First up from the God Machine this week is a faith-based argument from one of North Carolina’s top elected officials, in defense of the state’s deeply controversial anti-LGBT statute.
The discriminatory measure, generally known as HB 2, has generated considerable national discussion, though North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has struggled at times to offer a compelling defense. Right Wing Watch reported this week that his right-hand man, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R), appeared on a far-right conspiracy theorist’s radio show on Wednesday, where the Republican official took the debate in a theocratic direction.
He said that [measures such as Charlotte’s anti-discrimination measure, which prompted HB 2] were approved because “we have a lack of moral compass in our country right now, we’ve taken our eyes off God in America, we have turned our back on God, we have forgotten God in a lot of ways, so the moral compass is broken here.”Forest went on to say that anti-LGBT laws like North Carolina’s only “discriminate against behavior, not against people,” comparing them to traffic laws: “If I want to go out and drive 95 miles an hour down the interstate in North Carolina because I feel like doing that, I don’t have the right to do that. It doesn’t mean the law is discriminating against me, it’s discriminating against my behavior of wanting to drive 95.”
Arguments like these are problematic for all sorts of reasons. First, in a country that separates religion and government, it’s not up to state officials to decide whether or not people have “turned their backs on God.” Dan Forest is, after all, the lieutenant governor, not a minister.
And second, the “discriminate against behavior” line has been a common refrain used by opponents of civil rights for LGBT Americans for years. The reality, of course, is that choosing how fast to drive a car is in no way similar to a person’s sexual orientation or sexual identity.
In the same interview, Forest also blamed the media for the HB 2 controversy, rather than the policymakers who approved the measure.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* So, will social conservatives who want more religious recognition in public schools consider this good or bad? “Following New York City’s lead, Philadelphia will add two Muslim holy days to its school calendar, the city announced this week.”
* Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) said this week “the ‘secular, progressive world’ vented at him for signing a bill that would let clerks cite religious beliefs to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”
* Not quite the message I was expecting from the Dalai Lama: “The Dalai Lama thinks Europe has let in ‘too many’ refugees. The Tibetan spiritual leader said that ‘we feel the misery’ of each individual refugee and that humans have a ‘responsibility to help’ – but that there are ‘too many’ who have been accepted in Europe.”
* Publishing a Bible in emojis is certainly a creative approach towards appreciating Scripture.