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Posted by on Nov 11, 2012 in Guest Posts, Politics | 23 comments

Sunday Sinner Guest Post by Al Stefanelli — Equality: You Keep Using That Word…

Al Stefanelli is an author, writer, journalist and civil rights activist. He serves on the Board of Directors for The Clergy Project, and is the former Georgia State Director for American Atheists, Inc.  He is the author of “Free Thoughts – A Collection Of Essays By An American Atheist” and “A Voice Of Reason In An Unreasonable World – The Rise Of Atheism On Planet Earth.”

Al is a journalist for a Google news service, and hosts his own blog on the WordPress network called “A Voice Of Reason.” He began writing in 1985 with the New York Times, and in 1993 he joined a McClatchy newspaper, writing a weekly column for ten years. His work won a North Carolina Journalism Award in 1998, and his writing continues to be widely distributed on the Internet and in print.

Al currently co-hosts “The God Discussion Show” and “Reap Sow Radio,” both of which are live Internet radio broadcasts. He has made numerous appearances on radio and television programs, and contributes articles to several venues. He produced and hosted a weekly syndicated radio broadcast for three years in the 1990s. In 2004, he founded the United Atheist Front, Inc., which functioned as a civil rights organization and is one of the largest, privately run atheist communities on Facebook, with nearly 10,000 members.

Al is also a former Ordained Southern Baptist Pastor, having served two churches and as pulpit supply for three counties.

As a Parkinson’s patient, Al asks that you support the National Parkinson’s Foundation, as well as stem cell research for the cure of a variety of autoimmune diseases. He and his wife live in the Atlanta Metro area.

Equality: You Keep Using That Word…

As an atheist, I take particular notice of when religion oversteps its bounds with respect to government. As an activist, I operate primarily in the arena of constitutional law, attempting to stem the growth of the ever-present barrage of legislation that is foisted upon the citizenry that violates the separation clause.

Thus, I do not generally get involved in specific efforts from a grass roots perspective. From my perspective, my battles are for equal rights for human beings. Period. It’s not that I can’t be bothered with or don’t care about the plight of disenfranchised groups. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a matter of using my time as efficiently as possible, and to concentrate my efforts on the things that I am most able.

Sometimes, however, the efforts of some make it more difficult for those of us who are fighting for equal rights. Specifically, groups who wish to gain their rights by usurping the rights of others, or groups who wish to gain an advantage by having greater rights than others. This is not  equality, and as much as someone would like to think so, it is not helping the situation.

No one demographic deserves to have more rights than another, no matter how poorly they have been treated in the past, or how they are being treated in the present. This is why I have consistently been against Affirmative Action. Some people have misconstrued this, and have called me a racist. I find this amusing, even when I am wearing my Panama hat.

In fact, because I do not reason that any human being should have more rights than another, I have been also called a misogynist, a homophobe and a few other choice names. I find this disturbing, because it would appear to these individuals that the desire for equality among humanity at large is something they do not want.

I understand the need for recognizing some of the more disenfranchised groups in the context of activism. The groups that advocate for the LGBT community are doing wonderful work to bring to the attention of the masses that Lesbians, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender people are no less than anyone else, and deserve to be treated with the very same privileges that the Constitution provides. The same goes for groups that advocate for black people, Latinos, women, etc.

However, the efforts to bring these groups to equality not just on paper, but in practice in the real world, should not be done by disenfranchising the demographic that has been in the majority. If you listen to some of these people, you would think that every person in the United States who is white is a racist, and every person who is male is a misogynist, and every person who is straight is a homophobe. The fact is, nobody deserves preferential treatment based on race, religion, gender, etc.

Bigotry is bigotry, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a white person who discriminates against a black person, a male who discriminates against a female, a heterosexual person who discriminates against a homosexual, a black person who discriminates against a white person, a feminist who discriminates against men, or whites, blacks, Latinos, Eskimos, Asians, etc., who discriminate against each other because, for some reason – valid or invalid – they perceive that everyone else is somehow beneath them. These people are all part of the problem.

It’s not enough with some of the more radical groups that they are brought up to speed, so to speak, with the rights that other groups have enjoyed without molestation for generations. They want to take it a step further and be granted special privileges. Some black activist groups want to reverse slavery. Some LGBT groups want churches to be forced to perform same sex marriages and ordain gay ministers. Some feminist groups want to emasculate all men. This is not equality. It’s revenge. But the revenge is not being sought out on those who have wronged them, but on every single member of the demographic.

With these groups, the word ‘Equality’ has taken on an Orwellian definition, that all are equal, but some are more equal than others. For me, I’ll stick with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

You can’t have it both ways. You are either for equality for everyone, or you want more for yourselves. The former is a virtuous goal. The latter is something else, entirely.

  • http://twitter.com/Eshto Ryan Grant Long

    “Some LGBT groups want churches to be forced to perform same sex marriages and ordain gay ministers.”

    Citation? I’ve never heard of anybody doing this.

    • bluharmony

      I haven’t heard of that either. But I do know some Presbyterian churches started ordaining gay ministers of their own accord, and I see nothing wrong with that. Frankly, I have less of an issue with reparations for actual *minority* groups, which women are not. And women are actually biologically different. That doesn’t make us better or worse, or less valuable as human beings; but it does mean that we’re not going to have equality of outcome across all fields. Sure, discrimination should be addressed in whatever ways possible, but beyond that, it’s every man or woman for him or herself.

      I’d like to see people focusing more on economic equality, or at least help for the poor. That’s where real oppression in the US exists. We have enough for everyone to have food, shelter, and healthcare, so why don’t they? Also, I’d like to see an end to the bullying, on whatever grounds.

    • http://twitter.com/Stefanelli Al Stefanelli

      I’ve personally dealt with radical elements of the LGBT movement who feel that churches should not discriminate against homosexuals for refusing to marry gay couples, or that refuse to allow homosexuals to function in leadership positions. That would amount to the state intruding on the church, which is also a violation of their First Amendment rights. It’s great that some denominations do this, but most don’t.

      • http://twitter.com/Eshto Ryan Grant Long

        Well I don’t think churches should discriminate either, but that’s a lot different than saying I want the state to intervene and force them. Churches can do whatever they want from a strictly legal standpoint. But I am also free to criticize anti-gay churches’ bigoted policies all I want.

    • Zardoz
  • eccles11

    I wouldn’t have used such extreme examples of the revengism, you are going to a lot of “citations needed”, and most of those are in an extreme minority even somewhere as deranged as ftb.

    • http://twitter.com/Stefanelli Al Stefanelli

      I chose the examples specifically because they are extreme. That’s the point. These people think they are helping, but they’re not.
      As far as the requests for citations goes, I only do that when I am writing a news story, or am addressing context in the form of an expose.
      I don’t include citations in commentaries. They’re not relevant to the point, or the style of writing. When a writer or speaker is producing a commentary, it’s a closer format to a political speech.
      Basically, if someone wants to know that badly if an example I used to make a larger point is accurate, then they are free to fact check it.

  • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

    Al, this: “You can’t have it both ways. You are either for equality for everyone,
    or you want more for yourselves. The former is a virtuous goal. The
    latter is something else, entirely.’

    I agree totally. Thanks for being here and sharing what all reasonable people should agree on. Anyone who argues differently is seeking power over others. Q.E.D.

    • http://twitter.com/Stefanelli Al Stefanelli

      Any time, my friend :)

  • http://www.atheistrev.com/ vjack

    One problem with the strict equality approach is that it does not seem to recognize the pervasive impact of long-term oppression and enduring privilege. This is what affirmative action seeks to correct and why we see many minority groups working to promote the interests of their members.

    • http://twitter.com/Stefanelli Al Stefanelli

      I totally agree that long-term oppression and enduring privilege need to be addressed, and I applaud the efforts of groups who are dedicated to this. However, having spent a considerable number of years as an employer, or in the capacity to hire, I have come to the conclusion that Affirmative Action usually does more harm than good. As well, I have no issue with reparations, as long as the methods do not violate the constitution.

      • bluharmony

        I’m still undecided on the issue, and do support affirmative action in certain fields, but one of the problems I’ve seen is that people then automatically assume that qualified minorities/women are unqualified. It took me a while to get to this position, though, because when I was in law school the chatter that diversity programs caused was ceaseless, and as one of the targeted groups, I found the notion that I needed the bar lowered to be extremely offensive.

        I think there’s something to be said for a level playing field before true equality of opportunity can exist, but I think there are, perhaps, better ways to accomplish that than reverse discrimination.

        • Karmakin

          There’s some other things as well. Let’s say, for example, that a school wants more minority students, for whatever reason. (I agree with the argument that a more diverse student base is more valuable in terms of a well-rounded education for what it’s worth) If a school decides to expand the number of admissions over what it currently has, that’s different than slicing off a portion of its current admissions for an affirmative action program. Both might be still wrong (I disagree), but they’re not the same. One is more positive while the other is more negative.

          That said, I suspect that we’re actually nearing the end of the usefulness of traditional affirmative action programs, and in the future class is more of a distinction than gender/race. I actually make the argument that a lot of negative race bias is actually class bias disguised, because people see minorities of being of a lower social/economic class. Still racist, but it’s a different type of racism entirely which requires different solutions.

          I think people really don’t understand how much of traditional education is all about class/social biases and markers, more than actual education and skill training. You get the degree with all the electives because it makes you a “cultured” person who can properly integrate yourself into the upper educated classes. Someone who just gets the skills through one path or another are frequently looked down upon for this.

          There’s a reason why traditional academia and social justice warrioring have horrible class biases built into them.

          • bluharmony

            Yep, all this talk of hypothetical social privilege overlooks the real elephant in the room — money. And it’s done quite crassly, too, by calling successful women handmaidens of the patriarchy and so on.

            One of several breaking points for me was when Jen McCreight complained about having to see a homeless & mentally ill man on the streets as she passed him (he was, according to her story, masturbating and looking at her). If that’s an example of male privilege, then the word “privilege” has lost all meaning.

  • Pingback: A Guest Post By Al Stefanelli On Equality | Debunking Christianity

  • Clare45

    This is a tricky subject. I am all for equality for basic human rights, but beyond that, I see difficulties. If everyone was truly equal, there would be no need for job interviews. Just hire the first five people that apply. Or unskilled people would be paid the same as highly skilled and highly educated. That isn’t fair to the ones that have put the money and effort into education. Some parents deprive themselves of luxuries so that their children can go to good schools. Others drink or gamble away their money and the children suffer as a result. Obese or ugly people could get jobs as models. Colour blind people could drive trains and airplanes etc. etc.

    • bluharmony

      Personally, I get around this by setting the goals to be equality of opportunity, proportionality of representation (at least in certain areas), and equality of human worth despite our differences.

      But in a political and social sense, equality can ‘t mean anything more than equality before the law. I think there’s room for temporary reparations, to help disenfranchised groups, but affirmative action programs cannot and should not continue forever.

      The best way I see to make people more equal is to help the poor. That would simultaneously solve a lot of the problems that minorities face, as well. Because the only real privilege in the US right now is money (and the right to marry). While I don’t see a problem with competing for luxuries and social status, I don’t think it’s healthy to compete for the bare necessities of life or a decent education.

    • http://twitter.com/Stefanelli Al Stefanelli

      I don’t understand the logic of your comment, Clare.

      Equality in opportunity, not in entitlement. If I have three people come to me for a job, one white, one black and one Latino, I am going to want to hire the one that is the best fit for the job, regardless of race or ethnicity.

      This actually would benefit those who have a college education, and not make all the sacrifices that parents or guardians make to assure their children get an education.

      How is it fair that the person who went to college and got a degree, worked up through the corporate world and then gets rejected for a job because the employer has a quota to fill?

      • Clare45

        That is the point I was making. It isn’t fair, but fair does not always mean the same as equal.

  • rg57

    I’m pressed for time today. If I’m saying something stupid, forgive me.

    Regarding LGBT issues you say they may think “every person who is straight is a homophobe”. Name three living individuals or organizations who have said things that suggest this.

    Further you say “Some LGBT groups want churches to be forced to perform same sex marriages and ordain gay ministers.” You’re right here, but you’re omitting some important facts like (1) churches receive tax advantages from government, which makes them government-supported, and (2) some churches in some locations ARE the government (e.g. UK / Anglican, headed by Her Royal Highness, who is also my country’s head of state for some reason.). That said, I’m anti-theist, so I prefer LGBT people (or anyone) stay as far away from church as possible, in much the same way they should have avoided Enron, and other frauds.