The recently vetoed homophobic bill in Arizona got a good deal of publicity, and not in a way that its framers would have liked. The figures of the religious right are in a tizzy over getting called out on their resurrection of the ghost of Jim Crow. In a piece titled “Brewer picked the pig skin”, Gary Bauer, one of the most notorious christian homoprhobes, has no kind words for the way the public discourse on this matter was conducted.
Worse than the veto was that the left was allowed to frame the debate. Legislation intended to preserve religious liberty was cast by most news outlets as an effort to restore Jim Crow laws, which prevented black Americans from being served by certain establishments. Those laws were evil and there was no motivation for them other than raw racism. And America has correctly decided that racism is wrong.
See, motivation makes all the difference. In the case of discrimination against gays, the motivation is religion. In the case of discrimination against black Americans, it wasn’t. At least that is what Bauer’s writing (which I suggest be read fully) implies.
Except that racism was defended in those days every bit as biblically as homophobia is today.
Theodore Bilbo was one of Mississippi’s great demagogues. After two non-consecutive terms as governor, Bilbo won a U.S. Senate seat campaigning against “farmer murderers, corrupters of Southern womanhood, [skunks] who steal Gideon Bibles from hotel rooms” and a host of other, equally colorful foes.
For Senator Bilbo, however, racism was more that just an ideology, it was a sincerely held religious belief. In a book entitled Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization, Bilbo wrote that “[p]urity of race is a gift of God . . . . And God, in his infinite wisdom, has so ordained it that when man destroys his racial purity, it can never be redeemed.” Allowing “the blood of the races [to] mix,” according to Bilbo, was a direct attack on the “Divine plan of God.” There “is every reason to believe that miscengenation and amalgamation are sins of man in direct defiance to the will of God.”
Bilbo was one of the South’s most colorful racists, but he was hardly alone in his beliefs. As early as 1867, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld segregated railway cars on the grounds that “[t]he natural law which forbids [racial intermarriage] and that social amalgamation which leads to a corruption of races, is as clearly divine as that which imparted to [the races] different natures.” This same rationale was later adopted by state supreme courts in Alabama, Indiana and Virginia to justify bans on interracial marriage, and by justices in Kentucky to support residential segregation and segregated colleges.
In 1901, Georgia Gov. Allen Candler defended unequal public schooling for African Americans on the grounds that “God made them negroes and we cannot by education make them white folks.” After the Supreme Court ordered public schools integrated in Brown v. Board of Education, many segregationists cited their own faith as justification for official racism. Ross Barnett won Mississippi’s governorship in a landslide in 1960 after claiming that “the good Lord was the original segregationist.” Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia relied on passages from Genesis, Leviticus and Matthew when he spoke out against the civil rights law banning employment discrimination and whites-only lunch counters on the Senate floor.
As it happens, though, far worse was committed in the name of “God the original segregationist”.
[S]ee Genesis ix, 24—27, as follows: “And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him: and he said, cursed be Canaan (Ham); a servant of SERVANTS shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan (Ham) shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan (Ham) shall be his servant.”
…[Bishop] Newton maintains … that the curse of Noah upon Ham, had a general and an interminable application to the whole [negro] race, in placing them under a peculiar liability of being enslaved by the races of the two other brothers.
The curse, therefore, against Ham and [the negro] race was not sent out on the account of that one sin only. But as the deed was heinous, and withal was in unison with his whole life, character and constitutional make, prior to that deed, the curse, which had slumbered long, was let loose upon him and his posterity, as a general thing, placing them under the ban of slavery, on account of his and their foreseen characters. […]
The appointment of this race of men to servitude and slavery was a judicial act of God, or, in other words, was a divine judgment.
“Embarrassing” stories you’d never learn from Gary Bauer.