Saturday, April 21, 2007

Fighting for the freedom to discriminate

Via a commenter at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, I was lead to this editorial by Wade Fickler in the Oregonian. As you may recall, Oregon's House passed a bill this week allowing for "domestic partnerships":
On a bad day, or even a good day if one ever existed, "inescapable" might be how religious persecution seemed to Pentecostal Christians living on the fringe of society in the former Soviet Union and in the early days of its successor states. Today, however, it is positively escapable if a person can cobble together a story of oppression or demonstrate family ties to someone already living in the United States.


Truth be told, during my 27 months in Ukraine, I heard not one personal account of fundamentalist Christians experiencing religious persecution in contemporary Ukrainian life. But that doesn't mean it was not or is not happening. Ukraine's new government is certainly no leader on the human rights front, and evidence that the mainstream Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a powerful religious and political institution abounds. But the most noticeable development in religious life in the country is the burgeoning number of Ukrainians practicing some brand of Western evangelicalism.

For many of these Ukrainians, claims of maltreatment have been their ticket to freedom in the United States, and many religious refugees have settled in Portland.

What does this have to do with the gay rights bill?
On the Monday after Easter, a House committee heard four hours of testimony on House Bill 2007, a domestic partnership bill, and Senate Bill 2, an anti-discrimination bill. The most visible opposition to both bills came from hundreds of Slavic immigrants who helped fill five hearing rooms and the corridor.


"We hate government oppression of religious freedom and family values, whether in Russia or California," said Galina Bondar, a Ukrainian immigrant in Sacramento also quoted in the Times. "We just have more we can do about it in California."

Mr. Fickler ends the editorial with these astute paragraphs:
In Oregon and elsewhere, religious refugees from the former Soviet Union, many of whom are not U.S. citizens, are boldly exercising their newly obtained right to free speech in an orchestrated effort to deny American gay-rights activists a victory in their struggle for equality.

Clearly, what this story lacks in moral clarity it makes up for in irony.

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