Religion overload

Religion overload, from Indiana’s discriminatory legislation to HBO’s “Going Clear,” something’s very wrong in our land.

These bills rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear. They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality. – Tim Cook of Apple [Washington Post]

NOBODY’S RELIGION, belief system or faith is more important than the basic human right to be treated equally under American law. The NCAA started the furor over Indiana‘s outrageous new law that sanctions bigotry. On the opposite end you’ve got “Going Clear,” the documentary about Scientology that aired Sunday night, which reveals a “religion” that does little good, but gets tax exempt status anyway. These situations have a lot more in common than you’d think.

First Indiana, the troubles beginning with the statement by the NCAA president Mark Emmert, whose headquarters are in Indianapolis:

“The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events. We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees. We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill. Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

It reached a crescendo Sunday when Gov. Mike Pence couldn’t answer a simple “yes” or “no” question about whether a florist or some other business was now protected when they discriminate against a LGBT person, due to his signing the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Pence offered up an offensive word salad to George Stephanopoulos.

“The issue here is: is tolerance a two-way street or not?” Pence said. “There’s a lot of talk about tolerance in this country having to do with people on the left. Here Indiana steps forward to protect the constitutional rights and privileges of freedom of religion for people of faith in our state, and this avalanche of intolerance that’s been poured on our state is outrageous.” [Mediaite]

Governor Pence’s cowardice is typical of how people use their faith today. As a weapon against someone else, and always against people who don’t have the same belief system. Except on this one it’s not about belief or faith, certainly not a religion. It’s about being discriminated against for being who you are as an individual.

Every other Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to disputes between a person or entity and a government. Indiana’s is the only law that explicitly applies to disputes between private citizens. [Think Progress]

It used to be LGBT individuals were simply derided in private. Today religion trumps everything, including in America, because good people are cowards and won’t admit that their faith isn’t compromised by treating someone how they’d like to be treated themselves.

Pence’s words were even more offensive on Palm Sunday. Hey, but Easter week is always a good moment to revisit that freedom of religion shouldn’t get in the way of a person’s civil rights, which revolves around freedom from religion. It’s funny how no one loses their faith for following non-discrimination laws, but someone loses their right to be treated like other Americans when faith supersedes what we all are meant to have in common in this country.

It seemed pre-ordained that this conversation would happen the same day as HBO would air the documentary “Going Clear,” which reveals ugly realities about Scientology. It’s a remarkable to watch.

When I came to Los Angeles in the ’80s, soon after beginning my acting career there, I was told that if I wanted to get into the inner circle and get a chance at plum roles I needed to study with Milton Katsalas. It was a very big deal to be invited into the Beverly Hill Playhouse, and I can only talk to what I experienced. When I went into the Playhouse, I had a very weird interview there with Mr. Katsalas’ “assistant.” In fact, I’ve not thought much about the moment until I watched “Going Clear,” which reminded me of the event. I was asked to do a reading, which went very well, because cold readings were a forte of mine. I was then introduced briefly to Katsalas, and then the discussion with the assistant went well off the track. I was asked if I had ever heard of Scientology. Of course, I’d been warned about the pitch I would likely receive if they were serious about me joining the master class Katsalas taught. It basically came down to offering me placement in it, with a hard push to check out Scientology, which was described as an important companion piece to my acting studies at the Playhouse. I walked out and never looked back.

On “Meet the Press,” Chuck Todd did the numbers on the evangelicals who will select the Republican nominee. In Iowa, it’s 57% of the voting primary populace; 65% of primary voters in South Carolina are evangelical. Chuck Todd labeled what’s coming the Super Evangelical Primary.

As a spiritual person, I find this is obscene, especially when you consider their philosophy about how the rest of us should live and the lengths they’ll go to make their religious beliefs law. Politics and religion, it’s a toxic combo that robs the rest of us of the pursuit of happiness as we see fit.

It seems to me that if Indianans want to use their religion against people exercising their American civil rights, it’s only fitting they lose tax exempt status.

Scientology shouldn’t have had it from the beginning and if you watch “Going Clear” you’ll understand why.

I would be very happy if the IRS would re-examine Scientology’s tax-exempt status. That means putting pressure on senators and congressmen who are in the appropriate committees. – Alex Gibney [Director of “Going Clear,” HBO]

As a strong Episcopalian, now a daily meditator, I don’t have reverence for anyone’s religion when they use it to harm or invalidate another’s civil rights.

It’s just bigotry and the person hiding behind their faith is an ugly American.