(As posted to my Gazette blog)

“Arizona: Should business owners be allowed to refuse to serve religious people?”

Yes, it was an outrageous rhetorical question, which I asked in the preceding post in this blog. But the very thought that business owners would deny services to religious people in Arizona — and by extension, to religious people throughout the United States, Canada and other like nations — is drawing a lot of readers to the post in my Gazette blog. No doubt, a lot of religious people are among those readers.

And no doubt, most people who read the post got the message. It’s simple enough: If it is outrageous to deny business services to religious people, it is equally outrageous to deny them to LGBT people.

But experience has taught me that some religious people simply can’t see beyond their narrow, exclusionary focus. As far as they are concerned, their religious views are the only correct ones, and everybody else better bloody well adhere to their rules or face punishment both here in the material world and in the hereafter. They are arrogant — and ignorant. And that may prove to be the downfall of their organizations and other religious groups along with them.

Religious zealots would do well to look at what has been happening in Quebec recently, where the PQ government wants to enact their secular Charter of Quebec values — now the subject of public hearings — that would bar workers from wearing religious symbols in government-run workplaces, i.e. schools, libraries, hospitals etc. There has been a huge outcry over the proposal from both religious and non-religious people. It is seen by so many as discrimination against religious people, and a denial of fundamental rights — and how on earth could those symbols affect their work, anyway?

The thing is, while many feel it is a bigoted, unjust bill, it is hard for some to feel much sympathy for superstitious religious people whose churches have discriminated against so many for so long, i.e. most of the religious people affected by the bill belong to organizations that discriminate against LGBT people and would deny them equal rights if they could get away with it. And their symbols remind us of persecution, especially the crucifix, which to many represents the Catholic Church and a pathetic legacy that includes thousands upon thousands of sexual assaults by clergy on children. Maybe there is something to the idea that the crucifix should not be worn in places like schools, where it could frighten children.

Sadly, as a result of the proposed legislation, there has been a backlash against some religious people, particularly Muslim women, by some bigots in the streets of the province. There have been reported slurs and assaults — and even more unreported ones. Yes, racism and bigotry is alive and not-so-well here, thanks to the proposed legislation. And if the charter becomes law, it’s not a stretch of the imagination to see some business owners refusing to serve Muslims and Jews wearing head coverings, for example, or people wearing crucifixes. Once you open the Pandora’s box of bigotry, anything ugly can happen.

Which is all to say that intolerance can be a two-way street, and it’s wrong no matter who practices it. We can get bogged down in superstition and what-ifs — as Arizona lawmakers and Quebec lawmakers have done. Or we can rise above it, and treat everyone equally. Because that is what it all boils down to: Equal rights. Civil rights. Human rights. Common decency. Brotherly/sisterly love.

But I know that no amount of reasoning and logic will get through to some religious people. They don’t believe in “live and let live.” They don’t believe in the golden rule. Indeed, they are hypocrites, and they are making all religious people look bad. Which is so unfair.

But that’s just the way it is, baby . . .