Breaking the Bathroom Barrier: A Civil-Rights Imperative?

July-August 2016

As Christians, we should all agree that it is wrong to discriminate.

Whoa, wait a minute. Let’s back up a second and qualify that: We should all agree that it’s wrong to discriminate according to the term’s second dictionary definition: “To make distinctions on the basis of class or category without regard to individual merit; show preference or prejudice.” None of us wants to be perceived as being prejudiced, right? (On the other hand, we can all agree that there is nothing wrong whatsoever with discriminating according to the first dictionary definition: “To make a clear distinction; distinguish.” Every conscious person on the planet does this every single day.)

For those Catholics who find this assertion dubious, recall that the Catechism says, “Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design” (no. 1935). This comes on the heels of a passage that reads, “All men have the same nature and the same origin…all therefore enjoy equal dignity” (no. 1934).

Does this mean that Catholics must lend their support to the laws being passed around the nation, including at the federal level, that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity? That’s what Michael G. Lawler and Todd A. Salzman, professors in the theology department at Creighton University, a Jesuit institution of higher learning in Omaha, Nebraska, assert in an article in the National Catholic Reporter (“Nondiscrimination laws merit church support,” Apr. 22).

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, eighteen states, the District of Columbia, and over two hundred cities and counties have passed laws that ban discrimination based on gender identity. Catholic opposition to such legislation, Lawler and Salzman claim, is a violation of “human dignity,” which the Catechism says we should all enjoy, and promotes “unjust discrimination,” which the Catechism says must be eradicated. More than that, Lawler and Salzman add, “legislation protecting LGBT people from discrimination is a civil rights imperative that the Catholic Church is obligated to support” (italics added). Seems fairly cut and dried, doesn’t it?

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New Oxford Notes: July-August 2016

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