Terrorism is an over-used word. I admit to using it myself to get the reader’s attention. Terrorism is defined as violent action for a political purpose. The horrific events of 9/11 were acts of terrorism, as was the bombing of our embassies. By definition ISIS is not a terrorist group. ISIS is a group of extremists who exist in a cult-like environment. They cannot be labeled ‘Islamic terrorists,’ because they do not represent Muslim people, nor the precepts of Islam. Their number is estimated at only 20,000. Christians have attacked the rights of women and the LGBT community for decades, but it is unfair for me to call them terrorists. They could be called bigoted or misguided in their attempts to demean the choices and lifestyles of other free Americans, but very few resort to violence. Today there are signs that prejudice towards the LGBT community is on the decline; the rights of women to decide what happens to their own bodies is not. Religious belief, not human rights is the reason for the ‘pro-life’ movement.
While most Christians are leaning towards acceptance of their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, the extreme right wing has not. The religious right has gained political stature with a war chest of hundreds of millions of dollars allowing it to lobby conservatives to support its extremist views. Pat Robertson once called homosexuality a ‘sickness which must be treated.’ He is so far from reality that he also said that ‘many of those who supported Adolf Hitler were Satanists and homosexuals; they seem to go together.’
Although more religious organizations are accepting the reality that the LGBT community has been recognized and deserves the same protections under the law, the religious right does not. They continue to seek ‘faith-based’ legislation from our government. Pat Robertson received 1.5 million dollars while George W. Bush was in office.
The religious right continues efforts to have Christianity declared the official religion of the United States, an issue which was adamantly opposed by our founding fathers. Although the words ‘separation of church and state’ do not exist in the Constitution, forcing one religion upon the American people is explicitly forbidden.
Religions receive many benefits, most of which should be removed at this time. They are tax exempt. They received that status with the agreement that they would not be involved in our political system. They’re not only involved, they have lobbyists in Washington. They acquire hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and are not required to contribute their fair share in the form of taxes.
Religions are allowed to discriminate during their process of employment. They are exempt from the requirement of most businesses to hire the most qualified candidate; race, sex, and religious orientation are all considerations religions are allowed to make before they hire any individual.
One of the biggest efforts by the religious right is involved with our school system. It condemns our public schools who protect the rights of LGBT children. They support private schools funded by vouchers, tuition tax credits, and other forms of taxpayer funding; but they impose heavy restrictions regarding which children they will accept. According to the Department of Education, 76 percent of private schools are religion based.
I was raised to respect all religions. The right to religious freedom was a belief strongly held by my family. Religious extremism has taken away another aspect of what once made our nation the greatest in the world.
Commentary by James Turnage