Guest column: Proudly, a religious bigot


Photo: Kait McKinney/Iowa State Daily

Texas Gov. Rick Perry stood in front of his supporters and skeptics to explain his plan on health care as well as his view oil and natural gas exploration. Perry also emphasized to the crowd, “Somebody’s got to stand up for you. Somebody’s got to stand up and say we are not going to kick the can down the road anymore.”

“I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school .. .Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again,” Rick Perry said in his TV political ad titled “Strong.”

I am a “religious bigot,” a self-avowed “religious bigot,” and a proud one at that!

Actually, a supporter of presidential hopeful Rick Perry accused me of being “religiously prejudiced” when I shouted out questions to the candidate at a recent campaign stop in Ames. Though Perry refused to entertain questions following his canned stump speech, I called out, “Why are you marginalizing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people?” and “Why are you marginalizing non-Christians?”

Well, if I am “religious prejudiced” to disallow Perry’s use of our bodies as stepping stones for his own political ambitions, then I agree with his supporter’s characterization of me. In fact, I would go further by claiming, “I am a proud religious bigot!”

I am a proud religious bigot by opposing the types of “values” Perry works hard to impose on us because for me, this is no simple disagreement over religious perspectives. For me, this is a fight against oppression and a fight for social justice.

I am a proud religious bigot against any denomination that attempts to deny me and members of my community the rights granted under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to equal protection under the law, and in particular the right to marry the person of our choice, to serve our country openly in the military, to equal protections in employment, housing, public accommodations and to pursue happiness as we see fit.

Fortunately, however, there exists no monolithic conceptualization, for other faith communities’ “values” are progressively welcoming toward LGBT people, our sexuality and relationships and our gender identities and expression, and these communities are working tirelessly to abolish the yoke of oppression directed against us.

I believe that the prime factor keeping oppression toward LGBT people locked firmly in place and enacted throughout our society are the negative doctrines and judgments emanating from primarily orthodox and fundamentalist religious communities.

When religious leaders preach their negative interpretations of their sacred texts on issues of same-sex relationships or identities and gender identities and expression within and outside their respective houses of worship, they must be held accountable and responsible for aiding those who target and harass, bully, physically assault and murder people perceived as LGBT. In addition, they must be held accountable as accomplices in the suicides of those who are the targets of these aggressive actions. Therefore, the institutional bullying radiating from some religious denominations must stop.

When the religious/theocratic right declares that LGBT people are sinners and psychologically ill, and that they must not be allowed to promote their so-called “gay agenda,” indeed, when we are taught to hate ourselves, each one of us is demeaned, which denies us all our freedoms. We have a right, or rather an obligation, to speak up, to fight back with all the energy, with all the unity and with all the love and passion with which we are capable.

Though certain religious denominations may continue in their attempts to define us, they will not succeed. A central tenet of liberation is the right of people to self-define, to maintain their subjectivity and agency over the course of their lives. With our loving allies within progressive religious communities in addition to those unaffiliated with religious denominations, we are taking back the discourse and demanding that religious institutions curb their offensive dogma and take their interpretations of scripture off our bodies.

We will accept no longer your detestable mantra that “We hate the sin, but love the sinner.” We will accept no longer you telling us why and how we have come to our same-sex attractions and our gender identities, and that it is a “choice” that we can change. As the line between religion and government is increasingly blurred, we will continue to fight against your efforts to legislate us into second-class citizenship and codify your so-called “values” into law.

Furthermore, we will not accept your framing of yourself as the victims of “religious bigotry” when we challenge your outmoded, hurtful and, yes, oppressive interpretations of our lives, interpretations that act to perpetuate your domination and your control.

I refuse to debate my existence on religious grounds ever again with anyone, since there is no “debate,” for to quote Rene Descartes, “I think therefore I am,” period, the end.