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Hullabaloo


Thursday, February 27, 2014

 
Using religious "liberty" as an excuse to hate on others is as American as apple pie

by digby

Over the years I've posted about the direct through line from racism to anti-abortion zealotry, using the manipulation of religion, particularly the Southern evangelical churches, to get the job done. Today, they are pushing a "religious liberty" strategy to roll back abortion rights and allow discrimination against gay people.
Here, Ian Millhiser goes back to the Jim Crow era to show how religious "liberty" was used as an excuse for racism in the first place:
[W]hile LGBT Americans are the current target of this effort to repackage prejudice as “religious liberty,” they are hardly the first. To the contrary, as Wake Forest law Professor Michael Kent Curtis explained in a 2012 law review article, many segregationists justified racial bigotry on the very same grounds that religious conservatives now hope to justify anti-gay animus. In the words of one professor at a prominent Mississippi Baptist institution, “our Southern segregation way is the Christian way . . . . [God] was the original segregationist.”

Theodore Bilbo was one of Mississippi’s great demagogues. After two non-consecutive terms as governor, Bilbo won a U.S. Senate seat campaigning against “farmer murderers, corrupters of Southern womanhood, [skunks] who steal Gideon Bibles from hotel rooms” and a host of other, equally colorful foes. In a year where just 47 Mississippi voters cast a ballot for a communist candidate, Bilbo railed against a looming communist takeover of the state — and offered himself up as the solution to this red onslaught.
Bilbo was also a virulent racist. “I call on every red-blooded white man to use any means to keep the n[*]ggers away from the polls,” Bilbo proclaimed during his successful reelection campaign in 1946. He was a proud member of the Ku Klux Klan, telling Meet the Press that same year that “[n]o man can leave the Klan. He takes an oath not to do that. Once a Ku Klux, always a Ku Klux.” During a filibuster of an anti-lynching bill, Bilbo claimed that the bill:

... will open the floodgates of hell in the South. Raping, mobbing, lynching, race riots, and crime will be increased a thousandfold; and upon your garments and the garments of those who are responsible for the passage of the measure will be the blood of the raped and outraged daughters of Dixie, as well as the blood of the perpetrators of these crimes that the red-blooded Anglo-Saxon White Southern men will not tolerate.

For Senator Bilbo, however, racism was more that just an ideology, it was a sincerely held religious belief. In a book entitled Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization, Bilbo wrote that “[p]urity of race is a gift of God . . . . And God, in his infinite wisdom, has so ordained it that when man destroys his racial purity, it can never be redeemed.” Allowing “the blood of the races [to] mix,” according to Bilbo, was a direct attack on the “Divine plan of God.” There “is every reason to believe that miscengenation and amalgamation are sins of man in direct defiance to the will of God.”
There were many more like him, including the infamous Bob Jones.

Bigots have used their religious "freedom" as an excuse to discriminate and force their beliefs on others forever. One of the great advances of the American system, screwed up as it is, was the idea that the government would stay hands off of religious disputes. (500 years of bloody religious wars will do that to you.) The idea that the government should allow a particular church's dogma to be used as an excuse to violate civil rights is a violation of that concept and can only lead to the very kind of trouble the Enlightenment thinkers who founded this country (and decent people ever since then) were getting away from.

Milhiser's whole piece is well worth reading if you have the time. One thing you cannot say is that this nefarious use of "religious liberty" is UnAmerican. Shamefully, it's been as American as apple pie.

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