Thursday, December 26, 2013

Holy Chocolate Starfish, Batman!

Five reasons why the "I'm sorry, but I have to do this because my religion says homosexuality is a sin" argument holds no weight with me: 

1.)  A subset of Christians in America use their devout religious beliefs as justification for marrying underage girls against their will, raping and siring children on them.  They further use that religious belief to justify marrying multiple women, keeping them uneducated and highly dependent on the males in the society.  It is their fervent religious belief that this is not only okay, it is actually what God calls on them to do.  See: Religious polygamy in America.  There's a heart-wrenching book about it.

2.)  Certain subsets of Muslims in different countries use religious belief as justification to prosecute, imprison and even execute (whether legally and formally or illegally and informally) women who have been raped, maintaining that the rape victims have committed adultery or that they are now "black virgins".  Families and communities who stand up for the rights of these women often become victims of violence themselves.  See: Honor killings.  There's even--again--a great book about it, probably more than one.

3.)  Certain subsets of Muslims use religious belief as justification for keeping women from getting an education, having a career, or even simply getting a driver's license.  Many of these religious subsets also refuse to allow women to bare more skin in public than what shows around their eyes.  They devoutly believe this is the right thing to do.  See: The recent controversy over women fighting for the right to drive in Saudi Arabia.  See also: Malala Yousafsai, the target of attempted assassination by religious extremists for fighting for the right of girls to receive an education.  These are simply two examples of a widely pervasive problem.

4.)  Religious (and/or cultural) belief in certain parts of Africa (and in many Africans who have immigrated to different countries, including America and England), demands that young women be castrated and have their genitals permanently mutilated in the name of proper femininity, leaving them permanently scarred, incapable of experiencing sexual pleasure, and in many cases leaving them with lifelong, sometimes debilitating health consequences, or even death by infection.  Many of these women find sex to be so humiliating, such a violation and so physically unpleasant (Read: painful) that they engage in it only a few times in their lives in order to produce children, and their husbands often keep mistresses who don't have such physical limitations.  This practice continues despite having been illegal in most places for something like twenty years.  See: Google.  It'll take about 0.2 seconds to find a wealth of information on female genital mutilation.

5.)  Religious belief in certain sects of orthodox Judaism demands that when a newborn boy has been circumcised, the man performing the circumcision must use his mouth to cleanse the wound.  This ancient practice has led to the contraction of herpes in an infant at least three times in the past couple years alone in America, and to at least one death from the illness.  See:  Google again.  Probably a combination of the words orthodox Judaism, circumcision and herpes will get you where you need to go.  (I personally don't believe in circumcising male infants at all.  I think if a person's anatomy is going to be permanently altered for no medical benefit whatsoever, the person should be old enough to make the decision himself, though I also know male circumcision has become absolutely routine in America over the last one hundred years, more as a cultural thing than a religious one, for a variety of "reasons" you'd probably be surprised to learn.  You can Google that too.) 

These are but a few examples of the violation of human rights in the name of religious belief.  The people who engage in these practices believe, devoutly, that this is the right thing for them to do. 

These things, things like the risk of passing on a deadly virus during the commission of an unsanitary medical procedure on an infant (not the circumcision itself, but the use of the human mouth as a cleanser for the blood afterwards), are why human rights should always trump religious rights. 

Yes, people have the right to believe, and they have the right to practice religion in their personal lives.  That right, however, should never allow them to infringe on the rights on another human being. 

I purposefully left off all worldwide violations of the rights of homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender individuals in the name of religion, wanting to keep the list simple and easy to understand by alluding to multiple kinds of human rights violations.  "Well," you say, "What I do is nothing like that.  I just state my opinion and stick to my beliefs.  No one is hurt, and I'm not violating anyone's rights." 

The problem is that a lot of people aren't just voicing a belief.  They're using that belief to actively discriminate against other human beings, even in this country, even when they think what they're isn't discrimination, just an exercise in religious beliefs.  They use religion as an excuse to refuse to sell products or services to homosexuals and to transgender men and women.  They use religion as an excuse to fire those men and women from their jobs.  They use religion as an excuse to refuse death benefits to the surviving partners of same sex couples after one of them has died.  They use religion as an excuse to bully children and teenagers, to keep them from attending certain schools, from using certain bathrooms or even from wearing certain types of clothing or from going by names that are different from what is listed on their birth certificates.  They use religion as an excuse to keep people from getting married.  They use religion as an excuse to keep homosexuals from visiting family members in the hospital, or to keep them from obtaining legal rights to their children, or to keep them from adopting children, or to keep them from providing vital health and life insurances for their families.  They use religion as an excuse to deny fertility services, such as artificial insemination, egg donation and surrogate pregnancy services to gay and transgender individuals, couples and families.  They use religion as an excuse to protest and to hold picket lines at the funerals of LGBT citizens, or even at the funerals of members of the military who are not gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender themselves, bringing additional pain to already grieving families.  They use religion as an excuse to send LGBT youth to schools for "ex-gay" therapy, schools in which they are emotionally, psychologically and even physically abused, schools from which it takes them years to recover, if they ever do.  They use religion as an excuse to disown children, to push them out onto the streets.  They use religion as an excuse to exclude LGBT individuals from public events.  They use religion as an excuse to publicly heap verbal abuse on men and women who have behaved in no way inappropriately except to dare to be themselves or to be a family in public.  In extreme situations, they use religion as an excuse to commit hate crimes--to murder, rape or physically assault members of the LGBT community simply for being LGBT.  They donate their money to American religious organizations who "fight for traditional marriage", and these organizations are largely responsible for using that money to influence the governments of countries like Uganda, whose recent human rights violations include enacting lifetime prison sentences for same sex sexual activity, and prison time for anyone daring to found or participate in LGBT rights organizations. 

I'm sure I can think of more, but I've already made myself sick with just this short list of atrocities committed in the name of faith. 

Your religious belief does not give you the right to deny civil rights to another person.  You should not choose to use Christianity or Islam or Judaism or Hinduism or any other religion as justification for denying rights to LGBT individuals, or to women, or to any other human being, living or dead. 

Here's a legal news flash for business owners:  In many states (and soon, I believe, in ALL states, due to impending new federal laws, though I could be mistaken on this), you cannot refuse to sell your products to gays anymore than you can refuse to sell your products to blacks or Muslims.  You own a public business, and therefore you have to abide by civil laws.  Religion is for your personal life, not your professional one. 

Keep some perspective. 

If you wouldn't use religion as justification for executing a victim of rape, why would you use it as justification in discriminating against a gay person? 

The same thing goes for those business owners using religion to deny certain health coverage to their employees on the basis of religious birth control.  If you don't believe in birth control, don't use it.  Believing that it's wrong doesn't give you the right to inflict that belief on someone else.  For a woman whom you pay $7.25 an hour to work thirty-nine hours a week, birth control may be exactly what she needs to keep herself from having more children than she can afford to raise, and at that rate she clearly doesn't make enough to afford it without the aid of medical insurance.  Personally, I believe contributing to the birth of children who will go hungry, under-clothed and without proper healthcare is a much bigger religious violation than contributing to the use of preventive care to keep this from happening.  Schools should keep that in mind when they refuse to teach anything other than abstinence in their "sex education" courses. 

Catholic hospitals:  You absolutely do not have the right to refuse to inform a woman that she is in need of a lifesaving medical procedure after her water breaks eighteen weeks into her pregnancy.  Termination of pregnancy in this case is not an elective procedure, and facing the reality of her unborn child's probable death after such an occurrence is traumatic enough without the possibility of her own death hanging over her as well if she doesn't get the treatment her condition requires.  In many places in America, Catholic hospitals are the only hospitals in the area.  People don't have the luxury of choosing to go elsewhere, and therefore you shouldn't have the luxury of choosing to refuse them the care that they need.

Politicians:  You serve the people of the United State of America.  We do not serve you.  As public servants, you agreed to uphold the Constitution, a Constitution which guarantees equal rights and protections to all citizens.  This country was founded on ideals of keeping religion and law separate from one another, and therefore your religious beliefs have no place in your politics.  Do your job and support equal rights.  Otherwise, you are not  a proper servant of this country, and you should be immediately stripped of your position and relieved of your governmental responsibilities and privileges.

I, too, am a public servant.  I am a 9-1-1 operator.  If I take an emergency call from a person whom I believe serving is against my religious beliefs--for instance, if a woman is suffering medical complications from an abortion, and if I believe abortion is a sin--I still cannot refuse that person service.  If I do, I can be fired, sued and potentially even criminally prosecuted if they suffer illness, injury or death due to my negligence.  I can believe all day long that it is against my religious beliefs to provide a specific person an ambulance or to provide lifesaving instructions over the phone line prior to the arrival of that ambulance, but if I refuse to offer any of those services, I am breaking the law, and I am engaging in discrimination.      

Religion is personal. 

Human rights are global, or at least they should be. 

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