God, Gays, Bigotry and State Lawmakers
The Michigan House of Representative took a firm stand in favor of hate and discrimination earlier this week.
In a move that, along with the House's Dark Ages anti-abortion bill, seems aimed at ratcheting up the culture wars this election season, legislators in the House passed a bill that would prevent state universities from disciplining student counselors who refuse to help clients on the grounds of "religious conviction."
Sanctimoniously dubbed the "Julea Ward freedom of conscience act." the bill is so named in honor of some evangelical crazy who was canned from a counseling program at Eastern Michigan in 2009 for refusing to counsel a gay student on the basis of her belief in fairytales. (For the record, Ward sued and lost in federal court, but was granted a retrial on appeal.)
It would forbid public colleges and universities from discriminating against or disciplining students participating in counseling, social work and psychology programs "because the student refuses to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the student, if the student refers the client to a counselor who will provide the counseling or services."
While the legislation has gained the support of the Michigan Family Forum and the state's Attorney General, it has also attracted a diverse coalition opposing the bill. Equality Michigan, an LGBT group said on their website that the bill "threatens clients seeking counseling with rejection based on their race, relationship status, and faith, or, yes, because of their sexual orientation" and "sends the message that medical decisions can be based on religious and personal beliefs and not on what’s in the best interest of the patient."
Needless to say, the "Julea Ward freedom of conscience act" is conscienceless. Bills like this aren't designed to protect religious freedom. They're meant to encode bigotry into the annals of state law on the grounds that "god told me to."
As I've said before, the public square is for people, not god myths. Zeus and Shango really shouldn't have a role in determining who gets to receive services from a taxpayer-funded university.
Furthermore, if some counselor claims the voice of her god told her not to serve gay students, not only should she be canned, but she should probably be directed to counseling herself.
And why the heck do the courts even entertain this nonsense? I mean, it would seem to me that, for someone to make a legal claim about what a god directed him/her to do, then the courts have an obligation to determine whether said god is even real.
Start from the most basic presupposition of this nonsense—that Amon-Ra or whoever these nuts claim to worship this week actually exists and can pass down orders through street corner preachers or Dark Ages tomes or whatever. Just once I wish someone would force the Julea Wards of the world to actually try to have to back up the b.s. they claim is guiding their bigoted actions.
But of course they never could. All they can ever do is babble some nonsense about "faith" and unseen evidence and wishful thinking. As far as the official business of the nation's courts should be concerned, there is no god.
And that, to me, is why it's irresponsible to construct bills that place this kind of "conviction" over our social responsibility to treat all citizens fairly. Julea Ward and her like-minded backers in the state House are entitled to believe whatever they want—and the right to believe and worship Flying Spaghetti Monsters should be sacrosanct. But when the Spaghetti Monster gospel clashes with fundamental issues of fairness, fairness should win.
And that's only "freedom of conscience" that any rational government should concern itself with.