Religion Has Its Place, But It Is Not In Government

I must admit, the prospect of going to prison isn’t something I’ve had to seriously consider during my lifetime. The last thing I would have imagined is being charged with child abuse. And yet if I lived in Alabama, I most certainly would be convicted of child abuse under their Vulnerable Child Protection Act.

My crime? I have a 13-year-old transgender son and I personally give him testosterone shots for gender dysphoria. Michigan does not yet have this law, but Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, and several other states have similar legislation. No one is safe.

I guess you could say I’m guilty as sin, which gets to the heart of why conservative lawmakers are trying to lock up parents like me. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law because “If the Good Lord made you a boy, you are a boy, and if he made you a girl, you are a girl.”

Some laws must be broken.

Unfortunately, my being in jail is nothing compared to the devastating impact it will have on our kids. My sonand thousands of children like him will be denied life affirming health care. Make no mistake, laws like this will kill trans kids.

There are hundreds of pieces of anti-trans legislation being pushed through state houses by conservatives. In Florida and other red states, kids are seeing themselves be erased from the conversation at school, segregated from bathrooms, banned from sports, and facing a future without rights. Their very existence is being denied.

My trans son was distraught before socially transitioning, but he has thrived in the ten years since we affirmed his gender identity. We were fortunate to have medical professionals who were able to diagnose my son with gender dysphoria and prescribe the proper hormone treatments. It works. And it’s proven to be the best option available.

Young people with gender dysphoria suffer extremely high rates of depression and anxiety, with an attempted suicide rate approaching 50%. In contrast, youth who are affirmed in their gender identity experience mental health similar to the rest of the population. That’s why every major medical and mental health organization overwhelmingly recommends affirming care for gender dysphoria.

And yet here we are. Conservative legislators promoting anti-trans legislation ignore the overwhelming facts, evidence, science, and testimony of medical professionals, parents, and trans kids themselves. A firmly held religious belief is enough justification for those legislators to create laws that jeopardize my son’s life and put me in prison. In this, we are no different than the tyrannical theocracies that govern by “sharia law.”

Why do conservative legislators demonize trans kids and their parents?

It should come as no surprise. Conservatives have long embraced white supremacy, pseudo-nationalism, and a weaponized version of Christianity – a trilogy of terror – to manipulate their evangelical and white Christian nationalist base. Whether they promote conspiracies and lies about white “replacement theories,” or trans parents being child abusers, or liberals being pedophiles and baby killers, the goal is the same – incite fear and rage.

The mass murder of African Americans we just witnessed in Buffalo is a direct consequence of this conservative crusade. The same rage that brings white Christian nationalist voters to the polls results in violence and death for people of color, the LGBTQ community, and immigrants. It’s a perpetuation of the strategy used to justify slavery and segregation and to deny women’s rights.

For hundreds of years the Catholic church and many other Christian denominations  sanctioned slavery and subjugation of black and indigenous peoples. The church has long considered women to be subservient and inferior to men.

Why do we continue to give religions a voice in government?

This letter is not a condemnation of those who hold religious beliefs. But it is absolutely an indictment of those who claim their religious beliefs give them the freedom to dehumanize, discriminate and deny our civil and human rights.

There are aspects of all religions that encourage us to love one another, avoid judging others, and forgive trespasses. We can learn much from the stories and take comfort in the fellowship religions provide. But we must acknowledge that religions, as all conjectures about the supernatural, are untestable and unprovable.

Religion, by its very nature, cannot take the place of logical, evidence-based, scientific arguments.

So where do we go from here?

The only lasting solution I see is the complete and uncompromising separation of church and state. We cannot expect justice by debating our humanity against those who reject facts, evidence, and reason in favor of religious speculation. We must continue to challenge the legality of anti-trans, anti-abortion, and the new voter suppression laws in court.

But is it enough? I don’t think so. We are up against Trump conservatives who cater to white Christian nationalists and incite violence in the name of God and country. If we’ve learned anything from the African American Freedom Movement, it is this:  It will take education, non-violent protest, and civil disobedience.

I hope there is a God. Our democracy, however, will not survive unless we can all admit that no one really knows. That’s why they call it faith. Religion has its place, but it is not in government.

In the interim, if a law similar to Alabama’s Vulnerable Child Protection Act is passed in Michigan, I will break it. And I will take the consequences. Our kids are worth it. Our democracy is worth it.