The Boston Globe reports today that state officials stopped a United Church of Christ volunteer program from distributing soup to homeless people on the streets after diners got sick eating food that had been prepared in volunteers’ home kitchens.
The church swiftly acknowledged its responsibility to the public, and its obligation under the law, to ensure that food is prepared in safe, licensed kitchens.
Now let’s contrast the UCC’s law-abiding response to the reactions of antigay activist Maggie Gallagher, the Roman Catholic Church, and the ex-gay movement, when their churches are urged to protect the public health and obey the law like everyone else.
1. When the same state, Massachusetts, last week considered legislation to regulate the medical practice of circumcision, Gallagher lost her nerve and proclaimed that Jews were being threatened with religious persecution — a facetious claim, largely unsupported by the state’s Jews, that merely served as a token effort by Gallagher to drag Jews into her holier-than-thou war against the religious freedom of sexual minorities.
2. After social-justice advocated urged the Pope to condemn antigay genocide in Uganda — out of respect for international law, public health, and common human decency — the Pope did the opposite last week:
…In his address to the bishops of Uganda last Friday, Benedict XVI made no reference to the anti-gay bill or the international outcry surrounding it.
Instead he called on the bishops to “encourage the Catholics of Uganda to appreciate fully the sacrament of marriage in its unity and indissolubility, and the sacred right to life” — the latter a reference to abortion. He also urged them “to resist the seduction of a materialistic culture of individualism which has taken root in so many countries” — a reference to concerns about an encroaching cultural influence from Europe and North America.
Far worse than the UCC’s well-intentioned serving of spoiled food, the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda has greased the wheels of a church-state death machine: A barbaric apparatus to sweep up thousands of LGBT people and their relatives for indiscriminate mass execution at the gallows. The Pope’s naked repudiation of life (when it isn’t heterosexual and preferably Catholic) is an act of negligent homicide against Ugandan minorities. The Pope’s silent affirmation of genocide also plainly repudiates international law regarding nation-states’ obligations to stop genocide, and finally the Pope’s ongoing promotion of abstinence-only public policy promises to accelerate the growing loss of human life that has occurred since conservatives began to silence Uganda’s comprehensive education, prevention, and treatment programs for HIV/AIDS in 2003.
3. Finally, when Tennessee intervened to stop youth sexual abuse and negligent treatment at Exodus’ flagship Love In Action residential facility back in 2007, Exodus responded by declaring that so-called “ministries” enjoy a blanket religious freedom to (mis)treat children — under the guise of phony pseudo-medical marketing — as their religion dictates. In the end, to the chagrin of concerned regulators, Tennessee’s conservative Baptist politicians agreed: Where the potential for medical malpractice and sexual abuse is concerned, churches are largely above the law.
What is it about the Christian Right family of political organizations that prompts them to defy law and health in order to preserve the same — and to deny religious freedom to all but themselves?
There is a stark difference between churches that obey humanitarian law, serve the public good, and respect public health — versus those that accumulate power by repudiating law, undermining human rights, sickening the public, and deliberately harming their chosen enemies.
One side believes that it should act on the assumption that God is love, while the other acts on the assumption that God is fear, sadism, and avarice.