It’s past time to start discussing religion, politics

In polite society, one does not discuss politics or religion. Usually all that results is an argument. No one is going to be convinced. Sadly, we no longer seem to exist in a polite society, so screw the rules! They aren’t working anyway.

Maybe it’s time we did discuss politics AND religion! Maybe it’s time to get it all out in the open in one cathartic release. Because all of this “not talking about it” isn’t getting us anywhere.

The origins of both politics and religion seem to be pure. The world is a difficult place to live in, so if believing in something bigger than yourself helps you make it another day, I’m 100 percent behind you. Worship as you please, by all means.

But doesn’t true freedom of religion also extend to how someone else believes?

Large numbers of people living in close proximity can present challenges. Peace is generally preferred over anarchy, and so systems of government have developed. I’m 100 percent in favor of a form of government that establishes justice, insures domestic tranquility, provides for the common defense, promotes the general welfare and secures the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
Sounds familiar, right?

So, where did we go so wrong? The First Amendment provides a variety of freedoms, among them the freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the free exercise of religion.

It also says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” To me, that equates to a freedom from having religion foisted on us.

But more and more, it seems like politics are intruding on religion, and religion is intruding on politics — with predictably volatile consequences.

Recently, a 19-year-old college student in California shot up a synagogue, murdering an innocent 60 year old woman.

And for what? Because he hated Jewish people.

Religious hatred isn’t only visited on the Jews; Muslims and Christians have all fallen to violence in their places of worship in shameful and cowardly acts of hate. And these acts seem to be increasing in frequency.

So is religious interference in secular activities. From the recent guidance by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that would protect healthcare workers’ ability to refuse someone service on religious grounds to bills in the Texas Legislature like SB 17, which would extend a liability shield to keep people claiming “sincerely-held religious beliefs” from being sued for refusing to do their jobs.

The lines seem to be getting blurred, and for the good of America and Americans, maybe it’s time to tap the brakes a little.

It seems to me that the closer religious organizations get to political power, the more they seem to try to consolidate that power and the less they act like compassionate people of God. There is a little too much worry about the right to use religious beliefs to limit other people’s rights, enrich coffers, deny people services and solidify their political power base. Any challenges to those efforts or even calls for equality are met with claims that someone is trying to “ban the Bible” or “persecute Christians.”

I firmly believe that churches and organized religion have no place in government. Period. If churches want to get involved in politics, how about giving up your tax-exempt status as a church?

Besides, let’s call it what it is: In Afghanistan and Iran, it’s not about freedom of religion it’s about “freedom of Islam.” Want to have a good look at what religion meddling in politics looks like? Look no further.

No thanks.

Want to practice Islam? No problem. Please do. Same with Christianity — worship away, follow Christ to the ends of the Earth. Just not into the legislature. And stay far, far from Congress.

It seems to me that those who are so vehement about the need for religious freedom aren’t really so high on the actual practice; they are really all about freedom of “their” religion. If Christians were denied services by devout Jews, or Muslims, or if Texans couldn’t buy beef from a practicing Hindu, the cries of discrimination would be echoing off every wall.

Hey, I feel your pain! I can’t buy a damn bottle of wine before noon on Sunday because of someone’s religion, and that’s when I tend to do my shopping. I promise not to show up to church with liquor on my breath, ok?

“Sincerely-held religious beliefs” — what is that anyway?

First off, it’s a qualifier listed in several of the “religious refusal” laws that would permit someone to use their faith to deny a person service. But what is the test for that? How do I know how sincere your beliefs are?

Join me in imagining what that might look like. When you think about the words “sincerely-held religious belief” what do you picture? A Buddhist monk silently meditating? The Pope washing the feet of a person on the street? A woman stepping in front of her rabbi when a bullet is fired?

Or do you picture a TV preacher explaining why he needs a second private jet? Or an executive pastor running for a Texas House seat? Or a county clerk refusing a marriage license to a gay couple?

I wonder where the taboo of discussing politics and religion came from. My guess is it was a firm desire to retain the status quo. If you can’t discuss something, we can’t change it. It’s high time we had that discussion.

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