Some people hate what they don't understand.
Hence the impotent rage over the Supreme Court's decision last month overturning all gay marriage bans.
Unfortunately, some intelligent people who have the capacity to help these people understand more and hate less do the opposite for political and monetary gain.
Hence the now-a-brewin' Pastor Protection Act, which Florida Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood) and Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) are working on now, according to the News Service of Florida. It's based on the one recently passed in Texas.
Since no one can deny marriage rights anymore, the Pastor Protection Act would allow members of the clergy to deny marriage rites. Or should we say double allow, since they can already deny whomever they want on whatever grounds they please.
From the News Service of Florida:
Plakon is collaborating with the Rev. Chris Walker, pastor of the Cathedral of Power International Church in Clermont and the author of an online petition that has garnered more than 21,000 signatures since July 1.
"Church networks are being mobilized as we speak," Walker said. "I am being asked to speak at a lot of churches and groups to mobilize this movement, and we're going to be very vigilant about protecting our rights to preach the Gospel."
NSF asked Walker if he or anyone he knows has ever been asked to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony, to which he said no.
Some of the signatories to that petition are, um, special:
"The Christians in this country are being persecuted for not agreeing with Sin, yes same Sex relationship is a Sin, just like killing babies is a Sin," wrote Maurice Szust of Miami.
"I'm signing because the United States of America says that we stand on the Holy Bible, but our government has pulled totally away from what they say they are founded on," wrote another supporter of the petition, Kenyon Turner of Apopka.
(We're not even going to get into the whole thing about how biblical arguments against same-sex marriage are cherrypicking at best and misinterpretation on multiple levels at worst. Or go on about the America-as-Christian-nation-since-the-founding thing is a fantasy. We'll go ahead and leave those alone for now.)
Make no mistake about it: this is simply keeping an old scare tactic alive in order to keep the hate alive. Members of the clergy are already free to discriminate to their lil' hearts' content, as Equality Florida director Nadine Smith told the News Service of Florida.
"They can and do refuse interracial couples," she said. "They can and do refuse gay couples. They can and do refuse people who have different faiths. They can and do refuse people who have been previously married. They can just decide they don't think you're a good fit and refuse to conduct the ceremony."
If you don't want to take Smith at her word, how about the Pew Research Center, which recently wrote about the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning all same sex marriage bans in the country?
Virtually everyone agrees that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution offers some protections for religious groups. For example, most (even among gay rights advocates) believe the Constitution protects clergy from being required to officiate at marriages for same-sex couples and churches from being forced to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in their sanctuaries.
To reiterate, there is nothing keeping churches from discriminating against gay couples, interracial couples, couples living in sin, couples that have different hair colors, couples that don't practice a certain religion and so on.
Some scholars believe that the ruling in favor of gay marriage will not lead to widespread acrimony and legal battles. They note, for example, that there is no federal law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. And, of the 22 states that ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, a majority (13) have at least some protections for religious groups written into their anti-discrimination statutes.
Plakon acknowledged that pastors don't have to perform wedding services to anyone they don't want to, and told the News Service of Florida his concern is how quickly "the landscape is changing."
"The trajectory of this is moving so that there is a lot of concern about where it ends," he said.
Oh, and the argument that religious institutions could lose their tax exempt status if they don't marry gays?
Bullshit, Slate/New York Times Magazine writer Emily Bazelon wrote in late 2012.
Bazelon notes that while ultraconservative Bob Jones University lost its tax-exempt status for its ban on interracial dating (!) in 1982 (a decision current Chief Justice John Roberts said he supported), the court has let religious institutions discriminate in other ways and not pay taxes.
Religious institutions are almost hilariously exempt from laws barring discrimination on the basis of sex, from the "Catholic school that fired a pregnant, unmarried teacher" to the "Christian school that turned down a teaching applicant because she had school-aged children...(because) mothers shouldn’t work outside the home," Bazelon notes.
One would imagine this would apply to churches that don't want to marry gays.
It's hard to know whether the "Pastor Protection" bill will ride on the coattails of the homophobic backlash we're seeing in small pockets across the country. Given who's in the legislature, and who's governor, the damn thing could very well pass with flying...well, not colors. Flying black-and-whites?
But who knows?
By the time the next legislative session rolls around, whatever the outrage du jour is at that time will probably overshadow this one and the bill could get forgotten and die, as quite a few of these ideologically driven ones have.