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The Right Wing's Last Ditch Strategy

We’ve come to the place where the radical right-wing intelligencia know that the old arguments against LGBT people won’t work. And so they’re at the end of their rope.

    The psychological debate was settled a half of a century ago. True professionals in the psychological and counseling communities, as a result, embrace the professionally ethical requirement to affirm LGBT people as equal to anyone else. And, finally, that is catching on popularly to debunk the whole lucrative brain-wash-the-gay-away industry.

    Meanwhile, many people are tired of the constant drumbeat of picking on LGBT people, and the polls are swinging against discrimination on all the issues. It’s a shrinking but loud minority that continues to push anti-gay propaganda.

    And the old religious arguments using the Bible, tradition, and whatever other religious excuses have been recited to support discrimination, have been thoroughly answered for decades by scholars and clergy of numerous denominations. Even within many right-wing churches, younger generations are just over it.

    The religious right wing and the religious leaders who’ve made a killing off of being anti-LGBT are losing their privileged positions as the broader culture increasingly considers their view as merely one of the regressive religious options that exist along with more progressive religious and non-religious choices.

    They know they’ve failed to keep marginalizing LGBT people, which is a testimony to their waning strength. They feel their growing weakness. The religious right wing still, however, also fantasizes that they represent some kind of American State Church, and thus they continue to dismiss claims for the separation of religious institutions and the government as if being their brand of sectarian Christian was the founders’ intention.

    With all of this happening, what’s left for these skittish people who fear they’re on the verge of finally losing the culture war they started? Even more, how are economic and fiscal political conservatives going to distract the usual gullible right-wing religious masses they’ve counted upon for votes from noticing that the real strategy is wealth distribution from those very masses to the uber-rich?

    How can Republican politicians keep the rank-and-file religious right-wing in their camp, voting against their own economic interests because they’re distracted by the claim that they are the real victims in the culture wars? And how can the religious right-wing’s own leaders keep their followers in a state of agitation and apocalyptic fear so the faithful will continue to cling to them and contribute to their personal fortunes?

    The answer now being repeated almost verbatim at all governmental levels is to reaffirm that the right-wing is being victimized. Their religious beliefs are threatened by people who don’t agree with their bigotry. They are being persecuted by some vicious, terrorizing boogey man called “the Left.”

    “I think you’ve had a rise in hostility towards religion, and towards religious people in the public square,” advised Brian Walsh, executive director of the American Religious Freedom Program, which helps write religious freedom bills, for example. “It’s become increasingly acceptable to be negative towards religious people. It’s okay now to speak in a very negative way, especially if you can label them as haters.”

    These sectarian Christians have shown no such outrage over their own vicious characterizations of LGBT people, or the fact that they’ve resulted in loss, torture, and death. But now, oh yes, they’re outraged over their freedom to bake wedding cakes for or take wedding photographs of whomever they choose.

    This victim strategy comes down from national right-wing think-tanks. So we shouldn’t be surprised if the bills submitted by various right-wing state legislators around the country look the same. We shouldn’t be surprised when people actually read talking-points they’ve gotten from the right-wing’s websites and e-mails.

    The most publicized version was that Arizona bill allowing businesses to deny service to LGBT customers on the grounds of religious freedom. Kansas, Georgia, South Dakota, Utah, Tennessee, Idaho, and Mississippi soon followed. Other states such as Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Missouri had similar bills introduced.

    Religious organizations in Oregon, including the Oregon Family Council, began attempts to get the “Protect Religious Freedoms Initiative” on the state ballot in November. Expect more to follow.

    These attempts are likely to fail constitutional tests by five to four decisions in the Supreme Court. They’re even more likely to fail the business test, as was the case with the Arizona bill.

    Corporate America doesn’t want to alienate customers and fears driving away young talent. Profit-making, therefore, is most likely to be the greatest deterrent preventing the religious right-wing from legally rolling back LGBT rights movements’ progress.

    Another thoroughly Capitalist response is the boycotting of businesses that discriminate. Just as right-wingers feel that they have the right to deny service, so do customers have the right to stay away, write negative reviews, and warn their friends.

    Even though these copycat laws are likely to be little more than flashes in the pan, even though they are offensive, they’re most meant to stir up the religious right-wing base to support Republican candidates. They also give right-wing business owners a chance to feel oh so righteous and as if they have fired their own cannon in the culture wars.
 

   What we’re more likely to experience is that this strategy of claiming that anyone who speaks for equal rights is discriminating against regressive right-wing religious beliefs will be what we expect to be the go-to argument. We’ll hear it over and over.

    We can counter it with claims that it’s the same argument used into the 20th century to deny the rights of people of color. We can counter by calling religious bigotry what it is, sectarian religious bigotry.

    We can continue to tell personal stories that contradict the desire for discrimination. And we can stand our own ground – telling people that their desire to discriminate also discriminates against all those progressive religious institutions and denominations that believe it is their sacred duty to affirm, accept, and celebrate LGBT people, which means celebrating their loves and marriages.

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Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas, is author of When Religion Is an Addiction; Scared Straight; and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society. Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org.

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