Sunday, May 21, 2006

Supporting discrimination

The fine folks at Northwest Progressive Institute are reporting tonight that Antioch Bible Church -- which meets at an Eastside public high school -- was passing out petitions for Tim Eyman's latest, and most divisive yet, intiative: a proposal to overturn the recent state legislation that expanded anti-discrimination law to include sexual orientation:
Ken Hutcherson's Antioch Bible Church was a participant in this morning's "Referendum Sunday" petition drive to legalize discrimination against people of different sexual orientation, NPI has learned.

Sources demonstrated to NPI (see the images below) that a large folding table was set up outside of the Lake Washington High School gymnasium, where the Antioch Bible Church meets for Sunday services, to allow members of Hutcherson's congregation to sign petitions for Referendum 65 as they exited the building.

[The report includes photos of the petitions and the table where they were being distributed.]
An organizer was also distributing petitions to congregation members for circulation, along with instructions. According to our sources, the organizer made a point of asking congregation members to sign the back of the petition, and when asked when they were due back by, was quoted as saying "We'd prefer to have them back by June 1st". (June 6th is the deadline for Eyman to collect signatures to be turned into the Secretary of State's office).

Antioch, for those interested, is one of those mega-churches whose fundamentalist congregations number in the thousands (they claim 3,500). Its pastor is a former Seahawk named Ken Hutcherson, who a couple of months ago engaged in a debate with County Executive Ron Sims on gay rights, which went about like this:
Simply put, Sims, who is the state's highest elected black official, believes discriminating against a person based on sexual orientation is only the latest incarnation of a decades-long struggle to protect the civil rights of minorities.

While Hutcherson, who also is black -- and raised in the segregated South -- finds such characterizations an insult.

"I have never met an ex-black, but I have met many ex-homosexuals," he said, offering his familiar quip that homosexuality is merely a lifestyle choice, not to mention a sin, and undeserving of government protection.

Sims responded that religious choice is protected by law, but his words were drowned out in one of the evening's frequent shouting matches.

Of course it did, because this is precisely the point that the anti-gay right wishes to avoid confronting, namely: discrimination laws are not set up to protect people from bigotry regarding their "innate characteristics" instead of their "chosen behaviors." They're about protecting people from bigotry, period.

After all:
Ah yes. We've heard this line before. Because being gay is a "chosen behavior," it is undeserving of civil rights protections.

It's the same reason given by many evangelicals -- and particularly black and minority evangelicals, and people who claim they support civil rights -- for not supporting gays and lesbians in hate-crime protections: "You can't compare being gay to being black. One's immutable, one's chosen."

Well, yes, this is true when it comes to race. And even ethnicity. These are, after all, two of the three main legs of anti-discrimination and hate-crimes laws.

But it's not true of the third leg of these laws: religion. Last I checked, this too was a "chosen behavior."

I wonder if the churchgoers at Antioch would be just as eager to knock down the state's anti-discrimination laws if the target were those clauses that protect their chosen behaviors -- namely, their freedom of religion.

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