And this is a dark harbinger of things to come for the LGBT and POC communites.
It’s no secret that most Police Officers and Judges subscribe to a particular religious faith. From small town patrolman doling out speeding tickets to Supreme Court Justices. We’re witnessing an unnerving return to the days when we in the LGBT community were the victims of Religious Authorities who were responsible for enforcing the law, and did so, not with an investment in upholding their oath to protect and serve, but instead abuse their power to destroy the lives of those whose existence conflicts with their personal belief system.
Remember how the Stonewall riots began? In 1969, members of the LGBT community had to congregate in secret. Homosexuality and possessing a Trans identity were not just socially frowned upon, but against the law. A “Man” donning any women’s attire could be arrested in New York thanks to an antiquated law until 2011. The police routinely organized raids on LGBT spaces, hauled off the patrons of these establishments to jail, and Judges often sent them to prison for “Immorality.” Trans pioneer Sylvia Rivera made it her mission to give these individuals, unjustly imprisoned for their suspected sexuality, a lifeline. She visited them, wrote them letters, and along with other early pioneers, gave birth to the first Pride March which was specifically intended to protest the religiously motivated persecution of the LGBT community by a justice system which held its roots firmly in religious doctrine creating laws and enforcing them according to biblical scripture.
“In God We Trust” was everywhere. In schools, on American currency, State buildings, court houses and monuments. Some of us remember reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the US Flag before starting our daily school routine. In that pledge, we children chanted in chorus, “One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” As a nation, we never got that last part right. There was liberty for the white, wealthy, straight, cisgender and christian, while the rest of us who didn’t fall between goal posts were just subject to injustice.
It permeated our society to such a degree that individual city and state laws at the lowest levels all the way to the Supreme Court was determined by the Bible. While the majority of Americans did, indeed, declare themselves as as subscribers of Christian faith- at least some derivative of it- those who didn’t were viewed as evil-doers, deniers of God, derelicts and subject to extreme cruelty, isolation and traumatic psychological damage. They also found themselves completely devoid of protections from any agency whose responsibility it was to do so.
Over the years, as we developed and matured as a progressive society that was represented by diversity in our culture, the scales of justice began to balance ever so subtlety as people of color and women were elected to office. Women, despite God’s order of subservience to male domination, began fighting for recognition and equality. People of color gained more visibility and influence in places of power. In 1972, Shirley Chisholm became the first black major-party candidate to run for President of the United States. Martin Luther King developed an enormous following, not by fear-mongering but by inspiring men and women of color to stand up and be counted, and thankfully, they did. More recently we’ve seen members of the LGBTQ+ community elected to public office, and all of this is vital. Why? Because we have officials who know first hand what it is like to be marginalized, discounted, pushed to the fringes and virtually ignored by the traditionally white, male politicians who made a career out of segregating us from those deemed the picture of suburban Americana. These pioneers laid a path to progress.
All of that is now at risk as we face social and political regression unlike any we have experienced before. Rarely does a country move backward in the context of evolution of human rights, social progress and diversity being celebrated rather than oppressed. The 2016 election has opened the doors for emboldened racism, bigotry and misogyny to rear it’s ugly head and return us to the dark ages where liberty is reserved for an elite few and the rest of us suffer at the unmerciful hands of religious radicalism.
Policemen around the nation are now independently branding their vehicles with stickers proudly stating “In God We Trust” which indicates that is exactly how they intend to observe and enforce the law upon the rest of us.
The list of Government Law Enforcement Agencies inscribing “In God We Trust” on their vehicles goes on and on. But, it says so much more in reality. It says “I have an immediate bias.”
Not that most law enforcement agencies don’t already exercise prejudicial disbursement of malformed justice to minorities, it’s just that now they’re eagerly advertising it. Statistically, more black men and women go to jail than white people who commit equivalent crimes. At the same time, Men and women who possess characteristics or mannerism typically associated with stereotypical homosexuality, such as feminine men or masculine women, are often dealt harsher sentences than their straight acting counterparts… and transgender women and men frequently find themselves subjected to the bias of religious judges who throw them in prisons according to their birth assigned gender where they experience rape, solitary confinement, brutal physical attacks and are even murdered in custody.
Atheists are fortunate in that their absence of Christian aligned faith isn’t evident based on appearance, but muslims and people from other nations- not altogether dissimilar to the immigrants detained at the Mexico border meet the wrath of a xenophobic, intolerant administration of law that results in their inhumane treatment.
Prisons are veritable faucet of cashflow for law enforcement agencies who procure money-for-nothing as a means to punish via incarceration or impose fines upon those who are guilty of minimal crimes. Even non-violent crimes committed by people of color and LGBT people are met with excessive punishments which, many times, renders them homeless, jobless, and incapable of thriving in society once released. If convicted of a felony, they don’t qualify for benefits to get them back on their feet, and are often denied jobs based on the circumstances of their criminal history. When a white man goes to jail, such as Brock Turner, a rapist who sexually attacked an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and was caught in the act, he was sentenced to 6 months in jail and served three of them. The media talked about his athletic achievement and educational merits. A Black man found not guilty by a jury still served 7 years in prison.
Police in ultra-conservative Rome, Georgia still harass a transgender woman, Ashley Diamond, who has sued the local authorities for targeting her after her initial release from prison in 2015. In retaliation, they repeatedly stop her, demand her ID and patrol her neighborhood waiting for her to leave. Diamond cannot move from the Georgia town as a condition of her parole. She remains subject to police torment. In cases like these, who polices the police?
In Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark ruling wherein the Supreme Court outlawed segregated public education facilities for blacks and whites at the state level, religious zealots and hyper conservatives retaliated with outrage and violence. Remember, historically, the concept of segregation and the laws that prohibited interracial marriage were religiously motivated, considered not in God’s design that Blacks and Whites should mingle. Conservatives claimed that it violated their religious freedom, to have to acknowledge integrated society. Sound familiar?
It should, because we’re right back there now. God’s design. Authorities bellowing “In God We Trust.” White Nationalists and Bigots so emboldened by the new presidential administration who they believe sanctions their hatred toward minorities that they have put it on display for the world to see. These are Christians who are voting to elect men into power who sexually attack young women and children, all while preaching that Transgender women who have committed no crime are a threat to their wives and daughters in public bathrooms.
How are we as people of color and LGBT Americans supposed to have any faith that we will ever be served equal and fair administration of law by servants of God? Those to whom our very existence conflicts with their system of belief are incapable of providing justice without inherent prejudice.
Let us be clear, this is not about Religious freedom. These people are free to organize and practice their religion without persecution based on their beliefs anywhere they see fit. No one is interested in prohibiting that. No one has introduced bills suggesting we abolish churches or Sunday bake sale fundraisers or Christian holidays… but these religious people, citing the religious freedoms they already have, want to use it to take away the rights from others. In both Oklahoma and Kansas, Christian adoption agencies who were once prevented by law from discriminating against placing orphaned children with loving gay parents can now, citing religious freedom, deny prospective parents the right to adopt.
The Health and Humans Services administration has, at Donald Trump’s orders, created a division called Religious Freedom and New Conscience which allows medical caregivers, first responders and service providers the right to deny treatment to LGBT people if they cite moral or religious objection. This division protects them from legal recourse, even in the event that their neglect results in death of a LGBT person.
The reality here is, we suffer from a condition, collectively, in where we have no freedom from religion, which predisposes us to unfair treatment by authorities who subscribe to religious law and then enforces it upon us as civilians. Because of this, we stand to suffer grave consequences at the hands of those who rule under the elitist banner of “In God We Trust.”