Thursday, June 3, 2021

Religious Persecution and/or Freedom

In the least surprising news development yesterday, a Loudon County Public School teacher's suspension has now become a lawsuit.

Phys Ed teacher Tanner Cross went to a school board meeting and voiced his opposition to any proposed policy that called for addressing students with their preferred pronouns. "I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it's against my religion," Loudoun County, Virginia, teacher Byron "Tanner" Cross said. For that, he's been suspended from his district in Virginia.

I am not without a small slice of sympathy for the man; the former union president inside me saw the story and immediately wanted to question the wisdom of suspending a teacher for saying they were going to disobey a policy even before they actually had the chance to actually disobey it. "I'm going to be insubordinate," is not quite the same thing as being insubordinate. Though I suppose the public announcement sort of forced the administration's hand.

At the same time, I have to wonder about his position. This is not the first time that religious objections to transexual humans have cropped up, and I am still searching for the Biblical basis for this. Exactly which part of the Christian faith, which teaching of Jesus, requires people of faith to object to trans folks? Cross (and his attorneys) are trying to hedge bets by suggesting the problem is the lying, that telling anything but the unvarnished truth is unChristian. I'm.... dubious. Cross teaches elementary school; I'd like to be there for the days when he blasts kindergartners for talking about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny, or really, any conversation about movies in which actors pretend to be people who don't really exist. All of those are far more lie-like than calling a person by their preferred pronoun. 

The attorneys (we'll get to them shortly) would like to use this as one more chance to extend the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, a game these folks have been working at for a while. What we keep coming back to is the notion that one can't really fully exercise one's Christian faith unless one is free to discriminate against Certain People. To which I say, if you can't be a fully-exercising Christian without discriminating against someone, you are doing the whole Christian thing wrong. 

Cross's lawyers would disagree. They include Tyson Langhofer and J. Caleb Dalton of Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian advocacy group that was incorporated in 1993 by six right-wing luminaries, including Larry Burkett, Bill Bright, and James Dobson. They are supported by a host of right-wing foundations, including the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation. And they oppose abortion, same-sex marriage, most all LGBTQ+ rights. Their track record is sadly successful; these are the Hobby Lobby lawsuit folks. They have a summer legal training program to get Christian law students whipped up for legal careers; Justice Amy Coney Barrett taught at it.

The group characterizes the district's actions as "unconstitutional" and leans on both the idea that Cross shouldn't have to violate his beliefs (by using pronouns) and also the notion that this is an ideology "that ultimately could harm them." I'm wondering if the same argument could be used by a teacher who wants to thwart the practice of letting armed forces recruiters into schools. 

The suit is a win-win for these folks. Either they can impose more of their own religious beliefs on schools, or they can further break down the whole notion of public education and "government schools." And religious persecution no longer means the persecution of religious folks, but the preservation of their "right" to persecute others.

1 comment:

  1. Does he refuse to call kids by nicknames? Is Daniel Joesph "Joe" McGinnes (made up) in his class always "Daniel Joeseph McGinnes"? Or, can he be "Joe" because he prefers to be addressed by a variation of his middle name?

    Do John Smith Jr.'s always get "John Smith, Jr.," or, if they go by "Chip" does he use that? Or "Junior."

    Color me skeptical as well.