When the wolf of bias, bigotry and discrimination presents itself in the sheep's clothing of "protecting religious liberty" it is crucial for religious leaders to speak the truth that will set us all free.
Stepping up to that challenge is the Episcopal Bishop of Arizona Bishop Kirk Smith, who issued a strong rebuke to Arizona legislators in his weekly email message addressing the true nature of the so-called "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" legislating discrimination against LGBT people in Arizona.
Co-authored with Cathedral Dean Troy Mendez, Smith wrote:
Who among us doesn't want to support religious freedom? This argument seems to be the tactic of some arch-conservative lawmakers, who have convinced our Arizona legislators that it is fine to deny people basic human rights under the guise of religious freedom. Lawmakers in other states and members of both political parties have been astute enough to see what bills like this really are -- a wolf in sheep's clothing that masks discrimination under a [veneer] of piety. Arizona, however, with its propensity for making itself into the political laughing-stock of the nation, has been duped once again. One can only pray that our Governor will, as the Arizona Republic said this morning, 'get out her veto pen.'
Smith went on to speak directly to Arizona Episcopalians, issuing this challenge:
In reality, the legislation is targeted towards members of the GLBT community, but women, people of color, non-Christians and anyone who falls out of favor with any religious group for any reason could theoretically be hurt... On grounds of any religious idea or practice, this statue says other anti-discrimination laws do not apply.
Arizona Episcopalians, now is time for us to be peacemakers. The Holy Spirit promises to lead us, if we open our hearts, into the fullest life and peace imaginable. Being a Christian means we are asked as a community to follow Jesus to proclaim Good News to the people in the state legislature who seem to be walking in darkness.
Edmund Burke famously said "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." We need more leaders like Bishop Smith to equip, empower and inspire good people to do something in the face of the evils of bias, bigotry and discrimination.
Together we can speak the truth in love. We can challenge those who presume to preach exclusion, judgment and condemnation as Christian Values with an alternative message of inclusion, justice and compassion. And we can overcome -- we will overcome -- the forces that would undo the progress this nation has made toward making "liberty and justice for all" not just a pledge we make but a reality we live.