Apart from the “Luke, I am your fada” jokes, there’s nothing funny about House Bill 2802 (also known as FADA). This bill is titled the First Amendment Defense Act. And in order to figure out what it’s talking about, we need to do a little background investigation.
The First Amendment: Seems we hear a lot about this one, even though it’s not usually quoted. This is your run of the mill Constitutional Rights Amendment, and I’m going to quote it. We need to be able to work from the original to boil it down for use today. I’m adding in the numbers to help us break it down later.
“Congress shall make (1)no law respecting an establishment of religion, or (2)prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or (3)abridging the freedom of speech, or (4)of the press; or (5)the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and (6)to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
That’s a big one, no? My teachers would have penalized me for a run-on if I’d come in with something like that, but I digress. Numbers 1 and 2 are at the heart of HR 2802, but the others are important. Freedom of speech has had a lot of issues lately with interpretation. And I know I struggle with it too. Because I don’t believe people should be allowed to believe that other people are inferior on the basis of their skin color, nationality or sexual orientation. I think that’s racist and sexist amongst other things and that’s not okay. But just as someone cannot force me to believe that racism is okay, I can’t force people to believe that it’s not. I can attempt to persuade, but it is their right to believe so. (Not to act on it though, because hate crimes=jail times!) Freedom of press has been up for debate as well, with “leaks” and “false news” and propoganda and a dictator-elect (see-that’s freedom of speech) who has mentioned he’d shut down some presses for being mean to him (that is infringement of number 4). Assembly is debated heavily from BLM (Black Lives Matter) to Women’s Rights to Not My President. One exceptionally racist, ignorant individual can be seen ranting about protesting on her show. (I’m of course talking about Tomi Lahren.) And number 6? Well, I like number 6. I engage in it all the time. I petitioned for NoDAPL, I petitioned for my rights as a woman, I petitioned for recounts. I petition for lots of stuff-and the first one I did was in 6th grade against spirit bands (ask me about that-I have some wild stories).
So 1 and 2. No government control of religion and no stopping someone from being religious the way they choose. Sounds solid enough to me. So why do we have FADA?
The first line of the bill says “To prevent discriminatory treatment of any person on the basis of views held with respect to marriage.”
Does this bring up memories of a court clerk who went to jail for not doing her job and handing out marriage licenses? Because it should. Quickly, Kim Davis refused a gay couple a marriage license saying she was acting under “God’s authority”. She went to jail, was told to just do her job, and of course didn’t. We have the Marriage Equality Act which states: Marriage is defined as a legal union between two people as spouses.
So let’s look at HR2802. The First Section is just the “short title” which is what I told you in my first paragraph.
The second section is the “Findings”. Now, I can’t imagine everyone who reads my blog is going to want to read the document (even though it’s only 7 pages with large font). If you’d like to click HERE. I linked straight to the .pdf so there’s that. Anyway. The findings section is pretty generic. It talks about marriage equality and religious liberty are sometimes at odds, the President knew it would be something that needed worked out. The Solicitor General discussed tax status for religious schools needing to be addressed. Paragraph 4 talks about the government needing to remain neutral when it came to religious rights, not picking one over others. Paragraph 5 talks about protecting religious rights will lead to tolerance and contribute to peace.
I have 2 problems so far, and we’re on page 3. First: who are these “leading legal scholars”? You don’t give me names, you don’t give me universities or institutions or positions. You’re not telling me who weighed in. For all I know, it could have been the most anti-LGBT, anti-human rights community of lawyers (*cough* Alliance Defending Freedom *cough*). And what does it take to be a leading legal scholar? I read loads of cases, do these breakdowns. If I call myself a leading legal scholar, can I start weighing in? Until names get released and the public can do internet background checks, I remain unconvinced of the legitimacy of this already.
My second problem is found in paragraph 5. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t like for it to be true. Because I would. But we have religious freedom right now. I can freely be pagan all the live long day and no one can stop me. I could convert to Judaism tomorrow and no one could stop me. And do you know what I see? I see groups like Westboro taking that liberty to the extreme. I see the KKK abusing that liberty. I see hate spewed from religious groups to religious groups just the same as I see acceptance (although I have to dig harder for news stories about acceptance). The thing is, religious freedom doesn’t mean the same to everyone. Religious freedom, to me for example, means that I don’t have to be afraid to wear my religious jewelry outside, or go to a pagan supply shop and not get harassed. Religious freedom for other people means something along the lines of “adhere to my religious beliefs without making me uncomfortable”. My high school set out on a foolish endeavor to sue the Department of Education because they wouldn’t let a little girl use the restroom simply because her Ohio birth certificate still said “male” (you can’t change it in Ohio if you’re a trans person). They lost that case, with the judge telling them to let her be the “little girl she is”. I can’t tell you the amount of people who flipped out, saying she was a pedophile and feared for their children’s safety. That little girl by the way, is in elementary school. Third grade, I think.
Section 3a. No (discriminatory) action will be taken against someone who is acting according to their religious beliefs.
Section 3b. Discriminatory is defined as: altering tax treatment, not allow tax deductions to charities, withholding government money and grants, withhold government benefits, otherwise discriminate (that’s what it says).
Section 3c. You can’t be denied a licensure or certification based on your behavior if you are acting in accordance to religious beliefs you hold in respect to marriages or sexual relations that are reserved for marriage. (It says specifically one man, one woman.)
Section 4-A person can assert actual or threatened violation and be awarded compensation, even if the person didn’t seek administrative remedies.
Section 5-This is meant to be a broad protection, not meaning to conflict with other laws, with the written in section about how if one portion of this bill is deemed unconstitutional, the rest of it will remain intact.
Alrighty. Seven pages later and where are we? Confused? Frustrated? Furious?
As someone who was Christian for half of their life and then pagan the latter half, this worries me. I don’t need to go through my credentials to prove that I’m telling the truth, but as a human being, this worries me. Section 3a is already happening. In Mississippi this past year, a landlord kicked an interracial couple out of their homes because of his religious beliefs. He is quoted to have said : “Oh, it’s a big problem with the members of my church.” Section 3b means that the Salvation Army can continue to deny help to LGBTQ individuals who need it without facing repercussions. Section 3c means people like Kim Davis can continue to deny marriage licenses-even though it is a federally guaranteed right to all people of legal, consenting age regardless of orientation or gender. Section 4 means even the words I am writing today, can be used to prove I infringed on someone’s religious rights. Section 5 means that if passed, Congress will need to revoke the ENTIRE amendment in order to remove it from doing more harm. Do you know how hard that is? Exceptionally.
It’s an issue for everyone. I’m a member of the LGBTQ community-and marrying hetero did not change that. My husband and I are not self-proclaimed Christians, so we belong to religious minorities by default (even though I’m technically the only religious one of us).
I’m also an ordained minister. I perform weddings, plan weddings (yep, have that certificate too) and I do that for ALL people who want to be married to each other (and are legally allowed to be). Interracial couples? Yep. Interfaith couples? Yep. Same-sex couples? Yep. No sex couples? Yep. No faith couples? Yep. I think you get the picture.
Look, I know I’m not the representative for anyone more than myself. I get it. But as someone who is trying to make a life in the world, as someone who is trying to make sure that people feel safe being themselves, who have rights and equality, I’m just asking for other people to look beyond their insecurities, their biases, their stubbornness and try to see the life of someone else. Try to imagine (or ask them!) what it’s like to feel disenfranchised by their own people. And then ask yourself if you’re actually being infringed upon at all. Because you can’t control other people. You can only control yourself. Being kind doesn’t kill anybody and it makes the world suck a little less.
So this is my last blog of the year. I hope you all stay safe for the last day of 2016. I’ll be watching it go out like I watch every year-with the difference being that this new year, I’m preparing for a revolution.