Discrimination or Religious Freedom: Why voting matters

Erinn Williams

A couple holds hands as they walk into a restaurant to celebrate their anniversary. They made reservations months ago and are excited to sit down at the table, but when the hostess greets them she makes an uneasy face. She politely informs them that they can’t be served here. It’s against company policy. But this isn’t the 60s, this is 2015, or at least it will be if the multiple religious freedom acts around the country are passed by their individual states.

This week, while many of us were too preoccupied by our school work to pay attention, a bill could have moved one step closer to becoming law that would have allowed people to be legally discriminated against.

S.B. 129, known as the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was supposed to be voted on by the House on Monday after passing with a 38-15 vote early this month in the Georgia Senate, but the meeting was postponed due to national backlash over religious freedom legislation.

This bill would have allowed businesses and in some cases private individuals in the state of Georgia to deny service to LGBTQ individual based on their religious affiliation. People could be refused medical assistance, food, housing and much more, ruining years of civil rights legislature that prevents these things from occurring.

I cannot speak on every religion, because I don’t think that I am informed enough about every faith to do that. But as a Christian, and in particular as a Baptist, like many of the religious leaders in Indiana and Arkansas, where bills like this have already become law this month, I am concerned by the fact that people who are affiliated with my faith as well would use our God to promote hatred and bigotry.

As a Black woman of a particularly nonsexual persuasion, you can see how this might bother me. It wasn’t too long ago when people misinterpreted scriptures from my own faith as a way to back the vile acts of slavery and segregation. I mean, to be honest, people are still using Christianity to this day to try and verify their beliefs in the inferiority of women. All of these things have since been denounced by law, so why is it that we allowed people to be voted into office that would use religion as an excuse to discriminate against an entire group of people, because of the religious beliefs of a select few.

I believe we will never fully be able to eradicate ignorance like this. It is one thing for people to be prejudiced, but it is completely different to have this sanctioned by law. 20 states have religious freedom laws and 12 have legislature on them pending.

So why should this be important to you? Well, for one thing it should make you pay more attention to who you vote into state legislature, or even make you want to vote at all. As millennials, we have different views that our forefathers. We have been on the forefronts of demanding change, but if only 12 percent of us vote in the midterm elections, like we did this year, then how will these changes ever see the light of day?

So what I am saying is that students you really need to vote, or else bills like this which should have been tabled will be sketchily passed by an all-Republican committee, while according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution Vincent Fort, the lone democrat, was in the bathroom.