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Rep. Julio Gonzalez Doubles Down On ‘Religious Freedom Bill’

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Rep. Julio Gonzalez Doubles Down On ‘Religious Freedom Bill’

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So maybe experience is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I mean, if experience were really the teacher the axiom claims, the state of Florida would not be threatening to lumber down the same thorny path from which Indiana and Arkansas so recently retreated in humiliation. Both those states, you will recall, attempted to impose so-called “religious freedom” laws earlier this year that would have allowed businesses to refuse services to gay men and lesbians.

These attempts to dust off Jim Crow were beaten back when businesses condemned the laws and conventions started looking for new places to convene. But apparently, Florida was not paying attention. Or at least, state Rep. Julio Gonzalez wasn’t.

Last week, Gonzalez filed a so-called religious freedom protection bill that would allow any health care provider to refuse services, except in emergency cases, to any person who violated the provider’s moral or religious conscience. The bill doesn’t mention sexual orientation, but is clearly aimed at gay people. On the other hand, given how broadly one may define moral or religious conscience, it would also include women seeking contraception.

And there’s more. The bill empowers adoption agencies to refuse to place children in homes contrary to the agency’s religious convictions. Again, given how broadly that term may be defined, that could include the home of two lesbians, but it might also include a Muslim home, an atheist home, or even a home whose definition of Christianity does not jibe with the agency’s. Finally, the bill also allows individuals and small companies to refuse service on the same grounds.

“This is not about discriminating,” Gonzalez told the Herald-Tribune newspaper in Sarasota. But it is about exactly that.

Given what happened in Arkansas and Indiana and that Florida is a tourist-dependent state, it is hard to imagine this bill ever becoming law. But its very existence suggests the lengths to which the forces of recalcitrance and resistance are willing to go to carve out some kind of official exemption for their bigotry.

They always define that exemption as an article of faith, as if ostracism were some core tenet of the gospel of Christ. But it isn’t. Indeed, Jesus was famously inclusive, openly consorting with prostitutes, paralytics, lepers, tax collectors, women and other second-class citizens of the 1st century.

Moreover, it is telling how narrowly some of us define that which offends religious conscience. Consider: We live in a country that throws away 70 billion pounds of food a year, while 14 percent of us don’t know where our next meal is coming from. The Washington Post recently reported that toddlers with guns kill or injure themselves or others roughly once a week on average. Yet if things like that trouble anyone’s religious sensibilities, their cries have yet to reach my ears.

But let someone order a cake with two men on top and suddenly the moral klaxons are blaring.

You know what affronts my moral conscience? This habit of using God as a cudgel against his most vulnerable people. You have to wonder how many of those who could use the solace faith brings have instead been driven away from faith, made irredeemably hostile toward it, by small-minded people who exclude them in the name of God.

I remember chatting once with some gay men who seemed attracted to the promise of faith, but were repelled by the expression of it they had seen in churches, where they were regarded as outcasts and rejects. Sadly, I was never able to convince them that that humiliating treatment was not the sum and totality of faith. Now, here comes Julio Gonzalez, eager to give that kind of mistreatment the imprimatur of law.

He sees it as a matter of conscience. Really, it’s about the massive failure thereof.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.) (c) 2015 THE MIAMI HERALD DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

File photo: American Life League via Flickr

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Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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47 Comments

  1. Dominick Vila October 28, 2015

    What is even worse than claiming religious persecution in the most religious country outside the Islamic world, is to see an opportunistic politician propose legislation designed to deny services to people who do not share the values of a service provider….and do it in the name of Jesus Christ!

    Reply
    1. TZToronto October 28, 2015

      Sadly, nothing new here. They keep trying–perhaps trying to get their names in headlines so they become famous or infamous, knowing that many people don’t know the difference.

      Reply
    2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth October 28, 2015

      That’s the real irony. By behaving in this manner in Florida, and as demonstrated in misbehavior by many in police departments, by legislators, political groups, etc. in the USA, shows a flagrant disregard for Jesus and His Message.

      (Muslims who have a similar rigid and fanatical mind-set show a parallel disrespect for Muhammad and His Message).

      “…Let deeds, not words, be your adorning…”

      Reply
  2. Jinmichigan October 28, 2015

    Florida and Texas have a great rivalry going on for the most backward state, don’t they.

    Reply
    1. rome44 October 28, 2015

      It’s called the bible belt for good reason. These southern states have the most backwards people but not everyone OK.

      Reply
  3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth October 28, 2015

    This so-called “Religious Freedom Bill” is just another of innumerable examples of how confused Christians(and the Islamic Regime in Iran, as another example) have become as far as understanding the “Spirit” that gave birth to the Religions of the world and how that applies to being willing to provide help and service to all, regardless of whether others share your personal/group views or not. This applies to showing courtesy even to atheists, agnostics, etc.

    By being courteous and accommodating doesn’t ipso facto mean you have to adopt other people’s behavior and views on how to live.

    The “prince of virtues” is “Courtesy” and those in Florida, Iran, and elsewhere, ignore this universal principle. Therefore, there is a penalty to be paid for such an egregious disregard, in this realm and/or “the world to come”.

    Reply
    1. RED October 28, 2015

      Courtesy becomes “political correctness” to the Cons, which basically translates to “I don’t wanna be courteous to people I don’t like.”

      Reply
  4. Otto Greif October 28, 2015

    This law is needed because liberals want to impose their morality on everyone.

    Reply
    1. RED October 28, 2015

      Right, that’s it, liberals imposing their morality. You know when I see your comments, I don’t even really think about them too much because you’re clearly a child with no friends just trying to get attention. And not a very bright child at that. But that probably explains your desperate need to be noticed by your absolutely moronic childish ideas and behaviors. We’re all very sad that your mommy didn’t love you.

      Reply
      1. Otto Greif October 28, 2015

        Try formulating a relevant comment.

        Reply
        1. RED October 28, 2015

          If you ever come up with a comment that isn’t that childish ramblings of insecure immature ignorant brat then you might get relevant comments. But as long as you remain an attention seeking petulant child you will be treated as such.

          Reply
          1. Otto Greif October 28, 2015

            None of my comments are rambling or childish. Try learning how to read, then try formulating a relevant comment.

            Reply
          2. RED October 28, 2015

            Not surprised, your inability to recognize your ignorance and immaturity is of course due to your ignorance and immaturity. Your comments always show your ignorance and your childish need to draw attention to your insecurities, it’s pretty clear. I don’t really expect your ignorance and childishness to change, clearly you are too damaged and ignorant.

            Reply
          3. Otto Greif October 28, 2015

            You still haven’t made a relevant comment, obviously you can’t.

            Reply
          4. iMan 1952 October 28, 2015

            What could be more relevant than pointing out your an idiot?

            Reply
          5. Insinnergy October 28, 2015

            Your comments are actually poor attempts at trolling. Your pattern is to pick out something key in an article that is also potentially ‘flammable’ then bluntly state the opposite as if it’s fact.

            It’s obvious and just a little sad.

            Reply
          6. Otto Greif October 28, 2015

            I can tell you have a lot of first hand knowledge about psychological problems.

            Reply
          7. RED October 29, 2015

            I have absolutely no doubt that you have first hand knowledge of psychological problems, no doubt!! That’s likely the first honest comment you’ve ever posted.

            Reply
        2. Insinnergy October 28, 2015

          Wow… you can spell formulating? You actually used spellcheck, didn’t you.

          Reply
    2. Wedge Shot October 28, 2015

      Liberals don’t impose their beliefs on anyone. They just want everyone to be included in all of humans activities. All the religious freedom people want to do is find ways to exclude people. To use the name of GOD to do that is about as hypocritical as is possible. Just because someone doesn’t believe in your small mindedness doesn’t give you the right to impose it on others.
      Stop using the religious freedom banner to promote bigotry and try minding your own business and others will mind theirs.

      Reply
      1. Otto Greif October 28, 2015

        Liberals are trying to force religious based organizations to comply with liberal morality in violation of their own consciences. Stop lying about what you are doing.

        Reply
        1. Insinnergy October 28, 2015

          Paid troll.

          Reply
          1. Otto Greif October 28, 2015

            Paranoid.

            Reply
    3. Daniel Jones October 28, 2015

      Otto, I know you love trolling these comment sections, but please, *please* stop trying to defend the indefensible.

      And, for the love of all that’s holy, learn how to spell “GRIEF”!

      Reply
    4. elw October 28, 2015

      You mean someone is trying to force you to be gay, use birth control or have sex outside of marriage?

      Reply
      1. Otto Greif October 28, 2015

        Try reading the article before commenting next time.

        Reply
        1. Insinnergy October 28, 2015

          Pot… Kettle.

          Reply
          1. RED October 29, 2015

            I appreciate your pot/kettle analogy but in the case of Otto both the pot and the kettle are more intelligent than him and better at human society as well. In other words, he’s neither a pot or a kettle but simply a childish moron.

            Reply
        2. elw October 28, 2015

          I read the article, you made a claim that liberal beliefs are being imposed/forced on you (several times). I asked a question about what you were being force to do against your beliefs? You must know if something is being forced on you?

          Reply
          1. Otto Greif October 28, 2015

            If liberals are not trying to impose their morality then this bill won’t change anything.

            Reply
          2. elw October 29, 2015

            That is not an answer to my question, which leads me to believe you do not have one. You bill will never become law, it is unconstitutional. It is no more than an attempt to make it legal for people to discriminate.

            Reply
          3. Otto Greif October 29, 2015

            It’s not unconstitutional.

            Reply
          4. elw October 29, 2015

            Where in the Constitution does it allow businesses to discriminated against others for religious reasons? Give an example of how liberals are imposing their morality on you?

            Reply
          5. Otto Greif October 29, 2015

            The Constitution prohibits government from discriminating. Federal law prohibits businesses from refusing service to certain protected classes, gays are not a protected class. State and local laws vary, in about 30 states it’s legal to refuse service to gays.

            Reply
          6. elw October 29, 2015

            Basically you are saying you can discriminate against gays because they are not a protected class. However, you are wrong, in June of 2013, in the Loving v. Virginia decision, the Supreme Court establishe sexual orientation a full-fledge protected class under the 5th and 14th amendment. That means that no business can deny them service anymore than they can deny a Black, Jewish or Asian person service. But none of that explains how your moral or religious rights are hurt when someone is gay. It will not be long until those State with discriminatory laws on their books will have to take them off, just like they had to remove those that discriminated against Blacks. Especially when it is so clear that you cannot explain how you are hurt by it.

            Reply
          7. Otto Greif October 29, 2015

            In the majority of states it is legal to refuse service to gays, that’s a fact.

            Reply
          8. elw October 30, 2015

            A fact maybe for now, but that is being changed one State at a time via the Courts. It is just a matter of time until those laws no longer exist.

            Reply
          9. Otto Greif October 30, 2015

            It’s not being changed by the courts.

            Reply
    5. Insinnergy October 28, 2015

      Actually I believe that the modern world would like to impose the concept of everyone’s beliefs (religious or otherwise) being both free, and PERSONAL.

      In other words: In properly educated and enlightened societies, people are allowed to personally believe whatever they like as long as they obey the law and don’t hurt others.

      Note: Large parts of the USA do not come under this description.

      Ironically, and as a contrast of your stupidity, allowing people their freedom of belief is both moral and constitutionally protected. Allow a group of those same people to impose their twisted Christian idiocy on other people by law is sad, morally wrong, precisely what you are (incorrectly) attributing to Liberals.

      Take a good long look in the mirror, Troll. Then grab an electron microscope and go hunt your intellect.

      Reply
      1. Otto Greif October 28, 2015

        Christians are not trying to impose their beliefs, they are resisting having liberal beliefs imposed on them.

        Reply
  5. RED October 28, 2015

    It’s way past time to start getting real!!! Hanging on to pathetic myths of iron age peasants is simply ridiculous in a modern world!! It’s frigging shamefully crazy that anyone still clings to these myths but even more heartbreaking and insane that people actually fight and die over this ignorance and use their whacko fairy tales to justify discrimination and hate toward others. These moronic fairy tales have caused far too much damage to our species and our planet, it’s time to end the stupidity!

    Reply
    1. Daniel Jones October 28, 2015

      “Killing in the Name Of”…

      We can’t end stupid, just close off this avenue of its expression.
      So we have to.

      Reply
      1. RED October 29, 2015

        Love some Rage!!

        Reply
  6. Cedar Cat October 28, 2015

    “You know what affronts my moral conscience? This habit of using God as a cudgel against his most vulnerable people. You have to wonder how many of those who could use the solace faith brings have instead been driven away from faith, made irredeemably hostile toward it, by small-minded people who exclude them in the name of God.”

    Reply
    1. Insinnergy October 28, 2015

      Very true. I’m not at all religious, but can spot the obvious cherry-picking that the Republicans/Wealthy/Freedom of Religion wingnuts perform when espousing their own “beliefs”. It’s completely at odds with pretty much everything that Jesus stood for, except careful lines taken out of context.

      I think Bill Maher said it best in his parody of “Supply Side Jesus”:

      https://youtu.be/cE0_JhLsgPQ

      Reply
  7. Robert Cruder October 28, 2015

    When lack of a state-provided license prevents others from providing a free-market alternative then the state is enforcing a monopoly or oligarchy. That is only acceptable when the license is enforcing state standards and licensed parties act as agents of that state.

    If all of them claim a right of conscience to not deliver a good or service then state licensure is enforcing by law a religious rule in violation of both the Establishment clause and the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution. Beyond that, a Seventh-Day Adventist surgeon whose conscience does not allow blood transfusions cannot satisfy the standard of care set by any state medical board.

    Would it be religious prejudice if McDonald’s rejected a franchise whose owner refused to serve breakfast sausage and bacon burgers? Why should sexual choice or reproductive services be any different? Require that applicants offer ALL of the goods or services expected of their business or don’t license them.

    Reply
  8. Miami Runner October 28, 2015

    His IQ must be about 60 which is the same IQ as most of those in the Tea Party. He is one hair away from believing in santa claus.

    Reply

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