Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Can I Get An Amen: Mike Pushkin, A Voice Of Reason Against Faith-Based Discrimination

Up in West Virginia, hate is on the agenda in the House of Delegates.

There are literally dozens of anti-LGBT bills working their way through the statehouse, most trying to make discriminating against LGBT people — especially same-sex couples — legal, by letting anyone or any company, corporation, or organization claim to have a "sincerely held religious or moral belief" against same-sex marriage or just The Gays in general.

But in West Virginia this week the House was debating HB 4012, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA], a bill that even one of its supporters acknowledges "doesn’t restore anything." Still, it makes hating gay people legal so let’s get on with it!

Republican Delegate John Shott, voiced his approval of the bill because he said he was " dismayed at a Christmas party last year when a guest … said he had not displayed his Nativity scene this year because he 'wasn’t sure whether it was legal or not.”
“That really caused me to pause. We really live in a country of hyper-sensitivity. We have really become so paranoid." — John Shott
Now, I don’t know if Shott’s “friend” was talking about putting up a Nativity scene at the statehouse, where he should not be allowed to do so, or at his private home, where he should absolutely be entitled to do so; Shott doesn’t say because perhaps the real reason might not fit in with his agenda.

But one man, Mike Pushkin, stood up against this new Hate Law because he’s an anomaly in West Virginia — at least in the statehouse — being that he’s a Democrat and Jewish. Pushkin took to the floor and explained why he was “offended” by the bill:
"I believe I am the only member of a religious minority elected to this body currently. I’m Jewish. Religious freedom is very important to me. If it wasn't for religious freedom I wouldn't be here. In my lifetime I cannot tell you what religious persecution is, because I'm an American, and we do not persecute people in America for religious beliefs, because we have the First Amendment to the Constitution, that's very well written."
Pushkin believes, as do I, that the real reason behind these RFRAs being debated in statehouses around the country is because same-sex marriage is now legal. He calls West Virginia’s RFRA "pushback" from people who are "not persecuted, but possibly inconvenienced" by marriage equality and offered an example of his own experience with religious inconvenience when he had to attend a meeting as a state lawmaker on Rosh Hashanah:
"I did my job. That was an inconvenience. I didn't stand on the courthouse steps and cry about it, I didn't really say much. Mike Huckabee didn't fly into West Virginia and hold my hand on the courthouse steps [as he did with Kentucky clerk Kim Davis]. It was a scheduling problem that interfered with my religious beliefs."
Pushkin tried to explain the difference between religious inconvenience and religious persecution:
"Having to bake a cake when you are a professional baker, and having somebody pay you to bake a cake is not discrimination. It could, possibly, be seen as an inconvenience, but you're a baker. … It's somebody choosing to do their job. I guess what I'm trying to say is, baking a cake is not persecution. Getting baked in an oven is persecution,"
Pushkin’s family fled "real religious persecution" in Eastern Europe.

Pushkin’s words, and personal experiences, fell on deaf ears because the West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed by an overwhelming majority, 72-26. It now moves on to the Senate.

Hate is one step closer to being legal in West Virginia but maybe, just maybe, Mike Pushkin’s words were actually heard by someone and things will change before it’s too late.


Michael Dodd said...

Sadly hate needs no legal protection. It is always in power and in season. Ironically never more so than when masquerading as religion.

the dogs' mother said...

Mike Pushkin is a good egg.

Moving with Mitchell said...

I admire people like Mike Pushkin for even bothering with West Virginia politics.

Helen Lashbrook said...

As Mike Pushkin says religious persecution is when you are punished for your faith; imprisoned, burnt by the Inquisition or the Nazis, branded....that is religious persecution. What is happening in the US is a religious minority persecuting those who do not hold to the exact self-same beleifs they do and that is the first step on a very immoral path