February 25, 2014

Misty Watson: Freedom to act like a jerk

(Editor’s note: The original version of this column referenced a story in an online site that contains both real and satirical articles. The column has been edited and the reference to the satirical article has been removed.)

It saddens me to hear that discrimination is making a comeback.

Or maybe, it never quite went away and it’s just being done in the public eye again.

People often throw around the words “God” and “Bible” to defend their outward display of hate. Where did I miss Jesus persecuting gays in the Bible and telling them they can’t draw water from the town well? 1 Hypocrites 5:11?

I recently saw where legislation was awaiting the signature of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer that would allow business owners to discriminate in the name of religion without facing legal repercussions. For example, a hotel could turn away a gay couple.

Supporters say the legislation is designed to protect people’s freedom of religion.

So Monday night I see that Georgia legislators are tackling the same type of legislation, called the “Preservation of Religious Freedom Act” (HB 1023 and SB 377).

Don’t misunderstand me.

I’m all for protecting freedom of religion! I think it’s a core value of our country, and I cannot tell you how wonderful it is for a feminist like me to not have to walk around with everything but my eyes behind cloth. A friend and I decided recently that I would have been stoned to death by now had I been born in a country where women were made to walk behind a man, not allowed to drive, not allowed to have a voice, all of which are done in the name of religion elsewhere.

Yes, religious freedom is awesome!

My first reaction to these bills is “Why do we need them? We’ve already got freedom of religion. No one is forcing me to bow down and worship a deity.” After reading through the bills, they just seem asinine and unnecessary.

While they don't mention anything specifically about homosexuality, critics of the proposed law say the broad language used would allow people to discriminate against gays under the veil of  “religious freedom,” much like in the story out of Kansas.

Critics also say this could open the door for a doctor to refuse treatment of patients in an emergency room. For example, if an unwed pregnant woman is in the emergency room because of complications, a doctor could refuse treatment based on his religious belief that women should not have children out of wedlock. Police could refuse to respond to certain calls. For example, if there was a robbery at a store that sells alcohol, an officer could refuse to investigate because he doesn’t believe someone should consume alcohol.

That isn’t freedom of religion. That is freedom to act like a jerk.

When did refusal to help or to serve a human being become freedom of religion?

I read a quote recently that I liked: “If you’re using the Bible to hurt others, you’re using it wrong.”

To that I’ll add, if you’re writing legislation to hurt others, you’re writing it wrong.

Murray County native Misty Watson is a staff writer and photographer for The Daily Citizen. You can contact her at mistywatson@daltoncitizen.com, facebook.com/MistyWatsonDCN or on Twitter, @mistydwatson.

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