STOP Polling Jesus

Your religious views have no place in our government.

This principle has rarely been better exemplified than at the Jan. 25 spillover meeting of Jacksonville’s City Council, when one woman got on the microphone and offered her bizarre opinion that the evil prince of Persia, embodied by a local Middle Eastern man, was leading the charge to modify the city’s human rights ordinance to protect people from housing, accommodation and employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. (For those of you who haven’t recently brushed up on the Bible, the prince of Persia is an angel of darkness in the book of Daniel.)

Hers were far from the only religious-based arguments that day; actually, the dogma was wafting so thick that at one point, I turned to an LGBT advocate and commented that it felt kinda like we were in church.

This should never happen. Government meetings should never feel like church. No god has any place in our government, forever and ever, amen.

The separation of church and state was considered so important by the framers of this nation that they codified it in the opening line of the opening amendment of the Bill of Rights; subsequently our practically (and rather ironically for the deists among them) deified Founding Fathers repeated the concept innumerable times, such as when John Adams said, “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

Yet nearly two-and-a-half centuries later, the drumbeat of Christianity continues unabated through the halls of our government.

There is nothing wrong with being religious. There is also nothing wrong with not being religious. But there is something very wrong with considering an individual’s religion relevant to their ability to serve as a representative of government; and something terribly unconstitutional about pressing for or against legal reform based on what you believe your god would want. Your god’s demands are irrelevant in our democracy.

If we’re now basing laws on bible verses, we have wandered so far astray from the philosophy that led to this nation’s founding that one wonders if Thomas Jefferson, whose English translation of the Quran can now be examined at the Library of Congress, would recognize America. It seems likely that the admittedly complicated and flawed man who so eloquently and correctly wrote, “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg,” might take issue with some of our representatives.

Here in Northeast Florida, it often seems that religious arguments, specifically those based on the individual’s interpretation of the bible, are the only arguments people are willing to hear. That’s why the Jan. 25 meeting felt like a religious sermon being delivered in three-minute segments by supporters of and opposition to the HRO amendment. ’Cause they all know that it’s a lot easier to accomplish something around here if you say it’s (the Christian) god’s will. (FYI, you probably shouldn’t mention that Christians, Jews and Muslims worship the same god.)

This Jesus-fying of our government is bad enough on the local level; it’s downright terrifying on the national level. Yet it continues unabated.

Some years ago, WWJD or ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ was a wildly popular rallying cry for people to try to model themselves after Christ, an admittedly admirable pursuit. It’s fairly bizarre that some of the same people who probably still have a WWJD bracelet stashed in a drawer somewhere now get up to the microphone during public comment and read scripture to justify firing, evicting or refusing service to someone based on the gender of their sexual partner, the cut of their shirt or the way they style their hair; that individuals who proudly speak of their God’s mercy and grace would support immigration bans for people who worship the same god but read from a different book, people who are fleeing the misery and violence of a civil war.

Are these the sorts of things that Jesus would do? Would Jesus ban Syrian refugees from Florida or bus in dozens of wild-eyed Baptists to preach legalized discrimination at public comment?

Honestly, it doesn’t — or it shouldn’t — even matter. But as long as we’re on the subject, I humbly submit that the deity who stars in a scripture that says the son of God was sent “to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18) would view discriminating against people based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression as nothing less than oppression, which that same scripture has something to say about.

“You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Exodus 23:9