North Carolina’s recently passed bathroom law (House Bill 2) is an attempt by Bible-imposing Christians to flush the humanity and rights of transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual persons down the toilet of discrimination. The law requires transgender persons to use public restrooms of the gender matching their birth certificate. Prohibits local governments from passing anti-discrimination ordinances protecting LGBT citizens. And prevents those discriminated against in the workplace from seeking redress in state courts. The bathroom law effectively makes transgender persons disappear, and protects the discriminatory practices of small Christian business owners – allowing the owners to refuse to provide services for those whose sexual orientation conflicts with their religious beliefs. Here one’s “religious freedom” means the denial of another’s inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.
This tempest in a pee pot was triggered in February by the Democratic-controlled Charlotte City Council, which passed an ordinance protecting the bathroom access of transgender persons and strengthening anti-discrimination measures for LGBT persons. In March, an outraged Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly reacted quickly, overriding the Charlotte ordinance with its bathroom access law. Chicago Tribune reporter Steven Chapman described the state legislators’ outrage in response to the Charlotte ordinance. “That provision brought on a hailstorm of fury and disbelief, and the North Carolina Legislature quickly passed a bill to overrule it.” Passed with little public input, the bill was immediately signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, who said, “The Charlotte ordinance ‘defies common sense and basic community norms.’” (“Column: North Carolina law a self-defeating attack on transgender people,” Apr. 6, 2016)
From thought control to pot control. Imagine a security person standing at the entrance of the “Men’s Restroom” and “Women’s Restroom”. Checking people’s birth certificates. And if not available, saying, “Drop your drawers” or “Lift your skirt.” Except that the N. C. State Legislature provided no way to regulate who goes into which restroom.
The irrationality of this bathroom law reveals the hysteria of Bible-quoting Christians holding signs declaring, “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms!” Thousands of evangelical Christians, with their culturally-conditioned anti-LGBT biases, “rallied in Raleigh,” saying a big “‘THANK YOU!!’” to North Carolina’s General Assembly “for passing HB 2, protecting the safety and security of N.C. women, children and businesses.” (“Support HB2 Bathroom Safety & Security Act,” KEEPNCSAFE)
The tempest in a pee pot is about the automatic stereotyping of transgender persons as predators – who are seen as ready to exploit transgender rights to sexually assault women and children in restrooms. This hysterical belief is unfounded. Fact-checking watchdog Media Matters has reported that “experts in 12 states – including law enforcement officials, government employees, and advocates for victims of sexual assault – have debunked the right-wing myth that sexual predators will exploit transgender non-discrimination laws to sneak into women’s restrooms, calling the myth baseless and ‘beyond specious.’” (“15 Experts Debunk Right-Wing Transgender Bathroom Myth,” mediamatters.org)
Never mind the reports “that Republican politicians are more of a menace in public bathrooms than transgender people.” These reports, cited by Michael Stone in world religions-focused website Patheos, “indicate that no transgender individual has ever been arrested for social misconduct in a public bathroom, while at least three Republican lawmakers have been arrested for sexual misconduct in a public bathroom. . . . Yet, despite the evidence,” Stone continues, “Republican lawmakers, encouraged by conservative Christians, continue to try and harass and intimidate the transgender community with mean-spirited and hopelessly misguided bathroom laws.” (“More GOP Lawmakers Arrested For Sexual Misconduct in Bathrooms Than Trans People, Apr. 11, 2016)
Never mind also the evidence revealing the danger trans people face in entering the bathroom of their gender. USA TODAY writer Alia E. Dastagir states that “trans advocates and civil liberty groups say these kind of [bathroom] bills don’t protect anyone, and, in fact, they put trans people in danger.” Dastagir cites a study by the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law, which “found that in Washington, D.C., 70% of trans survey respondents reported being denied access, verbally harassed, or physically assaulted in public restrooms.” (“The Imaginary predator in America’s transgender bathroom war,” Apr. 29, 2016)
The risks involving gender bathroom access is not to women and children, but to transgender persons themselves. “Gov. McCrory and other Republicans” are reported as saying that the North Carolina “law’s bathroom access provision was a bulwark against sexual assault, as Mr. Cruz suggested. But critics” are quoted as saying “that transgender people have been using the same bathroom of their choice for years without others noticing, and it has not been a problem. In fact,” they point out, “the risk of assault . . . would be to a person who appears to be a woman, being forced to use the men’s room.” (“North Carolina And U.S. Duel On Access Law,” by Alan Blinder, Richard Perez-Pena and Eric Lichtblau, The New York Times, May 10, 2016)
A heterosexual person may use the abuse suffered by transgender persons in restrooms to further justify bathroom laws. A heterosexual man would not use that argument if he could imagine how he would feel in entering a “Women’s Restroom” to relieve or groom himself. Similarly, a heterosexual woman would feel empathy for transgender women in imagining how she would feel about her privacy and security walking into a “Men’s Room.”
Sadly, Gov. McCrory cannot transfer to transgender persons the intense discomfort he would feel in a “Women’s Restroom.” The discomfort he feels stems from his inability to accept the identity of and empathize with transgender persons. The Justice Department warned, in a letter, that North Carolina risks losing billions of dollars if it does not repeal House Bill 2, which violates federal law protecting the rights of transgender persons. In the face of this threat, McCrory is reported as saying, “I’m not going to publicly announce that something discriminates, which is agreeing with their letter, because we’re really talking about a letter in which they’re trying to define gender identity, and there is no clear definition of gender identity.” (“Governor To Address U.S. Warning On Bias Law,” By Alan Blinder, The New York Times, May 9, 2016)
Where does such irrationality come from? From Biblically literalist Christians, who are the driving force behind anti-transgender bathroom laws. Mother Jones journalist Hannah Levintova provides informative reporting here. She states that “Charlotte pastor and congressional candidate Mark Harris” and “the telegenic real estate entrepreneur” anti-gay activists Benham brothers were “the little-known movers behind North Carolina’s anti-gay law” and “Ted Cruz’s advisors.” Levintova writes that during the North Carolina primary, in a speech at a suburban church, “Cruz thanked Harris for ‘calling the nation to revival,’ and called David and Jason Benham ‘an extraordinary voice for the Christian faith.’” (“The Little-Known Movers Behind North Carolina’s Anti-Gay Law: Ted Cruz’s Advisors,” Apr. 13, 2016)
North Carolina’s bathroom law threatened Bible-believing literalists, who created the tempest in public pee pots. That tempest was stirred up by a word-for-word Bible-believing group called “Concerned Women for America of North Carolina.” Their website states that they have “a history of almost 20 years of advocating to protect and support the Biblical design of marriage and the gift of children.” These “concerned women” were on the forefront opposing the Charlotte City Council’s “transgender bathroom bill ordinance,” that the General Assembly quickly killed in the middle of the night. The “concerned women” fervently believed the ordinance “put Charlotte women and children unfairly in positions of potential harm.” They had called on everyone to “pray that the efforts to pass this ordinance will be thwarted and that all will be convicted by the truth of God’s Word, ‘And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.’ (Genesis 2: 27)” (‘NO MEN IN WOMEN’S RESTROOMS: PERIOD! #DONTDOITCHARLOTTE—SAVE THESE FEBRUARY DATES, www.cwfa.org, 2/4.2016)
Prominent evangelist Rev. Franklin Graham, with his precariously stacked Biblical house of cards, helped to foment the tempest in a pee pot. Conservative website Breitart quotes Graham’s Facebook post, in which he “backed up N.C. Governor Pat McCrory, saying that he was ‘absolutely right to pass HB2 to protect young girls, boys, and women from sexual predators and perverts.” Graham then reveals Biblical Christianity’s house of cards, in saying, “’It is not up to us to decide our sex – God determines that,’ adding that according to the Bible, ‘He created them male and female and blessed them.’” ‘FRANKLIN GRAHAM: ‘MEN PRETENDING TO BE WOMEN’ SHOULD NOT USE WOMEN’S RESTROOMS,’ by Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D., Apr. 23, 2016)
The Old Testament Bible verse cited by Rev. Graham is repeated by Jesus in The New Testament, further justifying many Christians’ doctrinal opposition to same-sex marriage. Their doctrine is that “marriage is between one man and one woman,” using Jesus’ own recorded words as their authority: “From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” (Mark 10: 6-8)
Rev. Graham also supports the anti-transgender activism of The American Family Association, which obtained the pledges of over 700,000 persons to boycott Target department stores to protest its pro-transgender restroom access policy. His quoted Biblical house of cards reasoning: “We are the sex God created us to be – male and female. How a person feels doesn’t change the facts.” (‘FRANKLIN GRAHAM BRINGS GOD INTO BATHROOM WARS,’ by Cheryl Chumley, www.wnd.com, 4/27/2016) Ironically, the rigidity of Graham’s Biblical faith compels him to deny the facts.
ISIS Carpet-bombing Sen. Ted Cruz provides the final shaky Biblical house of cards in his support of North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law. He is quoted as saying, “If anyone of us wants to dress up as a women or a man, wants to live as a woman or man, believes that we might be something other than what we were born, you know God has made each of us with free will and the ability to choose to do that.” Cruz’s literalistic belief in the Bible allows him to deny the existence of transgender human beings: “Whether or not a man believes he’s a woman, there are a lot of women who would like to be able to use a public restroom in peace without having a man there and when there are children involved, you don’t have a right to impose your lifestyle on others.” (“Ted Cruz Says Not Having ‘Bathroom Bill’ Is Opening the Door for Predators,” by Jessica Hopper, abcnews.go.com, Apr. 23, 2016) But Cruz believes he has a God-given right to impose his Christian lifestyle on LGBT persons.
Biblical literalists are unconsciously driven to see transgender persons as transgressors. They transgress the Biblical belief that “man was created in the image of God.” Their very presence trespasses on holy ground, threatening the Biblical house of cards, and thus their identity must be denied, or blurred. God is gay, but not that gay. The very thought that God could not only make a beautiful rainbow of many colors in the sky, but an equally beautiful rainbow of sexually oriented people on earth, is beyond their comprehension and empathy.
Biblical literalists tread the straight and narrow path of “Biblical truth.” That path is paved with free will, which is the cornerstone of their Biblical house of cards. As Senator Ted Cruz said, “God has made each of us with free will and the ability . . . to dress up as a woman or a man.” With sexual orientation seen as a choice, Biblically-driven Christians are free to unleash their ignorance, fear, and hatred of LGBT human beings. And they mightily guard against scientific knowledge of human psychosexual development, which would undermine their belief in free will and cause their Biblical house of cards to collapse. Besides, their own Biblically-endowed religious authority and related power over people are at stake here. Thus they dumb down their god by keeping ‘him” so confined that he has difficulty revealing himself even between the lines of the Bible.
The point at which certain Biblically-limited Christians – and others — discover the existence and humanness of LGBT persons is when their own son or daughter or niece or nephew or friend comes out of the closet. Then their love takes over – for love is love. They then begin to look at the Bible differently, and discover more inclusive meanings of “God created man in his own image,” and Jesus’ teachings on “love your neighbor as yourself” and “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” This liberating process includes Christians moving beyond Bible verses that are used to justify fear and hatred – just as many Bible-loving Christians in the past have renounced scripture verses justifying slavery, the subjugation of women, stereotyping different-believing people as The Other, and imperialistic wars.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch turned to history to show today’s Christians the human rights horizon on which they now need to set their sights. She said legal action would be taken if North Carolina does not repeal its discriminatory HB2 law. She used history to make her point:
Instead of turning away from our neighbors, our friends, our colleagues, let us instead learn from our history and avoid repeating the same mistakes of our past. . . . It was not so long ago that states , including North Carolina, had signs above rest-rooms, water fountains and on public accommodations keeping people out based upon a distinction without a difference. We have moved beyond those dark days. . . .
Let us not act out of fear and misunderstanding, but out of the values of inclusion, diversity and regard for all that make our country. (“Read: Loretta Lynch North Carolina ‘Bathroom Bill’ Lawsuit Full Statement,” By Tom Cleary, heavy.com, May 9, 2016)
That struggle for inclusion is heating up at this very moment in Portland, Oregon, where some 864 United Methodist Church General Conference delegates are meeting May 10-20. A primary agenda is whether to repeal United Methodism’s long-standing discriminatory doctrines against LGBT persons. The doctrines: That “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” and “therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or approved to serve in the United Methodist Church.” That “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.” And that, “We support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” (The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2004, paragraphs, 304, 341, 161)
These discriminatory — scientifically uninformed – doctrines have led The United Methodist Church to deny ordination to LGBT persons, remove ministers who have come out of the Church closet to claim their identity and integrity, and banish ministers who have dared to perform same-sex marriages. These hateful doctrines are rationalized by another doctrine that states, “Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth . . . [and] need the ministry and guidance of the Church in their struggle for human fulfillment.” (Paragraph 161, Ibid) The fact that such blatantly contradictory and paternalistic doctrines can exist side by side reveals The United Methodist Church’s flimsy Biblical house of cards.
Many LGBT United Methodists and their supporters are challenging the General Conference delegates to move into the 21st Century. One such supporter is 82-year-old retired black United Methodist minister, Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell, a veteran of the civil rights movement and now a prominent voice in the struggle for LGBT rights in his denomination. On the eve of the Conference, Caldwell issued this commentary:
I, as an 82-year-old African American Methodist/United Methodist ‘Segregation Survivor’ am seeking to be a ‘Wounded Warrior’ (Henri Nouwen) as my denomination seeks to heal itself of 44 years of heterosexist language and legislation. . . . Sadly, Methodist racism became United Methodist heterosexism. In 1972. White privilege/supremacy became Heterosexist privilege/supremacy. And as was true of the former, the Bible became the text of the latter. Necrophobia became Homophobia. . . . There are similarities between my home state of North Carolina and the UMC. Would that the Justice Department could respond to the UMC as it is responding to NC. (Personal communication, May 7, 2016)
In another commentary, Rev. Caldwell targets a United Methodist group of Biblical literalists: the evangelical Good News Caucus, whose members identify themselves as being “Faithful to the Scriptures.” Caldwell’s response to them:
Where were the predecessors to Good News when blacks were being colonized, enslaved, segregated, lynched, and victimized by the Bible-quoting and cross-burning KKK? Apparently ‘clear scripture teaching,’ ‘biblical values,’ ‘2000 years of Christian understanding,’ and ‘orthodox, Wesleyan understanding’ were not sufficient to counter the abuse of blacks, but are today sufficient to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. . . .Is there a correlation between the ‘Religious Right in the UMC who have since 1972 supported anti-homosexual legislation and the ‘Religious Right’ of the Republican Party who support Donald Trump?
Rev. Caldwell ends this commentary by exhorting the General Conference delegates meeting in Oregon to:
Allow the words ‘’LET THEM SEE JESUS!” be the centerpiece of your language and legislation. Today’s biblical misrepresentation and that of the past would not have harmed so many people if Jesus had been front-and-center rather than forced to take a back seat to ‘Christian teaching.’ (Personal communication, May 10, 2016)
Jesus provides a solid foundation on which to house a Biblical faith: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7: 12) A faith built on empathy that makes room for everyone.