US Christian fundamentalists ‘playing fast & loose with Bible’ on anti-LGBT laws
RT: What are the potential implications for LGBT people visiting these parts of the U.S.?
Peter Tatchell: Well, in both Mississippi and North Carolina, there are now laws in place which allow and sanction by law discrimination against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. And that is really an open door for anybody who wants to discriminate to do so, particularly if they can claim religious grounds… if they can say ‘my faith does not approve of homosexuality, therefore I’m not going to serve you in my shop because you’re gay; I’m not going to do your electrical wiring because you’re gay, and so on and so on. That’s a very dangerous precedent because once you open the door to allow people to discriminate – for whatever reason, including based on faith – then where does it end? You could have Christians, fundamentalists, saying they wouldn’t serve Muslims or Jews. You could have White supremacists trying to claim religious basis for discriminating against black and ethnic minority people. So it’s a very bad law, and this law in particular is impacting upon the LGBT community specifically.
RT: These laws have already faced a backlash from companies including PayPal - concerts have even been cancelled in protest - how far could this backlash go?
PT: That is a possibility. There will be legal challenges to these laws and already lots of big corporations and famous entertainers, like Bruce Springsteen, have refused to perform in these states because of these new anti-gay laws. So there is a real public revulsion across most of America at these laws, which go against the principles of equality enshrined in the Constitution. I’m sure there will be legal challenges and eventually the laws will be overturned in part, I suspect, because of public pressure and partly because of the economic pressure that’s being exerted on these two states with so many big businesses pulling out, refusing to hold conventions, and entertainers and other public people refusing to go there… It does have echoes of the battle for Black civil rights half a century ago when these states were also in the frontline of discrimination against African Americans and it took a great public groundswell and legal challenges and corporate pressure to overturn those racist laws.
RT: Is it likely that these laws will be repealed, under pressure from the U.S. Federal government?
PT: Sadly, the Deep South of the United States… do have a history of fairly right-wing politicians. People like George Wallace came out of there in the 1960s, an avowed defender of the Confederacy and an avowed defender of laws that discriminated against African American people. It also has a very strong history and tradition of extreme Christian fundamentalism; a very harsh, hardline interpretation of Christianity; a very literalist interpretation of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, not so much of the New Testament.
There’s not much love and compassion amongst some of these Christian fundamentalists, and they use that as justification for these new anti-gay laws. They say that homosexuality is ‘Biblically wrong.’ But if you look at the teachings of Jesus Christ, and if you call yourself a Christian, there’s nothing in the New Testament… which condemns homosexuality. He condemned many, many sins, but Jesus Christ is never recorded ever condemning homosexuality. So I think these Christian fundamentalists are playing fast and loose with the Bible
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