Thursday, September 15, 2005

RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY DRESSED UP AS HUMOR

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I have a fairly low tolerance threshold for naked religious bigotry. I hold this position for some of the same reasons that I find other forms of bigotry (as against race and gender) contemptible. I recognize that religious affiliation differs from these inherited traits in that religion is, in the main, a matter of choice. But in America, some choices are treated as sancrosanct, are they not? We have a right to vote (and, therefore, to choose a candidate), right to travel (choosing to cross state lines), right to assemble, etc. I'm currently working on a civil rights lawsuit wherein the state filed a motion to terminate our client's parental rights and neglected to tell him about it until the matter was almost over. His right to choose to have children, and to choose to raise and associate with them, was violated.

A person's choice of religion, then, should enjoy a presumptive measure of respect. Not necessarily agreement with, or reverence for, or deference to. Just respect. My own religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more familiarly known as Mormonism) frequently faces a not-insignificant amount of disrespect arising out of, well, its existence. That's unfortunate. Take, for example, this advertisement about an upcoming play put on in New York City:
The second developmental production of the season will be Cusi Cram’s ALL THE BAD THINGS, which will play a limited 15-performance engagement, beginning performances in late January, 2006. Fernanda is having a bad day -- a very bad day. She lives with her ailing mother in a tiny apartment in the West Village, her husband has braces and is unemployed, her brother-in-law has suddenly converted to Mormonism, the creditors wont stop calling AND she finds out her rent stabilized apartment is about to be de-stabilized. Where can the fragile, the artistic, the underemployed find refuge in a city that is no longer kind to its eccentrics and Bohemians? Is Manhattan over? Are there sane Mormons? ALL THE BAD THINGS asks these questions and a few others, while searching for hope in unexpected places.
A family member joining the LDS Church is a "bad thing," on par with having an unemployed spouse, being hounded by creditors, and facing a rent increase. Mormons are presumptively insane, and there is some question as to whether there are any sane Mormons at all.

I doubt the secular, artsy-fartsy avant-garde types putting out "All the Bad Things" would insult, say, Islam or Buddhism in this way.