I am excited about the possibilities that religious liberty laws could mean in Louisiana. I take our governor at his word when, in the April Fool’s edition of The Advocate, he said “I oppose discrimination” and that he “would strengthen religious liberty in Louisiana.” This is refreshing to hear.
I serve as a Unitarian Universalist minister in Baton Rouge and welcome a respite from the ways our state is impeding my religious liberties. We could start by repealing the laws in this state that unfairly discriminate against members of the congregation I serve. They have been forced to leave Louisiana to get married because the state refuses to recognize my religious authority to perform marriages of people of the same gender. They are barred from emergency rooms and financial security because these laws refuse to recognize their marriage.
I also welcome less obstructionist reproductive laws.
It would allow me to better counsel members of my congregation who struggle with their reproductive choices because they have limited access to birth control, comprehensive sexuality education and abortion.
It also has been hard to serve in Louisiana because of the institutionalized perpetuation of segregation. I am called to serve the kingdom of God on earth, which includes all people. Laws that isolate and neglect African-Americans by disproportionately removing their access to justice and safety need to end. If the governor is committed to religious liberty, surely he will put laws in place that will help all people come to the welcome table.
If our governor is sincere in what he says, I am excited. I worry, though, that he isn’t being sincere. I worry that he is using coded language to appeal to a partisan base and will force through laws that further demean and discriminate against members of my church.
I worry that the advocacy for religious liberty is just another ploy to reinforce a status quo that has robbed our state of its dignity. I worry that a push under the sheep’s clothing of religious liberty will further mute my ministry and prevent me from serving God and justice.
I love Louisiana and its people. We deserve a state that brings out the best in us, not one that perpetuates the petty partisan bickering and divisiveness that have paralyzed our nation.
assistant minister, Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge