By James A. Haught
This month’s Supreme Court decree that gays cannot be fired from jobs simply because they are gay is a solid blow to white evangelicals, the heart of the Republican Party. Such born-again conservatives claim they have “religious freedom” to treat gays cruelly. Now they are exposed, once again, as more intolerant than the rest of America.
Gay hating is deeply rooted in Puritanical religion. The Bible (Lev. 20:13) says male homosexuals “shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them” Evangelist Jerry Falwell, who led fundamentalists into the GOP, wrote: “Homosexuality is Satan’s diabolical attack upon the family, God’s order in Creation.”
Many churches supported laws mandating prison for gay sex. Clergy backed hundreds – thousands – of attempts to demonize gays, strip them of jobs and ostracize them from society.
But religion was refuted in 2003 when the Supreme Court ruled that gay sex is not a crime – and in 2015 when the court let same-sex couples marry – and now in 2020 when the justices banned gay firings.
This month’s 6-3 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County applied simple logic. It said the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which forbids discrimination based on sex, protects homosexual, lesbian, and transgender people. Some religious groups are howling. The Colson Center for Christian Worldview called parts of the ruling “patent nonsense.” Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore said the decision “will have seismic implications for religious liberty.”
Fundamentalist pillar James Dobson called the ruling “an affront to God.” Archbishop Jose Gomez, head of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, said it is “an injustice.”
Actually, looking at the long range of history, the new ruling is another step for human rights – a glacial process that began with The Enlightenment three centuries ago. Time after time, progressive crusaders won victories allowing more personal freedoms. Time after time, they defeated entrenched conservative resistance. Here is a history record I compiled:
Conservatives tried to retain slavery, but they lost.
They tried to block voting by women but lost.
They tried to prevent couples from using birth control but lost.
They tried to obstruct Social Security pensions for oldsters but lost.
They tried to outlaw labor unions but lost.
They tried to prevent unemployment compensation for the jobless but lost.
They tried to keep stores closed on the Sabbath but lost.
They banned alcohol during Prohibition, but eventually lost.
They tried to sustain racial segregation but lost.
They supported government-mandated prayer in school but lost.
They tried to continue throwing gays in prison but lost.
They tried to defeat Medicare and Medicaid but lost.
They fought to halt sex education in schools but lost.
They opposed food stamps for the poor but lost.
They banned mixed-race marriage but lost.
They forbade teaching of evolution in schools but lost.
They fought against equal human rights laws but lost.
They tried to censor sexy magazines, books and movies, but lost.
They sought to jail girls and doctors who end pregnancies but lost.
They tried to block liquor clubs and lotteries but lost.
They tried to prevent more health insurance through the Affordable Care Act but lost.
They tried to halt same sex marriage but lost.
And now they have lost their effort to fire gays from jobs.
Even though conservatives win elections, they gradually lose the deeper culture war over public values.
Ever since The Enlightenment, the tide of civilization flows left. Human decency wins. Abraham Lincoln called it “the better angels of our nature.” Martin Luther King Jr. said the moral arc of the universe “bends toward justice.” This month’s Supreme Court ruling was another step in the slow advance.