This is just plain Goofy. After Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s veto on Monday of a bill that would have encouraged individuals and businesses to use religion as cover to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, a Dopey religious-right group in Texas is warning that Disney could soon ban Christian crosses from its theme parks. Here’s an excerpt from the Grumpy statement issued by Texas Values:
“It’s clear that corporate giants like Apple, Disney, NCAA, Intel have finally come out of the closet and declared public war on the religious freedom of clergy and religious schools… Will Disney now ban you from wearing a cross outside your shirt at their parks. Will a Catholic priest be forced to remove his white collar when he takes a picture with Mickey Mouse? This is how extreme the attacks now are on religious freedom, it’s a zero tolerance policy for religious freedom.”
Good grief. That kind of hyperbolic nonsense makes us wonder whether Cruella de Vil or Dumbo is running Texas Values now. (OK, we’ll stop.)
Texas Values is an affiliate of Focus on the Family and brags on its website about being “recognized” by the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as an anti-LGBT hate group. Last year Texas Values helped lead the effort to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance because that measure included protections against discrimination in employment, housing and public services for LGBT folks.
So it’s not surprising that the group went on this silly rant after Gov. Deal’s veto. In its statement, Texas Values complains — petulantly — about businesses that had warned enactment of the bill would spark a backlash severely harming Georgia’s reputation and economy. The group also argues — falsely — that the veto means “religious freedom protections on marriage” for clergy are somehow endangered. And, of course, it suggests — ridiculously — that business objecting to the bill would now discriminate against religious people.
But discrimination bills like the one vetoed in Georgia have sparked severe backlashes from business and others in states like Indiana, Arkansas and now North Carolina. Moreover, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution already protects clergy from having to perform, preside over or celebrate marriages that violate their religious beliefs. And the Constitution and civil rights laws protect against religious discrimination.
What’s really going on here is an effort by extremists to radically redefine religious freedom to mean something it never has and never should: the right to use religion as a weapon to discriminate against and harm others, to ignore laws one simply doesn’t like, and to impose one’s religious beliefs on those who don’t share them. Georgia’s Gov. Deal, a Republican, firmly refused to support that cynical effort.
Efforts in Texas to pass similar legislation failed in 2015. But religious-right pressure groups and politicians like Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton have already made clear that they want to try again when the Legislature returns to Austin next year.