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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Is God on the side of those attempting to repeal Fayetteville Ordinance 5703?

I don't normally get so provincial with my posts, but I felt that the current situation in my hometown (Fayetteville, Arkansas) demanded some commentary. In August of this year, the city council passed an ordinance designed to protect the civil rights of its citizens who happen to belong to the LGBTQ community. Some "concerned" local citizens who were infuriated by the council's audacity in trying to protect these people gathered signatures and succeeded in having the issue placed before the public as a referendum (Isn't it nice that we can be so democratic about deciding whose civil rights are protected and whose are not). Anyway, I was driving home the other day and noticed several churches with signs supporting repeal in front of their meeting places. Although I can't say that I was surprised, it is still disappointing to see so many "Christians" supporting such intolerance and bigotry.

According to the City of Fayetteville's website (http://www.accessfayetteville.org), the ordinance is described in the following terms: "An ordinance to amend the Fayetteville Code by enacting Chapter 119 Civil Rights Administration to protect the civil rights of Fayetteville citizens and visitors and to create the position of Civil Rights Administrator for the City of Fayetteville." The objectionable portion of the ordinance seems to be its inclusion of gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation among the more traditionally accepted categories for protection like race, ethnicity, age, gender, etc.

The Family Council (https://familycouncil.org/?p=10715) listed its reasons for supporting the ordinance's repeal as: 1. The ordinance affects churches (by not allowing churches to discriminate against these people in their hiring for "secular" positions), 2. The ordinance inadvertently allows men to use women’s restrooms, locker rooms, and changing areas, 3. The ordinance affects private schools (by not specifically exempting them from its provisions), and 4. The ordinance will affect religious business owners (by not allowing them to discriminate against serving members of the LGBTQ community). The actual language of Chapter 119 spells out seven types of employment discrimination that are prohibited. Likewise, it prohibits twelve kinds of housing/real estate discrimination. Finally, the language prohibits businesses from discriminating against anyone in providing goods, services, facilities, privileges and accommodations to any of the protected groups.

It is interesting to note that there is no language within the ordinance that provides for any special accommodations relative to public restrooms, locker rooms and changing areas. In fact, the following exception is spelled out in the provisions of the ordinance: "Designating a facility as a gender-segregated space shall not be a violation of this chapter. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as allowing any person to enter any gender-segregated space for any unlawful purpose." Likewise, a specific exemption is carved out for religious organizations: "Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to require any religious or denominational institution or association to open its tax exempt property or place of worship to any individual or group for any ceremony or meeting, except any activity or service that is supported in whole or part by public funds." Finally, any complaint filed under the ordinance is left to the Civil Rights Administrator's discretion to investigate and refer to the City Prosecutor's Office for enforcement. In other words, just because someone files a complaint under the provisions of the ordinance doesn't mean that his/her complaint will necessarily result in any action against anybody. I'll leave it to my readers to judge whether or not anyone has lied or misrepresented the truth about what the ordinance does or doesn't do.

Whatever the personal religious beliefs of my Christian friends, it seems to me that everyone should be able to agree that the exclusion and mistreatment of anyone is not consistent with the Spirit of Christ. During his earthly ministry, Jesus did not exclude, abuse or mistreat anyone (even those whom many considered to be among the worst of sinners). However, I do seem to recall that he was not afraid to make some self-righteous, hypocritical Pharisees and Sadducees uncomfortable about some of their statements and actions. In that same spirit, I would urge my Christian friends who are supportive of the repeal of this ordinance not to get too comfortable in your bigotry. You may have the numbers on your side, but I'm pretty sure you don't have the Lord on your bandwagon!

2 comments:

  1. In private e-mail correspondence with me, Cathy commented (reprinted here with her permission):
    "It's very sad to me that people who identify themselves as Christians use lies to try to influence how people will vote on this. I see this on Facebook all the time, too. Lies about Obama. Lies about Muslims. Lies about anyone they want to lie about, really. I wouldn't care so much if I thought, "Well, they'll have to live with their lies -- and then deal with it when it's time for them to be judged. I don't need to do that." But their lies influence so many others. And some of those others actually engage in violence against the people about whom they've been lied to. Like the guy who rammed his car into a Muslim kid in Missouri just last week. The driver believed the lies that have been told about Muslims. No one should live in fear of violence -- including anyone in the LGBT community. These are our friends, our loved ones, our family members, and our brothers and sisters in Christ."

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  2. Very saddened by the vote tonight in Fayetteville: 7,523 for repeal and 7,040 for keeping the ordinance (http://www.nwahomepage.com/fulltext-news/d/story/fayetteville-votes-to-repeal-ordinance-119/37842/iB-Uzxufm0qsELGcX_tUOw)
    Lies, intolerance, fear and bigotry won one tonight! Nevertheless, I am consoled by the fact that God and time are not on the side of the people who voted for repeal.

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