Bible Rules: why does the Louisiana Legislature allow discrimination against gays and lesbians?

By Robert Mann

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Anyone hoping for a sudden surge of progressivism from our hapless lawmakers in Baton Rouge is bound to be disappointed.

After all, these are people who last week embarrassed themselves and Louisiana by refusing to banish creationism – religion in the guise of science – from our classrooms.

When we have legislators who judge an issue like creationism based on personal experience with witch doctors, just how much enlightenment can we expect?

So, it’s clear we should lower our expectations.

Shall we settle for common decency?

There, we shall also be disappointed.

Of course, those legislators taking their marching orders from Gov. Bobby Jindal have thus far refused to extend health care insurance to more than 400,000 of Louisiana’s working poor.

On that issue legislators can, at least, assert that they’re concerned about cost.  Jindal and others claim that expanding Medicaid will cost hundreds of millions in additional expenditures over the next ten years, although the governor’s own Department of Health and Hospitals has suggested otherwise.

But at least the cost is debatable and, therefore, opposition to the program is marginally defensible.

Not so with workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

On Wednesday, a House committee rejected a bill by Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans) that would have banned state officials from discriminating against gay and transgender employees.

House Bill 85 said simply,

It shall be unlawful discrimination in employment for any state employer to subject employees to different standards of treatment or otherwise discriminate in employment on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.  Employment shall include recruitment, opportunity for employment, hiring, firing, a disciplinary action of any kind, promotion, tenure, compensation paid, and any other term, condition, privilege, or status of an individual’s employment.

The bill would have allowed state civil service employees to appeal their firing or mistreatment to the State Civil Service.

In other words, it is now unlawful for the state to discriminate against employees based upon age, race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. To that list, should Badon’s bill become law, would be added sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Of course, so-called religious groups, including the Louisiana Family Forum, were out in force, testifying against the bill.

According to the Baton Rouge Advocate,

Opponents said the measure would advance a sexual politics agenda and would give special protections to people who choose a lifestyle that violates biblical teachings. They said existing laws provide adequate protection for state workers.

The proposal “does not remedy an existing problem, and it opens the gate for potential contentious and expensive litigation,” said Rev. Dale Hoffpauir, a Lafayette church pastor and chief operating officer of the conservative Louisiana Family Forum.

Hoffpauir said people can’t choose their race or gender, but can leave the “gay lifestyle.”

In his testimony, Hoffpauir cited an example of a gay African-American “friend” whom he counseled about leaving the gay “lifestyle.” This friend, he claimed, is now happily married to a woman. “He left one lifestyle,” Hoffpauir said, “and he is still an African American.”

In other words, you can’t choose your race, but you can choose your sexual orientation. (Listen to this heartrending story, and then tell me that gay children choose their sexual orientation.)

To Hoffpauir, the Badon bill is nothing more than “a political agenda in search of a problem” that “advance[s] an agenda of sexual politics.”

This is the same Hoffpauir who, along with dozens of other Louisiana pastors, signed an open letter to Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden asserting their strong objection to discrimination.

Prejudice is wrong. God hates it, we hate it, and it must be eradicated from our minds and lives. We are in total agreement that those who are born with certain inherent distinctions (race, gender, handicap) are Divinely protected in Scripture. We are told to respect and honor them as they are created in the image of God. Our difficulty, Mayor and Council Members, is jumping from those innate characteristics given to us by God to behavior God marks in Scripture as one way of falling short of God’s design for human sexuality.

The letter cites several scriptures, mostly from the New Testament, that appear to condemn homosexuality and one which also denounces, among others, the “effeminate,” “drunkards,” and “revilers.”  (That last one, I think, would include bloggers and Old Testament prophets.)

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Look, in America, if you want to be a jerk and hate old people, minorities, the handicapped and gay men and women, that’s your right.  I won’t admire you for it, but I respect your right to be a rotten person.

But here’s the deal, and it’s really as simple as this: it’s disgraceful — and should be illegal — to hire and fire people based on their age, race, sexuality, gender, religion, or country of origin.

In all but one of these categories, Gov. Bobby Jindal and legislators agree.

But bullied by intolerant people who masquerade as followers of Christ, our leaders still allow discrimination against gays and lesbians. Jindal has also refused to renew an executive order prohibiting discrimination against gay state workers, which Gov. Kathleen Blanco signed in 2004.

Of course, the Bible thumpers protest that the Bible condemns homosexuality. We’re merely applying “God’s law,” they protest, which trumps everything else.

There is, however, an enormous problem with this reasoning.

If you wish to use a wooden, literal reading of the Bible to inform or guide the creation of public policy, how do you remain intellectually honest and stop with the Bible’s condemnations of homosexuality.

Why is it that the very people who cite the Bible’s injunctions against homosexuals are so selective in their reading of the rest of the scriptures? If you believe God is talking to policy makers via 1 Cor. 6: 9, then isn’t he talking in the rest of the Bible, too?

If you maintain the Bible is the literal word of God — and use that reasoning to influence public policy — then you must not be allowed to choose which verses to follow or which ones you bring to the public square. (Why is it that, when debating welfare or tax policy, these same people so rarely invoke scriptures that command compassion for the poor?)

By a literal reading of the Bible, God seems to have some issues with more than simply homosexuals.

Let’s keep our women quiet and out of sight.

I permit no woman to teach or have authority over men; she is to keep silent.  Timothy 2:11

Let’s outlaw divorce.

Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Luke 16:18

The death penalty for extramarital sex (only for women, of course).

If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you. Deuteronomy 22:20-21

The death penalty must be imposed on those who curse their parents.

For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.  Leviticus 20:9

No more mercy for petty criminals.

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched.  Mark 9:43

If your brother dies, you must marry his wife.

Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man’s brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.  Mark 12:19

Stand your ground laws must be repealed.

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. Matthew 5:39

You must never challenge a lawsuit filed against you.

And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. Matthew 5:40

In fact, it should be illegal to file a lawsuit.

When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. 1 Corinthians 6:1-20 

Women should be banned from wearing jewelry.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4

I could go on. There are many difficult verses in the Bible. Just spend an hour reading Leviticus.

But if you are a Bible literalist and you thump your Bible before a legislative committee in support of discrimination against gays, how is it that you get to single out only gays for condemnation?

Why shouldn’t it be permissible for Louisiana government to discriminate against adulterers or women who speak in public?

Common sense and intellectual integrity would seem to dictate that any Bible literalist worth his salt wouldn’t pick and choose among people who are deserving of his or her condemnation.

This, however, begs the question: Should lawmakers rely on questionable interpretations of obscure Bible passages when making public policy?

If someone sat before a legislative committee today, citing Bible verses in support of slavery, he would be tossed out and condemned as an ignorant, hateful bigot. The same would happen to anyone suggesting that government ban women from speaking in public.

So, exactly why aren’t the Bible thumping, anti-gay folks at the Louisiana Family Forum tossed out of the Capitol the same manner?

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2 thoughts on “Bible Rules: why does the Louisiana Legislature allow discrimination against gays and lesbians?

  1. If you watched the snickering by legislators (which was even more disgraceful) when the LBGT community was testifying you would understand it’s because little hateful boys and classless cowards run this state and they still think it’s cool to make fun of gay people. They have the maturity level of 6 year olds and the mental capacity of boiled peanuts.

    I never thought I would see the day when people who belive in voodoo and witchdoctors would align themselves with fundamentalist Christian’s and no one would blink an eye.

  2. For years I’ve asked why it is permissible to single out one Bible verse on which to make public policy, and ignore all those verses you referenced. The only answer I have come up with is that it’s a convenient but lazy way to try to buttress their bigotry. I like Crazycrawfish’s answer better though.

    What a coincidence that I am reading your post this morning. Just minutes ago, I finished an email exchange with my former minister in which he commented on Christian counselors being “dangerously lightweight” in their training. I used the term “Bible-thumping” in my response to him, and told him how repellent some so-called Christians are.

    Based on my admittedly inadequate Biblical knowledge, I think Jesus expressed concern for the poor and the marginalized more than any other group. If we are hellbent on having a theocracy, it seems legislators should focus their attention similarly. I won’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

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