Bible Bullies

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others.
And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.
Dalai Lama

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Unraveling the internal and intellectual knots and snarls from last week’s Phoenix City Council meeting has been an extended process that finds me straddled between the millennia. Why, in 2013, are we having a five-hour public debate regarding who is or is not a human being deserving of legal equanimity?

Why, why, why – why do I feel I just went 10 rounds with Hilary Swank?

Instead, why aren’t we having a public discussion about dissolving the brown cloud of smog hanging over our city, addressing the violence to which our children are subjected or eradicating the genetically modified organisms that are being substituted in our food?

Last Tuesday we sat for six hours in a city council meeting in the sixth largest city in the United States: Phoenix, AZ. The topic, an ordinance adding protections for gay, transgendered and
disabled individuals to already existing non-discrimination laws in housing, employment, city contracts and public accommodations. Additionally, an amendment was offered for religious institutes | churches to be excluded from the changes in the ordinance.

The public was offered an opportunity to provide input. Two prominent speakers set the tone for the two sides: first, a mother whose youngest of her three children came out as lesbian in 2005 and then, 18 months later she found herself facilitating that same child’s transition to living life as a young man; the second, a woman who has been leading the charge for more than 20 years, representing the group that rallied the majority of speakers opposing the proposed City of Phoenix ordinance – the Center for Arizona Policy, which states the following on their website:

Religious liberty should be affirmed and free from government interference.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”
In these simple words, our right to freely live and practice our faith is protected. Yet, few people realize the serious threats to our religious freedom and the consequences of those threats.

Efforts by organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation are underway to restrict our right to hold to our religious beliefs at work, on a school or university campus, at church, or even when you turn out to vote your values. If successful, these attacks on our religious liberty could greatly restrict our ability to respond to the Great Commission and share the Gospel. At Center for Arizona Policy (CAP), we are committed to protecting the right of every Arizonan to freely live their faith.

As individuals approached the microphone, my eyes wandered around the intriguing historic 1929 Orpheum theatre that was the host environment for this landmark legislation. The theater, with its “celestial ceiling” seemed a fitting place for this debate. The ceiling was lit as though you were enjoying a beautiful night sky in the middle of the desert without any reflections of the light of the city, a bit surreal with the neanderthal comments voiced by individuals claiming a moral high-ground.

The voices in support were diverse — from teachers, to preaches, doctors, lawyers, engineers, activists,

artists, moms, and dads. Representatives from LocalFirst Arizona, PFLAG, One Community, HERO and Shadow Rock UCC just to name a few. Many opponents referenced the bible or the “holy book” as the foundational basis for bullying, for their moral high-ground and profound opposition, the tone was divisive, at times downright insulative and punitive to individuals in the audience. Local clergy were divided as well as some spoke in favor; others in opposition.

Historical references of separation of church and state go back years and years, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience, Discussed in a Conference between Truth and Peace is a 1644 book about government force written by Roger Williams, the founder of the American colony of Rhode Island and the co-founder of the First Baptist Church in America. Using biblical reasoning, the book argues for a “wall of separation” between church and state.

Reference was made during the proceedings to the need for religious freedom, another commented about the Pledge of Allegiance and “liberty and justice for all.”

First, the “Pledge of Allegiance,” originally composed by Francis Bellamy, was written in 1892 and proclaimed “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” In 1954, after being influenced by the 

Knights of Columbus, a fraternal order of Catholic men, then President Dwight Eisenhower, at the urging of George MacPherson Docherty, Scottish-born American Presbyterian minister, signed a congressional bill to change the pledged to: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

When given the opportunity to support human rights and equality, the religious order that felt it important to insert God into the pledge of allegiance made a choice to opt out of elevating the human condition and stood in opposition of the proposed ordinance. What are your rules of engagement, your philosophy of living, do you have a perspective about elevating the human condition? Where are you investing your resources? Are you investing your resources in organizations that further your values?

T

he freedom of religion in the United States, a constitutionally guaranteed right provided in the First Amendment is also closely associated with separation of church and state, a concept advocated by Thomas Jefferson.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In 1777, Thomas Jefferson, an advocate for separation of church and state drafted theVirginia Statute for Religious Freedom. In the text of the statute, Jefferson stated: “Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” All of these references support the rights of the individuals — rights, not the institution or the concept known as religion.

We are traveling on a path influenced by two powerful governing forces: a rule of the people, by the people, and for the people; and the governing force of religion/s.

When The United States of America, was being formed, the forefathers understood tyrannical power wielded by governing Church doctrines and were concerned about emboldened leaders of religious institutes reigning over people. Thomas Jefferson and the forefathers were persistent and thoughtful in defining the governing forces as a republican form of government, in a rule of the people, by the people, and for the people.

During policy debates about climate change, global warming, environmental decisions, contraception, equal pay, equal treatment, indigenous rights, etc., the phrase ” . . .[we] need to protect our religious liberties,” is increasingly voiced by the religious lobby.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees our religious civil rights. Whereas the First Amendment secures the free exercise of religion, section one of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits discrimination, including on the basis of religion, by securing “the equal protection of the laws” for every person:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Committed to transforming conflict into collaboration, we feel an obligation to promote a culture in which everyone values fundamental human rights for themselves and others the essence of freedom. To promote a society free from bullying (the use of superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to


In the 1960s, many religious groups believed in racial segregation; in the 1970s, many believed that persons of different races should not marry; in the 1980s, many believed that women should not have the same rights as men; in the 1990s and into the 21st century, many believed that heterosexuals should be given special privileges, and that gays and lesbians should be denied their rights. We support that everyone should be free to express their beliefs. However, we do challenge religious or other groups that take action to promote racial segregation, to prevent inter-racial marriage, to limit women’s rights or to limit equal 
force him or her to do what one wants). We support the right to think and act differently from the majority and be free from religious edicts in our society.

rights on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

More than 20 years ticked by before the full human rights ordinance in the CIty of Phoenix was passed last week. The passage is the relative point of focus. The actions of many came together with a commitment to elevate the human condition, to improve the quality of life for individuals, which, in turn, improves life for the whole. It is life giving – it is energy producing, it elevates the human condition, creating an environment for us all to flourish.

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.
Dalai Lama

We are responsible for our thoughts, and what we think guides our behavior; and our behavior and our actions are representational of what we value. Believing in the fundamental value of individual responsibility, when we subjugate our responsibility to the edicts of a bible, preacher, religion, god, etc, we are left with a society focused on who is to blame. It is imperative we can trace the roots of our fundamental core values for that is the foundation for real security, for our essence, for our prosperity.

Bully energy operates on the principle of depleting energy, downward energy, it suppresses our growth as a society. We have a responsibility to bring forward philosophies, opportunities for us to flourish. To seek to produce life-giving energy.

Let us re-focus our efforts – sharing our resources so we begin to eradicate the brown cloud of smog hanging over our city. Let us learn the tools of nonviolent | compassionate communication so we can effectively address the violence to which our citizens are subjected. Let us buy real, organic food from our local farmers and begin to put an end to the promotion of genetically modified organisms that are being substituted in our food supply at local markets.

This struggle between differing forces is not going to end tomorrow. The passing of the encompassing human rights ordinance for the City of Phoenix elevates our human 

condition.

Wait! Is that the Phoenix Rising?

🙂 till next week!

in peace –

om shanti~

annie loyd, The FUSION Foundation | Peace Walker Sangha

Share with me your thoughts and insights!
annie@thefusionfoundation.org

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