Arizona dodged a bullet. Their Governor Jan Brewer thankfully vetoed a very discriminatory law this week. A law that would have made discrimination, based solely on sexual orientation, legal under the premise of religious freedom.
The bill, if signed would have allowed Arizona business owners to refuse service to couples, specifically homosexual couples, if the business owner didn't agree with their "homosexual lifestyle" because of his or her religious beliefs.
The bill did manage to make it through both houses of the State Congress and landed on Brewer's desk. After much deliberation, the governor vetoed. Much speculation is out there as to why she vetoed, from kindness, to financial interest, even to the NFL threatening to pull the Super Bowl.
Regardless of why she did it, she did it. So let's take a moment and celebrate, this is a victory for equality and another fight lost by the Christian Right.
Yet this fight is far from over. Many other states are attempting to pass similar measures, some even harsher than Arizona's. These bills could crumble just the same, or in some of the even more red states, they could pass right through. It is not hard to imagine these Jim Crow 2.0 style laws becoming popular in the Bible Belt states around the U.S. We must be watchful and diligent and ready to act when each of these laws comes before each state.
However, as we celebrate this single victory, and look at the other battles we have to fight in the struggle for LGBT equality, there are more laws, in more states that have passed, that are on the books that undermine the secularism of the U.S.
Sean Faircloth, author of Attack of the Theocrats and former Maine state senator, has frequently discussed these battles that are happening around the country. From troops to women's rights, the religious right has its hooks in a few state and federal laws. Faircloth lays out his 10-point vision of a secular America. All 10 points will not be addressed here, but some of those are:
Our troops suffer from religious discrimination; our federal government has refused to allow atheist or humanist chaplains into our military to care for the needs of our non-believing troops. These troops are willing to put their life on the line for the country, but our government does not feel they have the right to seek comfort in council of someone who understands disbelief. A religious chaplain simply cannot deal with understanding the world as an atheist. This is simply one of many issues facing our service members. Sadly, they face an abundance of more.
Countless states are attacking women's rights to reproductive freedom. From closing down all women's health care facilities that offer abortions, to creating laws that make it impossible for these clinics to operate, and even laws requiring doctors to explain to their patients that they are "killing a baby" or showing them ultrasounds of a beating heart. Laws like this are not scientifically sound and are full of nothing but religious rhetoric. They are meant to confuse women into thinking an abortion is something it is not and fill them with grief in order to control their actions.
And just look at the religious bias's happening in our schools. States like Louisiana are figuring out ways to sneak Creationism into the classroom, or fighting to remove evolution from science textbooks. A recent victory for secular education was won in Texas, but narrowly saw the death of evolution in our schools.
The American people are moving in one direction, a direction towards liberalism, this is a progressive direction. The religious right is the losing minority in our country and they are scared and frightened, or as author CJ Werleman commented on his Facebook:
Like a cornered animal, which turns instinctively to confront pursuing predators, the Christian Right, knowing it now represents the views of an ever shrinking number of Americans, is engaged in an existential fight to the death, and veto or no veto, Arizona's anti-gay bill is just another of their many efforts to transform America's secular democracy into a tyrannical theocracy.
The Christian Right knows they are on the losing end of this deal. They are fighting tooth and nail to hold onto any last stronghold they can.
Faircloth, mentioned above has even created a new non-profit to combat this theocratic power grab. SecularityUSA is on a mission to remove religious bias from the government. Armed with the knowledge that the founding fathers did not create a Christian Nation, very vocally called for a secular America as well as a clear and firm separation of church and state.
With support already garnered from such celebrities as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Adam Savage, and Cara Santa Maria, Faircloth and his team of volunteers are installing local groups in all 50 states who are ready to petition their local and state officials to vote with secularism in mind by removing the religious influence that has strongly taken over this nation.
Faircloth's vision is serving as the catalyst to this new movement. Through grassroots campaigning and strategic lobbying, Faircloth and his team will fight to make sure officials are elected who are not swayed by personal faith but by the will of the people and the ideals of our founding fathers.
A movement like this, that does not alienate based on religious belief or disbelief, but instead seeks to unify both the atheist community and the Christian Left, or religious unaffiliated believers who still believe in the founding fathers vision of keep religion out of politics, is how this battle will be won.
A minority extremist group of religious leaders and politicians are being given center stage and carte blanche by the right to go state-by-state and attempt to enact their theocratic rule. It is groups like SecularityUSA and others who are willing to stand up against such tyrannical motives and protect the freedoms of everyone. Religious freedom cannot be protected under a theocratic nation, because the ruling party will seek to marginalize and oppress all that do not agree with them, yet under a secular nation, such as the United States, all citizens are protected to practice their religion in peace or choose to practice no religion at all, without any fear of discrimination or persecution.
It is time we all work together to remove religious bias from the government.