Columns 2017

Religious right attempts to curtail equal rights for all Anchorage citizens

I’m not sure when the idea of equal rights became so scary to a very conservative portion of the Christian right, but it has. And so a petition has been filed with the Anchorage City Clerk’s Office to get the question of equal rights for all Anchorage citizens on the ballot. This ballot measure would be an attempt to take away equal rights from a certain portion of our population that the Alaska Family Action group, headed by Jim Minnery whose wife spearheaded the petition, doesn’t like.

That’s right, I said doesn’t like. Because under all those flowery words of protecting religious freedoms and privacy, the only real issue is that some people disapprove of any and all members of the LGBTQ population. The fact that these “different” people might have the same rights as “good Christians” just makes this particularly subset of Christians mad.

But let’s put aside the ideological issues for the moment and just look at the day-to-day reality of this petition. If a person can only use the bathroom associated with his or her biological makeup at birth, who will decide that as the person enters the bathroom? Will there be a bathroom monitor? Will businesses be required to hire one to stand outside their public restrooms during working hours? Will we all have to drop trou to show we are heading to the right stall? Given that the petition states that in the event of a dispute, the person’s birth certificate will be the deciding factor, will I now have to carry my birth certificate with me every time I want to use a public restroom?

The other part of this petition that I find troubling is the portion that states, under the heading of religious freedom, that businesses may deny services to members of the LGBTQ community based on their religious beliefs. This opens up a door I’m not sure most Americans want to look behind. If a gay couple orders a sandwich at a McDonald’s window does the server have a right to refuse to take the order? Will we all have to carry not just our birth certificates but also certificates of our sexual preferences before we can get served at Quiznos? If you are Muslim and someone wants to buy a package of bacon at your register, can you refuse to do that because your religion finds that meat unacceptable? If you are Hindu, can you refuse to sell someone hamburger at Carr’s checkout counter? Can a Muslim man refuse to work with a woman whose hair is not covered? Can a Jewish man refuse to serve food in a plate in which multiple meats have been placed thus violating his dietary laws?

The list goes on and on. The point is religious freedom is not just for Christians. If we extend religious freedom to one religious group, we have to extend it to all. And that would result in a fractured society in chaos. This is still America, a melting pot of multiple religions, ethnicities and belief systems. The only way for us to move ahead as a country is to treat everyone equally. You don’t approve of gay marriage? Then don’t go to one or have one. But if your business is making wedding cakes, then you need to make cakes for everyone. That gay couple just wants a cake, not your approval.

In case there is any doubt in anyone’s mind, Christianity in America is not under attack. If it was, Christmas wouldn’t be a national holiday; churches wouldn’t be tax exempt; and sports stars wouldn’t keep making the sign of the cross and thanking god for their victory as though any god gives a damn about who wins a basketball game.

The issue here isn’t really about equal rights for the LGBTQ community. It is really about special rights for a certain segment of the Christian community. Because as loudly as they cry foul over that infamous baker being forced to make a cake for a gay couple, they would scream even louder the first time a Muslim refused Jim Minnery service because Mrs. Minnery wasn’t wearing a hijab.

This is America. Live and let live. Serve everyone who comes into your business establishment with the same level of respect and dignity. Keep your religious beliefs but don’t force them on others. That’s the American way. Want a country where religious beliefs rule? Try the Middle East. I understand ISIS is looking for some new recruits.