Who Would Jesus Discriminate Against?

Although it lacks the economic punch of Christmas, Easter is, in theory, the biggest of Christian holidays. “[A]nd if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” according to Paul (1 Corinthians 15:14), whose opinion on the matter commands a certain respect. So how to show respect for the message of Jesus Christ in this Easter season?

Eggs? Naturally, but not quite enough. Have children roll the eggs? Better, but there's still room for improvement. Have children roll the eggs on the lawn of the White House? Excellent. And use the occasion to show respect for all sorts of families and their children? Not so fast.

Last week, a story about Gay and Lesbian families wanting to attend today's annual White House Easter Egg Roll trickled through the media. It wasn't a protest– no rainbow flags would be flying– it was just an attempt by some often excluded families to participate in a famous annual celebration. Members of some of the families were camping out overnight to make sure they would get tickets to the event. And they did get tickets– just not the ones they expected.

Breaking with tradition, the White House made a decision not to hand out tickets on a first come/first serve basis. In keeping with Bush White House tradition, this was a secret decision. Instead of ending up with tickets to the 8 am opening of the Egg Roll, overseen by Mrs. Bush, the families ended up with tickets for admittance at 11 am, at the earliest. That would admit them long after Mrs. Bush is gone, thereby sparing the White House the possible photo op of the First Lady standing near Heather and her two mommies. Instead, the 8 am opening was packed with handpicked Bush supporters– another fine old Bush White House tradition.

What sort of loudly self-proclaimed Christians would go out of their way to discriminate against gays and lesbians on a holiday dedicated to Jesus? The sort you might find in the Every Nation Campus Ministries at Cal States Long Beach and San Diego. As the Los Angeles Times reported last week, some Christian groups are suing for “the right to be intolerant”. Specifically, intolerant when it comes to gays and lesbians.

Tired of college campuses being rife with tolerance, these Christian soldiers have lawyered up.

Christians are fighting back in a case involving Every Nation Campus Ministries at California State University. Student members of the ministry on the Long Beach and San Diego campuses say their mission is to model a virtuous lifestyle for their peers. They will not accept as members gays, lesbians or anyone who considers homosexuality “a natural part of God's created order.”

Legal analysts agree that the ministry, as a private organization, has every right to exclude gays; the Supreme Court affirmed that principle in a case involving the Boy Scouts in 2000. At issue is whether the university must grant official recognition to a student group that discriminates.

The students say denying them recognition — and its attendant benefits, such as funding — violates their free-speech rights and discriminates against their conservative theology. Christian groups at public colleges in other states have sued using similar arguments. Several of those lawsuits were settled out of court, with the groups prevailing.

These disciples of a Jesus who embraces bigotry see the court cases as an important stand for their values. Fight now, or see homophobes end up like racists. “Think how marginalized racists are,” the director of Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom told the Times. “If we don't address this now, it will only get worse.”

Homophobes marginalized like racists… there's a nice thought for this Easter Monday.

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