Nel's New Day

January 7, 2018

Evangelicals Aim to Control the U.S. People through Discrimination

The Alabama senatorial election is over, and the true “moral majority” won when Roy Moore lost. Religion is at a crossroads between those who use their beliefs as a guidepost to becoming more moral, generous, forgiving, and compassionate and others, supposedly religious, who oppose all those characteristics that Jesus espoused. Like David Brooks, they think that everyone should give up their rights to fundamentalist, evangelical Christian to be “neighborly” and for “community-building.”

Fundamentalist Christians are using the judicial system to force the 75 percent of non-evangelical people in the U.S. to follow fundamentalist Christian believes through a legal army called Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). This group of “freedom” advocates in ADF has trained thousands of lawyers and sent many of them to government levels where they work to establish control. Its over 3,000 attorneys litigate cases pro bono. Its international presence fights LGBTQ equality in the European Union and advises Romanian parliamentarians.

AG Jeff Sessions consults with ADF in drafting DOJ religious-freedom issues, ADF Noel Francisco is DDT’s solicitor general, 18 ADF lawyers work in 10 attorney-general offices, and DDT has appointed at least four ADF judges. Trenton Garmon, the attorney representing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore after women accused him of sexual assault, belongs to ADF’s “Honor Corps” for donating more than 450 pro bono hours to ADF.

ADF was created almost 25 years ago to protect Colorado’s Amendment 2, a state constitutional amendment allowing discrimination against LGBTQ people. The Supreme Court overturned Amendment 2 in Romer v. Evans (1996) on the basis that it violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal-protection clause. ADF’s co-founders maintained that rights for other people threatened them as Christians, and ADF burgeoned, now receiving largely anonymous $50 million donations annually and placing 58 staff attorneys in its Arizona headquarters and Washington, DC offices.

All ADF “allied attorneys” must agree with an 11-point statement of faith, including a belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, marriage for only one man and one woman, and homosexuality as “sinful and offensive to God.” Their ideology opposes secular government and law with the belief that conservative Christians face persecution. Only five appellate cases involved non-Christian religious plaintiffs; the others supported religion in the schools and during legislative sessions, anti-choice, anti-abortion activities, and, most recently, campus free-speech wars maintaining that a student counselor could refuse to counsel LGBTQ clients.

As LGBTQ people earned the right to marry and have some other federal benefits, ADF shifted from the unworthiness of same-gender couples to marry to the position that same-gender marriage violates Christian rights, an argument in Masterpiece Cakeshop. ADF declares that Christians are victims if LGBTQ people have rights. The current Supreme Court case is about limiting LGBTQ from equal access to public accommodations by declaring that county clerks, website designers, florists, photographers, and bakers are persecuted by civil rights laws.

In 2004, ADF claimed that “public officials must follow the laws—even laws with which they disagree” when same-gender couples were issued marriage licenses in California. A decade later ADF is claiming that Christians have the right to violate the law in refusing service and goods. Now ADF purports that “free exercise of religion includes the right to act or abstain from action in accordance with one’s religious beliefs”—and persuaded AG Jeff Sessions to install this position into official policy. Their arguments are consistently designed to give Christians the ability to disregard, disobey, and dismantle laws that they see as persecuting them. In September, Sessions argued in favor of restricting a state civil-rights law.

Kristen Waggoner, the ADF lawyer supporting the Colorado baker in the current Supreme Court case, has represented a pharmacist who used religious beliefs to not fill prescriptions for emergency contraceptives and a Washington state florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-gender wedding. Although Waggoner’s argument is that the baker doesn’t object to his gay customers, over one-fourth of the 146 ADF appellate briefs argue for restricting LGBTQ rights. ADF has used terms such as promiscuous and unfit to parent to describe LGBTQ people in briefs against marriage equality.

A former ADF allied attorney, Noel Francisco, DOJ Solicitor General, argued before the Supreme Court in his defense of the baker that the law should allow some “breathing space” for “a small group of individuals” and not compel them “to engage in speech” at events “to which they are deeply opposed.” In his questionnaire for his confirmation, he did not list his membership in ADF because his impartiality in ADF cases might be questioned. DOJ refused to comment about Francisco’s participation undergoing an ethics review. While in private practice, Francisco had given a speech at the Heritage Foundation calling for lawyers representing religious groups to “build powerful cases” with “sympathetic plaintiffs” and to “focus on the florist, on the baker, the sincere small businessmen under attack.” The Southern Poverty Center has declared ADF a hate group; thus a member of a hate group is arguing for the government against the people of the United States before the Supreme Court.

In arguing for the baker, ADF asked for vast exemptions from civil-rights laws for conservative Christians, a 180-degree turn from seven years ago in its amicus brief regarding a case about a public school’s use of a church for graduation ceremonies violating the Constitution’s establishment clause. The ADF dismissed the possible objections of Jewish and Muslim students who could not enter a church. The state, ADF argued, “cannot possibly organize its affairs to comport with the subjective views of all potentially religious groups.”

The Supreme Court case brought by a baker will determine whether businesses can turn away people because of who they are. A common response from conservatives is that people should just go elsewhere when they are refused. It’s easy for people who don’t risk rejection to give this solution because it makes the discrimination seem trivial and it assumes that there will be equal services in the same vicinity. Beyond the fact that LGBTQ people, especially those who do not live in a metropolitan area, cannot always find alternative services, searching for these services after rejection has a negative affect on both psychological and physical well-being.

This discrimination results in humiliation and diminishment of lives. People always wonder if someone will refuse to serve them no matter where they go. According to a report by Caitlin Rooney and Laura E. Durso, “discrimination, prejudice, and stigma can lead to negative health outcomes, including higher rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse as well as an increased risk for physical health problems, such as cardiovascular disease…. LGBT people who had experienced discrimination had higher average stress levels than LGBT people who had not.” The impact is permanent because the anticipation of discrimination always exists. After a florist turned away a gay couple, they had the wedding in their home with only eleven guests instead of the celebration that they wanted. A recent survey showed that one-third of LGBTQ people experiencing discrimination were seven times more likely to avoid public places such as stores and restaurant as LGBTQ people who did not.

Recent research shows that pervasive discrimination continues to negatively impact all aspects of LGBTQ lives as they are forced to change their everyday lives. LGBTQ people change their persona and dressing style to avoid bias, hide personal relationships, and commute long distances to work. Even trying to “pass,” eleven to 28 percent of LBG workers lose promotions because of sexual identity, and 27 percent of transgender workers are fired, not hired, or denied promotions. Discrimination causes LGBTQ people to lose homes, access to education, and participation in public life as well as to suffer a sense of well-being. Before the Affordable Care Act in 2010, over half LGBTQ people faced discrimination by healthcare providers. Even in 2014, More recently, a pediatrician refused to care for a child with lesbian parents.

LGBTQ people no longer have support from the Department of Justice. Earlier this year, the DOJ argued in a federal court that employers should be able to fire an employee because he is gay.  Last July, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit ruled that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and the Texas Supreme Court ruled that married same-gender couples do not have the same rights as married heterosexual couples.

Evangelical Christians have separated themselves from Christ when they support the election of a pedophile while claiming that businesses should not serve LGBTQ people. The baker and the ADF are not arguing about freedom of speech or religion; they are arguing for the right to discriminate against anyone in all ways—to refuse to rent to someone or allow people to adopt children or give them health care. The culture of the time increasingly pushes the refusal of services to LGBTQ people, minorities—anyone who the religious right considers “unsuitable.”

In declaring “freedom,” ADF argues that government and business can violate the civil rights of marginalized groups. A Supreme Court that rules in favor of the baker can allow discrimination in other retail, housing, lodging, education, and medical needs. In another six months, the Supreme Court will tell the people of the world whether legalized discrimination is the law in the United States.

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