Ted Cruz’s First Amendment Defense Act in reality does just the opposite

Leslie-McMurraysee where Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, is enforcing his brand of crazy by crafting another version of the First Amendment Defense Act, or FADA, although up til now, it seems to me that the only part of the First Amendment that needs defending is the part about a free press.

Specifically though, it appears that the FADA will focus on two things: Permitting businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples based upon religious beliefs that marriage is defined as one man and one woman, or that sex is reserved for hetero couples only.

I’ve about had it with people — especially evangelical Christians — feeling their freedom of religion is under attack because other people want fair and equal treatment. And I have my own idea as to what I think something protecting religious freedom would look like.

I believe this country was founded on some pretty sound principles, among them are freedom of the press and freedom of religion. As the Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

I suppose people a lot smarter than me have debated these simple words over the years. But I interpret them to be fair only if everyone’s free speech is protected, along with everyone’s freedom of religion. Even those who have no religious beliefs should be protected.

Keeping me from buying a bottle of wine at 11:55 a.m. on Sunday morning is inflicting your religious beliefs on my life and creating an undue burden on my pursuit of happiness.

Your religion ought to be practiced in such a way that you can believe in whatever superstition you want, as long as it doesn’t impede someone else’s celebration or observation of their beliefs. Christians — would you want to be compelled to go to church five times a day to pray just because some Muslims do? Should Muslims be prevented from praying five times a day because most Christians prefer not to?

This is tip of the iceberg stuff.

Nobody is trying to tell Christians they can’t worship Christ. Whatever helps you get through the night is fine by me.

Cruz.TedBut imagine Seventh-day Adventists telling you that church day is Saturday or Jewish rabbis telling you that you must keep kosher. What if Muslim leaders start forcing restaurants to take bacon off their menus? (By the way, I can buy all of the bacon I want on Sunday, it’s wine they have a problem with.)

How would the Rev. Jeffress feel if his Dallas First Baptist Church had to integrate the handling of venomous snakes because the Pentecostals say that’s how you demonstrate faith?

Can “religious freedom” be taken too far? Yes, it can. Permitting businesses to freely discriminate against potential customers is bad for business and an insult to true religious freedom.

Recently, a Facebook friend posted the results of a research project into why Americans are dropping out of the Christian church and what Christian churches do to flip the script. My simple suggestion was: How about inviting Christ back into the church? That would be a start.

Someone asked me what that would look like to me. My answer is that it could be as simple as “Christians” truly following the teachings of Christ, not using his words to hurt others or justify their already deep-seated prejudices.

Or it could be much more detailed than that. I’d be happy to discuss it. Truly, I would. But my own brother is an evangelical Christian who refuses to utter or write my name for fear of offending his God.

I wonder what Christ would say about the way we celebrate His birthday — with Black Friday specials and an orgy of spending and lighting displays that would humble Clark Griswold. What would Christ have to say about how we live in a city with an estimated 800 to 900 homeless children, yet pastors who lead churches the size of sports arenas and go home to mansions are either unaware or unwilling to help.

Why don’t LGBT people trust very many Christian leaders or feel welcome in their churches? Maybe it’s because self-identified Christian evangelicals like Ted Cruz want to put us in the crosshairs of legal and unconstitutional discrimination.

My hope is that if something this ridiculous passes, they at least tag this bill with a rider that requires businesses to declare, in writing, with signs prominently posted that they discriminate and against whom — “WE DON’T SERVE LGBT,” or some such sign. Don’t hide from it! Declare your bigotry  up front and proud — so we don’t even waste our time shopping there.

To me, freedom OF religion is no more important than freedom FROM religion. Worship or believe how you will, but your beliefs shouldn’t get in the way of someone else’s beliefs,.

Trump wants to “Make America Great” again. What he may have missed is that what makes America great is that we can take a wide diversity of races, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, nationalities and political viewpoints and, against all odds, make it work. It has worked because we have all earned a seat at the table, and adding a seat takes nothing away from the others.

To go backwards now makes us less great.

Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com 

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 06, 2017.