By Hank Zumach, August 4, 2013
Published in the La Crosse Tribune.
Freethinkers have a wide range of views, from liberal to conservative, on how government programs should affect the economy. However, we have near universal agreement that government programs must not be used to promote discrimination based on gender, race, sexual orientation, or religion.
For those readers who are concerned about the direction some of the unfolding political ideas might take the country, please consider just one facet of what has been injected into several states by the more conservative political party.
I am 71 years old. In my youth, Blacks were not allowed to vote or use public bathrooms or attend White- only public schools. Employers could refuse to hire women. Women were paid less than men for doing the same work and could be refused promotions simply because they were women. Homosexual activity was a felony and gays were imprisoned, some for life. Jews, because of their religious beliefs, were openly discriminated against in our country and were being killed in Europe. All of these practices had the active support of various religious denominations.
But gradually a few brave men and women, some of them religious leaders, began to speak out against the bigotry and irrational hatred. Some of these people were imprisoned and some were actually killed for speaking out, but others then stood up and took their place. For some of us the words “Selma” and “Stonewall” mark important turning points for when our country began to change our laws so that all citizens, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs were treated the same.
I am sure the large majority of Americans believe that those dark days are long gone and there is no need to be concerned about their ever returning. However, very few people are aware that laws have been passed which allow actual tax subsidies for groups who advocate severe discrimination against females and gays and who want to impose their religious beliefs on others. The political leaders behind these laws are being very clever in how they justify governmental backing for these egregious practices. These politicians use carefully chosen phrases such as “parents’ rights” and “freedom to choose.” The media have been drawn into using these phrases when reporting on any disagreements over the laws.
Do I believe that parents should be free to teach their children certain values and beliefs? Yes, of course. However I also believe the vast majority of our society believes that teaching children to be bigots should be seriously discouraged and certainly should not be supported by tax dollars. As a simple example, I abhor the idea that some parents want their daughter to believe she must be submissive to males, that she should not have a job where she would have to supervise and instruct male co-workers. A similar example would be teaching a son that he should physically or otherwise abuse any classmate believed to be homosexual. And no child should be taught that the leaders or followers of another religion are evil.
What is most distressing to me is that the political leaders who claim to oppose these tax subsidies do not have the courage to stand up and use clear, unambiguous language to directly defend women’s equality and gay rights, or oppose taxes being used to demonize a particular religious group. The dark days are slowly returning and these political leaders quietly stand by as the lights are dimmed.
If you do not believe what I have written is fact-based and true, take the time to learn what is being taught in some Wisconsin schools being subsidized with vouchers. While a number of denominations, both Christian and Muslim, use vouchers, I refer you to the following web site because it gives a comprehensive, easily understood description of what this one denomination believes and teaches. Also, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) is the largest Protestant school system receiving voucher subsidies in Wisconsin. There are a number of other denomination’s schools with similar teachings. Here is an ABC start of some of what is being taught using our taxes:
A. The statement on female’s submissive role: http://www.wels.net/about-wels/doctrinal-statements/man-and-woman-roles
B. The statement on homosexuality. In a previous article on the website it was stated that a person would be “promoting good civil laws” that would punish homosexuals in the same way as murderers are punished. http://www.wels.net/about-wels/doctrinal-statements/homosexuality
C. The statement on the Catholic Pope being the Anti-Christ: http://www.wels.net/about-wels/doctrinal-statements/antichrist
Our basic social values of equality and non-discrimination are under attack and in danger. We need leaders, both secular and religious, to speak out against this contrived circumvention of the important principles of the separation of church and state outlined in our Constitution’s 1st Amendment. And we need to hear their voices now, before the darkness returns to the youths of the next generation.