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183http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2014/02/RabbiLyonsBlod-02_28_2014
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 02_28_2014
02/27/2014 07:00 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
February 28, 2014

 

On a late night talk show recently the host said that in Arizona we should expect to see signs in the windows of businesses that read, “Nice shirt. Nice shoes. No service.” He was referring to legislation in Arizona that would have permitted business owners to exercise their “religious rights” and discriminate against gay customers. The audience laughed because it was the right setting for it; but, the truth is that there’s nothing funny about it all.

                The demographic of late night talk shows should still remember when those signs weren’t only about shirts and shoes. The flipside of those signs still bear the offending imprint of a time when the signs read “No Blacks. No Jews. No Dogs”. It’s difficult for younger people to believe that those signs ever existed, but they did. They left a lasting impression on some legislators in Arizona who believed that, even absent a real sign, it was okay to create an atmosphere of fear and discrimination. Closeted bigots and xenophobes must be disappointed that Arizona governor vetoed SB1062, the controversial “anti-gay bill”.

                The result was a relief for the time-being, but the real test of Arizona’s moral compass isn’t settled. Achieving the right result for the wrong reason isn’t enough. The veto of SB1062 for economic concerns is a bad reason. It leaves out concern for the real human issues at stake. The veto of SB1062 for the reason that it “could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want” is a bad reason, too. It’s bad form to apologize without being specific about the offense you committed. To apologize for everything that might have happened is just political convenience. On her third attempt, Governor Brewer added, “Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value. So is non-discrimination.” We should feel grateful for the right answer even if it came after many efforts to arrive at it.

                In an environment like Arizona’s, keeping bigots at bay with language that meets our nation’s standards for freedom is a remarkable success. Brewer is smart not to distance herself from the national barometer that’s seeking greater achievements on equality and non-discrimination. It’s not just gays and lesbians, marijuana smokers, and same-sex couples that test our laws and standards; all of us have a need to be counted and represented in our laws and courts of justice. Their voices seem to stand out lately, but not because they’ve just arrived; they’ve always been here. Throughout the 70’s, when I was coming of age, my school teachers were the product of the 60’s, and I remember their mod outfits and VW Bugs. “Peace” was in and “War” was out. Breaking down boundaries was in the air and it stayed with most of us who learned more than math and reading from our young and optimistic teachers. When we grew to be 45-60 year-old men and women who came into leadership roles and political office, the optimism of our youth and young adulthood blossomed. We were and still are committed to avoiding discrimination in the way Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it could be done; we’re eager to eliminate obstacles to socio-economic success the way President Johnson envisioned; and, we’re hopeful that social changes that provide equality for all will unleash the human potential that resides in every person.

                Religious rights are not threatened in this country. Be a Christian, Muslim, Jew. Be a Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh. Be an atheist. Let me be what I want to believe or not believe. It doesn’t offend God. The Bible says that all human beings were created in God’s image, and both the Hebrew and Christian Bibles teach, “Love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord.” What part of that says, but not you? Judaism doesn’t permit us to embrace only the commandments we like; it demands that we engage them all and especially the ones that deal with human ethics. I have hope for Reform Judaism much like I have hope for a living Constitution, because they are mission-driven to meet us where we are while guiding us into a future that honors the past without being beholden to it.

                In a land of religious freedom, I am a Jew. I believe in God and God hears my prayers. I pray for the rights of all my neighbors, and I also pray for those who say they pray for me.

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