they will not. This follows a frequent theme of the Religious Right Republicans who hold sway in the Arkansas legislature. It is not enough to control policy, those who speak in opposition must also be punished.
There’s been some pushback against the new Mississippi law. A number of businesses have agreed to put stickers in their window that proclaim they do not discriminate. “If You’re Buying, We’re Selling,” pragmatic business people say.
The good Christians of the American Family Association aren’t having it.
In a blog post published this week, the fundamentalist Christian activist group printed a list of what they called “Mississippi businesses that discriminate against religious freedom.” That list, which the anti-LGBT group says is “taken directly from a pro-homosexual website,” includes a number of businesses in the state who have agreed to display the sticker at right in their window. That sticker clarifies that the business in question will not refuse to serve a customer because of his or her sexual orientation.
The AFA believes this amounts to discrimination against Christians who might want to refuse to serve LGBT people in the state:
Ironically, this sticker represents the very promotion of discrimination…against the freedom of religious convictions. Businesses that display this sticker believe Christians should be forced, by law, to embrace homosexuality and deny their faith in personal business practices.
Got it? To preserve religious extremists’ freedom, you, too, just discriminate against people they don’t like. Or, by God, they’ll punish you.