I will thank you in advance for reading this missive in its entirety, in spite of its length, and giving it due consideration.
I am writing to you to ask you to veto HB 1228, the euphemistically named "AN ACT TO ENACT THE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RESTORATION ACT TO BE KNOWN AS MARY'S LAW; TO PROVIDE PROTECTION FOR RELIGIOUS PRACTICE AND TO PROVIDE REMEDIES AND PENALTIES FOR VIOLATING OR ABUSING RELIGIOUS PROTECTIONS; TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES."
Many reasons exist for opposing this legislation. Economic reasons may actually be more of a motivation for some than ethical and Constitutional reasons, but religious reasons also exist. These latter I intend to discuss here at some length. I will also be employing the academic discipline of Logic in this discussion. I urge you to read this communication in full and give due consideration to what I will here state.
To begin, regardless of claims to the contrary, this legislation will allow discrimination, primarily directed at the LGBTI community, already marginalized, disenfranchised, and downtrodden for a considerable amount of time, under the guise of "religious freedom" or "conscience." Such a law flies in the face of the very principles of Americanism, which philosophy advocates liberty, justice, and equality for all, and which philosophy originated in part due to religious dissenters who left Europe with its various state established religious sects. Indeed, the doctrine of the "separation of church and state" used to be regarded with great respect by the majority of Christian sects in America, because it protected them from government-imposed religious requirements, and allowed them the free exercise of their religion unmolested by government-established sectarianism.
Laws ought never to deprive citizens of freedom, but only increase personal liberty, while protecting the rights of other citizens simultaneously. Legalization of discrimination fails completely in the latter consideration, and violates many Biblical teachings, such as Romans XIII, 10, which proclaims "Love does no harm to its neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." Again, I John IV, 20 states "If any one says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." Further, Matthew XXV, 31-46 records Jesus speaking at length about the manner in which people treat other people, saying such things as "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." Moreover, Romans XIV, in its entirety, tells the believer, in rather verbose style, to mind his or her own business, and describes those who are "offended" by the behavior of others as "weak in the faith." In addition, Philippians II encourages many virtues, including love, affection, sympathy, and humility, while discouraging selfishness and conceit, and goes on to tell the believer to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."
Matthew VI, 1-19 has something to say about pretending to be something you are not in order to have the approval of society, which, I believe, has strong implications for the LGBTI community and how others view them; to pretend to be heterosexual, to pretend to be cisgender, to pretend to be anything one actually is not, in order to win the favor of other humans, is hypocrisy. Jesus may have condemned nothing more often than hypocrisy. Regardless of the teachings of this or that sect, scientific and medical authorities have found more than sufficient evidence that sexual orientation and gender identity are innate, and not the result of social conditioning, peer pressure, the way in which one was raised, or any other such thing. The American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the British Psychological Society, and similar organizations in the civilized world have been rather plain on this. The Intersex (that's the I in LGBTI) are undeniably as they are due to biology, and not because of alleged choice. Trying to paint any of these situations as "choice" or "lifestyle" is irrational. Claiming that one particular interpretation of the Bible trumps the scientific evidence amounts to nothing less than superstition and willful ignorance. Arkansas has a long and undeserved reputation as a backwards state, filled with ignorant, superstitious, irrational, and bigoted citizens. This (largely Yankee, but not exclusively so) bias toward our state is not true. While this HB 1228 is evidence that the state of Arkansas still has citizens afflicted with such vices, not everyone in the state is so unfortunate. For the state of Arkansas to favor the ignorant, superstitious, irrational, and bigoted interpretation of Biblical teaching would not only violate the non-establishment clause of the First Amendment, it would also be a state action which I would view as substantially burdening my freedom to exercise my religion. It would further demean and defame the reputation of Christianity.
(I will add parenthetically, as it is off the topic of this missive, but occasioned by my reference to Matthew VI, that Matthew VI, 1-6 ought to be indisputable evidence that Jesus would not be pleased with efforts to legislate public prayer in public schools -- at the least.)
The excuse of "religious freedom" or "religious liberty" has been used in the past in efforts to justify racism. Those attempts were not motivated by religion or faith, but by fear and hatred. The same is true of these RFRA laws, but in these instances, the fear and hatred is directed at a different kind of "other," namely, people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and/or Intersex. Rhetoric which denies this is simply disingenuous or misguided. The truth is rather transparent to many who are watching Arkansas and other states as they attempt to pass laws in order to excuse so-called religious persons who wish to vilify, abuse, or even kill other people. If any "Christian" uses the Bible to harm another or to justify harm to another, then that "Christian" is misusing the Bible. As noted above, "Love does no harm to its neighbor, therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law." The hate and fear emanating from supposedly righteous persons these days is nauseating. It is not remotely Christian. Legislation which claims otherwise would *itself* be a "state action which substantially burdens the exercise of religion" for me and many others.
With regard to Article 2, § 24, of the Arkansas Constitution, which asserts that "[N]o human authority can, in any case or manner 10 whatsoever, control or interfere with the right of conscience” as some supposed justification for HB 1228, this claim ignores the ruling in the Supreme Court case "Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon vs. Smith," 494 U.S. 872 (1990), which decided that the First Amendment does not grant the right to violate the law on supposedly religious grounds, with Justice Scalia declaring "We have never held that an individual's religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting the conduct that the state is free to regulate."
One of the motivations for this legislation is a supposed Christian view of marriage as a sacrament, and opposition to the growing Marriage Equality movement. On the contrary, the vast majority of Christian sects do not teach that marriage is a sacrament at all. One of the largest sects in the state of Arkansas is the Southern Baptist denomination, which teaches that only two sacraments exist, one being baptism, and the other being "the Lord's supper" (the eucharistic meal). Those Christian sects which do teach that marriage is a sacrament invariably refer to this sacrament as "Holy Matrimony." While "Holy Matrimony," or what some might refer to as "sacramental marriage," is indeed a type of marriage, it is by no means the only type. Assertions that "Christian marriage" is between one man and one woman overlook both Biblical history and the history of Christianity. The practice of polygyny among the Old Testament patriarchs is well known. In early mediaeval Ireland, Christian polygamy was legal under Brehon Law, based in part on the practice among the Old Testament patriarchs. To assert, then, that the only form of marriage, or even the only "Christian" form of marriage, consists of a union between one man and one woman is not only dogmatic, but also inconsistent with the Bible itself and with the practices of Christians in the past. I have proposed occasionally that all instances of Holy Matrimony are well within the category of Marriage, but that not all instances of Marriage are within the category of Holy Matrimony. This can be easily demonstrated with a pair of Boolean circles. To express this in the language of Predicate Logic, one would say "for any x, if x is Holy Matrimony, then x is Marriage, and, there is some x such that x is Marriage and x is not Holy Matrimony." To deny this is to be ignorant of history, inconsistent with the Bible, and, frankly, out of touch with reality. No matter how much someone may dislike the idea of same sex marriage, it does exist, and refusing to refer to it as "marriage" betrays ignorance of even sectarian teachings, since, as I have stated, few Christian sects teach that marriage is a sacrament, and those which do have a special name for marriage which in fact distinguishes this "sacramental marriage" from other types, that being "Holy Matrimony."
While I could continue to enlarge this communication with additional Biblical evidence, logical argumentation, historical facts, and the like, I believe that what I have here stated ought to suffice to demonstrate to you that HB 1228 is not Christian, nor American, nor just, and thus ought to be vetoed as licensing acts which are un-Christian, un-American, and unjust.
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