Discrimination in Name of Religion

In Tennessee, Opponents Are Battling The Religious Right’s ‘Slate Of Hate’

  Rob Boston

OneNewsNow, the fake news service of the American Family Association, ran a column recently by a right-wing Tennessee pastor who seems awfully upset that progressive religious leaders in the state are standing up to his repressive political agenda.

Several bills have been introduced in Tennessee that would attack LGBTQ rights. One bill would declare that marriage in Tennessee is limited to one man and one woman – even though the U.S. Supreme Court said otherwise in 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision. Other bills would allow tax-funded foster care and adoption agencies to refuse services to same-sex couples and target the rights of transgender people.

The package of bills, dubbed the “slate of hate” by opponents, is drawing strong pushback, much of it anchored in progressive churches and synagogues. More than 100 religious leaders in Tennessee have signed a statement denouncing the bills.

This bothers Dale Walker of the Tennessee Pastors Network, who insists that these are not even legitimate houses of worship.

“Just because it sounds like a church, just because it looks like a church, just because they’ve got people in there that call it a church, and just because they’ve got a name that sounds like a church, doesn’t mean that they are a Bible-believing church,” Walker wrote.

Typical of many in the Religious Right, Walker thinks he can define what constitutes a legitimate church. I’m sure many progressive religious leaders in Tennessee would counter that there’s nothing illegitimate about believing in a faith that rejects hate, discrimination and treating some people like second-class citizens.

Walker added, “The leftist churches and the progressive churches, they’re willing to put their name on the list. And Bible-believing churches today are going to have to get a backbone and not act like a bunch of Jezebel’s prophets.”

Here is what’s really bothering the guy: He’s got competition. Clergy who spout the Religious Right line have dominated the political scene in Bible Belt states for a long time. But as demographics in the country shift, right-wing evangelicals are seeing their market share slip, even in places like Tennessee.

At the same time, a coalition of progressive Christians, Jews, non-theists and religious minorities who’ve had enough of seeing their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers being attacked because they’re members of the LGBTQ community are mobilizing, speaking out and fighting back against the Religious Right. And Americans United is part of it. AU’s Public Policy Department and our Tennessee Chapter have been working alongside religious and secular groups to stop much of the slate of hate.

In our political system, all voices have the right to be heard. Walker had better get used to it. His opponents, Americans United among them, aren’t going anywhere. In fact, I promise you our voice is only going to get louder.

Black minister smiling
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