Wednesday, April 01, 2015

What 'Religious Freedom' Really Means

The Church of Jesus Christ-Christian, aka the Aryan Nations, at Hayden Lake, Idaho, in 2000.

The furor over recent "religious freedom" bills being passed in various states -- particularly Indiana, with similar viruses festering in North Carolina, Arkansas, and Texas -- has caught the attention, I'm sure, of a certain class of religious believers.

Namely, the people whose own religious faith, such as it is, dictates a belief in the supremacy of the white race and the diminution and demonization of all non-white races. They are real, they do exist, and they go by such names as the Christian Identity movement or its Church of Jesus Christ-Christian, or the Creativity Movement, aka the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC).

Each of these and a dozen other similar "faiths," while all considered "fringe" faiths, nonetheless lay claim each to being legitimate religions, and while their numbers have been steadily shrinking over the years, they do nonetheless claim a certain number of followers.

And they have been told, consistently, over many years by every authority in the United States, that while they may be perfectly free to hold and preach these beliefs, they do not have the right to act upon if they are involved in the business of providing public goods and services. They are not permitted to discriminate according to race or religion even if it is counter to their private religious beliefs, because the law does not permit such discrimination in the public square. Period.

So when they hear mainstream conservative Republicans proclaim "religious freedom" as an excuse to permit people to discriminate against the LGBT community, you can bet that they are paying close attention. Because the language of these bills is vague enough to apply not to only to the religious beliefs of the anti-LGBT activists behind these bills (and trust me, these crypto-fascist faiths are every bit as virulently homophobic) but also their own beliefs.

After all, if discrimination by religious belief is permissible under Indiana law -- or to be precise, if someone's (including businesses' and corporations') “exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened” by anti-discrimination laws, then they can use the law as “a claim or defense… regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding” -- then it stands to reason that this would include religious beliefs that discriminate against blacks, Jews, and all other nonwhites.

That's where it's helpful to know what these beliefs look like. These are belief systems that still exist in places like Indiana and Illinois and Montana and California, dotted in small pockets all around the country. And the new spate of "religious freedom" legislation is like a dream come true for them. The essential argument is the same one they have been making for years -- that the law shouldn't require them to serve or do business with people their religious beliefs forbid them from engaging with.

Let's take, for example, the World Church of the Creator, aka the Creativity Movement. It was founded by the man who invented the wall-mounted electric can opener: Ben Klassen, a Florida real-estate salesman and a German immigrant.

Most of us know about the WCOTC's exploits after Klassen voluntarily joined the Great White Father in the sky in 1993 via an overdose of sleeping pills. At that point, there was a brief struggle for control of the church, which eventually wound up in the hands of the current Pontifex Maximus, Matthew Hale.

Hale's main bases of operations were Illinois and Montana, both of which had relatively small cores of followers who were extremely active in spreading the word of their faith, which is explicitly hostile to both Christianity and Judaism, instead laying claim to an independent belief in white people as the ultimate divine creation of God.

One of the better-known disciples who acted on his religious beliefs in a very public way was Benjamin Smith, a close associate of Hale's who went on a three-day murder spree targeting various minorities, including a former college basketball coach, a number of Orthodox Jews, and a Korean economics student. He shot himself when cornered by police.

WCOTC is a particularly vile religion, embodied by the various "Gospels" left behind by Klassen, who enjoyed a couple of terms in the Florida Legislature. His foundational text, Nature's Eternal Religion, is one of the most nakedly vicious and hate-filled pieces of eliminationist trash ever written. It doesn't help that Klassen's writing style, beyond the shock value of its viciousness, is actually quite anodyne and dull-witted.

Here's an excerpt from his No. 2 text, The White Man's Bible. This excerpt comes from "Creative Credo No. 29: Who Needs Niggers? Or, Elimination of the Black Plague:"

The present-day scourge in the form of the Black Plague in the midst of the White Race has no such beneficial compensations. Today's Black Plague is spelled niggers. It is more menacing, more deadly and persistent than the Black Death of the middle ages ever was. Today the niggers in America (also England and elsewhere) are multiplying at an explosive and unprecedented rate. In America the heart of most of the formerly great cities, built by thee genius of the White Man, are being taken over by niggers. ... Our once proud capital, Washington D.C., has deteriorated to the point where it is nearly totally black. It has turned into a dangerous, crime infested black jungle, in which the black animals prowl and prey. Crime is rampant and unchecked, and the once White inhabitants who built the city have long since fled to the outlying suburbs. Even the Congressmen who must commute to the center of the government must do so at dire risk to life and limb.

... Niggers Are Niggers. We use the term "nigger" deliberately in this book and recommend its usage in general conversation and writings by members of our church. As we have stated in a previous chapter, the second dumbest creature on the face of the earth is one who can't or won't recognize its enemies and the dumbest of all is that creature which will actively collaborate with its enemies for the destruction of its own race.

Deadly Enemies. We, of the Church of the Creator, recognize niggers as the foremost amongst our deadly enemies, with the Jews taking top priority. We regard all the colored races as a grave menace to our further existence on this planet whether they be black, yellow, or brown. In summation we will use the term "mud races" in contrast to the White Race throughout this book. ... Nature has made them eternally our mortal enemies, whether we now realize it or not. It is the task of the Church of the Creator to make the White Race acutely aware of this fact, and arouse it to action.

Bottom of the Ladder. Among all these races, the black niggers of Africa are undoubtedly at the lowest scale of the ladder dubiously called the human race. We of the Church of the Creator disclaim any common racial denominator with the niggers, the same as we do regarding monkeys. We regard them as either sub-human or humanoid, and recognize them as being closer to the animal kingdom than any species of humanity as exemplified by the White Race. We firmly vow to deliberately excrete them from the body of the White Racial Community and to forever prevent any penetration and admixture with our racial body. Any society that fails to excrete its wastes soon dies. To us, niggers are black poison, and we regard the Jewish goal of pumping the black blood of Africa into the veins of White America as the most dastardly crime ever committed in all of history.

This is the Pandora's Box the blinkered, hate-driven advocates of "religious freedom" bills -- which in the end should be more accurately labeled "bigotry legalization bills" -- have opened. Lots of luck putting it back in.

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