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Friday, February 4, 2011

Bishop Paul Coakley Wants to See Discrimination in Manhattan, Kansas

by Mindy Townsend -

After a couple of delays and an epic Midwestern blizzard, the Manhattan, Kansas City Commission is set to vote next week on a non-discrimination ordinance, of which I have written here and here. We are on the eve of something that, frankly, is far too long in coming, and it’s very exciting.
But lo! Opposition appears on the horizon in the form of Bishop Paul Coakley and the Catholic Diocese of Salina. Big fracking surprise.
In a letter to the City Commission, attorneys for Coakley and the diocese claim that passing the ordinance will undermine the religious freedom of people trying to live within the guidelines of the faith.
I have, admittedly, been out of the loop in this regard for several years, but I’m not sure Catholicism requires active discrimination against anyone. There’s some story about a Samaritan and how we need to set aside prejudice to help others, but it’s a little fuzzy. Probably not important.
Evidently, the Catholic Diocese believes that institutional religious organizations should not be the only ones that are allowed to discriminate based on bigoted sincerely held beliefs. Terry Criss, the diocese’s attorney, argues that private citizens, acting on such beliefs, should get to discriminate, too.
Just to recap, this ordinance would prohibit discrimination in public accommodations, housing, and employment against lesbians, gay men and transgendered people. And if the diocese and Criss have their way, you wouldn’t be able to discriminate, unless you really, really want to. In that case, have at it.
Oh, well when you put it like that…
Somebody answer me this: why is it that people who cling to delusions of belief in some amorphous “Higher Power” feel it is their right – even obligation – to make everyone around them believe the same thing, or at least act in a conforming manner? Or feel the need to treat people – who, in most circumstances, have done nothing wrong – with utter contempt?
A long time ago, homo sapiens got together and formed a society. And that system has worked out pretty well. I’m having a good time, anyway. But to live in the free world, we have to make some compromises. Would I rather that the person living across the hall not crank up some crappy rap music? Of course. But it doesn’t really impair the enjoyment of my apartment. My point is that, maybe I don’t like the occasional thump thump thump of a sub woofer, and maybe I don’t want to keep my lawn under so many inches high, but I live in a society. I make compromises, because my life in it is most assuredly better than it would be out of it. Other people, their lives and desires run up against mine everyday, but that doesn’t mean that I get to tell them how to live, where to work and who to love. To do so would be tantamount to abandoning a mugged person, with nowhere else to turn, on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.
I think we all know what Jesus would do.
Send Bishop Paul Coakley and the Catholic Diocese of Salina a message that nobody should face discrimination in Manhattan, Kansas just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

petition text -

I have recently read about your letter to the Manhattan City Council, expressing concern that the proposed non-discrimination ordinance would impair religious freedom of individuals, even though the ordinance protects religious institutions. This is an indefensible position and will only serve to dehumanize a historically persecuted minority.

I am writing to you today to request that you reconsider your position. This ordinance is a necessary step to ensure that gay men, lesbians and transgendered people can simply live their lives. Your opposition to an ordinance that simply tries to redress decades of wrongful discrimination hurts good people who have done nothing wrong.

All serious scientific evidence says that LGBT people are normal variants of human sexuality and are not a danger to society. It is decidedly anti-Christian to ignore the well-being of our fellow human beings who are only trying to live quiet, fulfilling lives. Please recognize that, wherever there is a group of people in need, the Church should be first in line to help.
[Your name]

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