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Day 44: And So Begins The Revolution – Kansas HB 2453, and The Vow

And So Begins The Revolution

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That sign came with a video game micro-console, the Ouya.  I always thought it was a little funny that the corner was cut off, making it look like a simplified image of Kansas.  Kat looked at it, thought it was awesome, and it now resides in the front window of the house.  It’s an interesting statement.  Now, I’m starting to think it’s not a statement, but, more of a foreshadowing of things to come.

When Kansas HB 2453 came up, I sort of snickered at it – it’s about as dumb as you can get.  There’s no way they could pass it, it’s just pandering to certain ultra-conservative elements.  And, I told my wife if it passes, this is going to be the beginning of a revolution of sorts of Kansas.  Oh, I don’t mean a violent revolution.  Well, it’s passed the Kansas House, and comes up for vote in the Kansas Senate sometime in the near future.

What’s it do?  Well, the press is labeling it as bill that would allow any business to refuse service to any same-sex marriage (service, goods, etc.)  That’s what the press says.  Now, I read the bill it’s self (available here), and my jaw dropped (don’t worry – I’ll translate the full meaning of this in a minute):

Section 1. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender:

(a) Provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement;

(b) solemnize any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement; or

(c) treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid.

So, let’s start with the obvious: say I have a religious conviction against those who are in a same-sex civil union or marriage.  Well, if in my eyes they aren’t married because of my beliefs, then I don’t have to serve them.  Or provide them insurance if they work for me.  Or, pretty much anything.  The rest of the bill removes all recourse for such an event – they can’t sue me for it.

OK, well, that’s pretty bad.  But, it’s worse than the press is making it out to be.  For instance, let’s say it’s an interracial couple.  If my religious beliefs are against interracial marriage, then the same rules apply.  Wait – you’re probably thinking “Why would that be?  Why would someone think that interracial marriage was a religious issue?”  Because, at one time, both slavery and anti-interracial marriage beliefs were upheld by Biblical passages – well, people’s interpretations of the passages.  Take this for instance:

The Apostle Paul: Acts 17:24-28 says that God made man “and hath determined the bounds of their habitation.” Genesis 28:1, says that the Canaanites (blacks) were the “servants of servants” and Isaac called Jacob and said unto him, “Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.”

Jeremiah 13:23 stresses the fact that we can not make white people out of the Negroes in these words: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots.” This could be interpreted as a warning that Negroes could breed Whites down into mongrels but that we can never breed them up into Whites.

Pretty wild stuff.  Glad we’ve gotten past that.  Oh, wait – that’s not from a historical document, that’s from a website that proposes interracial marriage is wrong!  Yes, this thinking still exists, but, fortunately it’s not common.  But, fact is, it exists.  And, ideas like that have a tendency to spread.

Or, what if they just don’t like your religion?  “Those dirty Muslims, following that guy, and all their hatred.  They weren’t married before my God, so, I don’t have to view their marriage as valid.”  That’s not too far fetched, given the anti-Islamic feelings in the US. “Those dirty Catholics, always praying to their idols.  They probably got married in front of one of those idols.  My God says you can’t have idols, so…”  Or even, “Those damned Jews, they killed Jesus.  How can their marriage be valid?!”

Or, let’s talk about my marriage:  I’m divorced and remarried.  There’s a Biblical passage that makes me a sinner for having divorced, and for having re-married.  In theory, someone can use that against me if it’s against their beliefs.  Honestly, I’ve thought through a ton of scenarios where this law comes into effect – none of them are good.

See, it’s this slope.  In theory, any business that is religiously convicted of any viewpoint can use that viewpoint to deny services, goods, or benefits relating to that marriage.  Heck, it doesn’t even say you have to disclose the “why”, just that you can deny it.  In fact, I can already predict some small and medium sized businesses will “get religion”, and somehow use that to deny benefits to the families that serve them.  Don’t think so?  Remember: there’s companies that intentionally utilize workers for just enough hours to prevent giving them benefits.  This is just yet another way to side-step what’s right in exchange for paying share holders and top-tier management more money.

So, don’t go thinking this is a gay rights issue, folks.  This is the whole marriage enchilada on the plate with this bill

If this bill passes, I doubt the Kansas Supreme Court ever upholds it.  (The Kansas Supreme Court is already at odds with the legislative branch, making it even less likely.)  But, there’s always the off chance.  UPDATE: Since I started the blog post, the Kansas Senate has already made noises that it’s not going to pass.  But, there may be a followup one that narrows it to same-sex couples.

Now, let’s talk about me for a moment.  See, it’s my blog, so it’s about me.  😉

I’ve mentioned before being a little quiet on some things, more quiet than I should be.  I don’t get into debates on the ethics of gay rights based on Biblical points.  I keep talking about, well, talking more, but I don’t.

This week, however, I started talking more – and, getting involved more.

Before the Kansas “Let’s Screw Everyone At Once And Call It Religious Freedom” bill came up, an old friend approached me and invited me to join the group they were setting up for the GLSEN chapter they are hoping to have here in Wichita.  (GLSEN – Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network.)  The idea is pretty good – it provides education and safe places for teens across the entire sexual spectrum.  Adults in the LGBT(QIAEtc.) community have enough of a hard time, but, teens are a different story, and finding better ways for them to find what they need to live their lives is a good thing.

But, this puts a choice before me – if I’m going to join it, it’s a bit of a public thing.  Sure, it’s just a Facebook group at the moment, but, with something like this I’ll also be inviting others, and telling others about it.  This makes me a sort of Ally for the community.  And, it means I’m compounding something that I know I’m already going to be facing:  people questioning my faith.  First Geek Congregation is going to be meeting at The Center of Wichita, a LGBTQIA center that includes meeting space, and a safe place for teens there.  First Geek Congregation isn’t a “Gay Friendly” congregation – it’s just a friendly congregation.  Anyone of any walk of life, race, sexual orientation, etc. is welcome to join us.  And, though it’s Christian in nature, even people of other religions are welcome to join us to see what we’re about.  We are open to anyone who’s able to observe the two tenants:  Respect and Love.

So, not only would I be holding services at a GLBT place, I would be joining an organization that’s quite specifically GLBT oriented (one thing I appreciate in the GLSEN concept: S.  Straight is included.  I have little appreciation for the idea of exclusion that can occur in LGBT concept overall – but, there’s a reason why the LGBT community HAS to exist, so my objection is nullified 🙂 ) But, I thought about it – I appreciate the concept, I appreciated the invitation, and I told Liz I  would join them (this, by the way, is a lot of thought and hand wringing just to become a friend of the organization.  But, I also know I have a habit of becoming active in a community like that if I feel it’s underserved in the way of volunteers.)

I started to write a post about that, and explaining why I was joining.  Then HB 2453 passed the house.  And I was PISSED.

Let me explain.  See, I don’t call myself a feminist.  I don’t call my self a Gay Rights Activist, or an LGBT Ally.  I don’t call myself an Equal Rights Activist.  At one time, I did call myself a feminist, but, I gave up that label for various reasons.  I just plain believe in Equality.  And the E is capitalized for a reason.  It’s a basic human right – as long as what someone is doing doesn’t directly affect what you are doing, and does not bring about the harm of another human being, it’s pretty much OK with me.  Additionally, if person A can do something, person B should be able to do the same thing without fear that they will be denied or reprisals for doing it.  Pretty simple, really.

Kansas HB 2453 removes that.  While the press bill it as a bill against same-sex couples, it really just legalizes religious (and other) forms of discrimination.  Right now, a business can refuse service to a customer for quite a few reasons.  Race, sexual orientation, religion, and a few other reasons, though, are legally actionable.

I couldn’t believe Kansas – MY STATE – was willing to go this far.  Now, I have a belief that this had little to do with same-sex marriage, no matter who drafted the bill (the same group drafted similar bills in a couple other states, but, with different verbiage, apparently – I haven’t looked into South Dakota’s bill, for instance, but, heard of it from a friend.)  But, it didn’t matter – it’s outside of any scope of what I believe to be right.

Marriage is a legal agreement – I perform marriages on occasion.  I’m quite familiar with them.  Marriage ceremonies, on the other hand, is more often than not a religious agreement, involving the participants and God (or, their deity(ies) of choice).   Marriage is not an exclusively Christian concept.  It is performed in every religion and culture I can think of  off the top of my head, in one form or another.  Somehow, Christians have began to believe the legal agreement is exclusively our right.  Somehow, I’m surprised that Christians haven’t begun complaining that Muslims also get married and have the same legal rights (though, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out someone has considered trying to stop them.)

One of the debates against same-sex marriage is that it diminishes the sanctity of marriage.  What a made up term – sanctity of marriage.  30% divorce rates don’t seem to affect that sanctity of marriage.  And, since this is a Christian Right, it seems, the fact that Muslims or atheists get married doesn’t seem to affect the sanctity of marriage.  Why does this affect the sanctity of marriage?

Simple:  someone told them that the Bible says it does, therefore it’s wrong.  Well, I’m going to grant you this: if you’re Christian, then you probably shouldn’t be gay, it’s a sin.  But, so is eating pork and shellfish.  So is greed.  So is passing by others without helping.  So are so many things other things that us followers of Christ do.  But, we are forgiven – a gay cannot be forgiven of his sin unless they give up the sin.  Never mind that people don’t give up their idols, their gluttony, their greed, or the multitude of sins they willfully do every day.  You wanna know mine?  Addiction.  I smoke because I’m addicted to smoking.  Addiction is a sin.  My other sin that I’m trying to overcome is anger.

Jesus taught us to forgive, and God is love.  If no one is going to hell for eating pork, no one is going to hell for being gay.  And, if you say “but, that was Mosaic Law, we’re not under Mosaic Law anymore” – I’m not going to get into the Mosaic Law debate.  I will, however, point out how unimportant homosexuality was in the New Testament then.  Jesus never mentioned it, and there’s only four verses in the New Testament that COULD be translated as homosexuality.  Go ahead, chew on that a moment. Romans 1:26–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, 1 Timothy 1:9–10, and Jude 1:7.

Now, you might ask why that is?  History is one answer.  Another interesting answer, though, is that it’s a smokescreen.  See, it’s always easier to make yourself feel good when there’s a “them.”  Who’s them?  Well, it’s someone different than you.  At one time, it was race – it was easier to think yourself better than “them” when you had a different skin color.  You could conveniently use the Bible to stand against them, hate them, divide them, and attack them.  It’s already happened multiple times with multiple groups (and, it’s not a concept exclusive to Judeo-Christian religion.)  You use “them” to hide your own sins from yourself.  You use “them” to make you deaf, dumb, and blind to the people that need you – why is it important to help the needy in your community when “they” could be lurking around any corner, enticing you into a sin at any moment.

I could go on with that one thread of thinking for quite a while, but, I’m going to change tracks for a moment.  But, you haven’t heard the last of me when it comes to this overall issue of equality, no matter what religion, sexual orientation, race, gender, or other factor.  Trust me on that one.

I mention a revolution at the beginning of this post.  But, this post isn’t about any revolution that occurs in Kansas.  It’s about the revolution within me.  The realization that I perform evil by not standing up for the rights of others.  That, through my inaction, I allow it to continue.  I shall be quiet no longer.

Now, for some guy with a blog to say he’s not going to be quiet isn’t particularly impressive.  On the other hand, I have a social media & blog reach of about 10,000 people at the moment when you combine all my accounts and pages.  I may not have a huge voice, but, I have a voice that’s listened to from time to time.  It’s time to use it frequently.

So, I have a vow I’m making between God and myself after much deliberation and prayer.  I may print this vow, and frame it directly below my Certificate of Ordination in my office, which hangs right below my prayer shawl.

The Vow:

I will not remain silent to the voices that attempt to deny others their right to exist.

I will use my voice to do good as a follower of my Lord.

I will use my voice to do good for my community, my state, my country, and the world.

I will not remain idle when people rise up to remove the rights from others.

I will not remain idle while any group of people are denied the rights other enjoy.

I will speak out to defend my choice religion, the religious choice of others, and even the absence of religion.

I will behave like a community leader should, even when I’m not a leader.

I will seek to increase the peace, love, and respect in my community, my state, my country, and the world.

I will seek to remove those from power who work contrary to peace, love, and respect.

I will seek to bring equality to humankind, through the best of my ability.

I will not run and hide from the social, religious, or other implications of upholding this vow.

— Davis Ray Sickmon, Jr  February 16, 2014

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