When religion controls policy.
I did something this weekend I said I would never do. I watched an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale. I swore I would never watch this show. I’m sick and tired of watching women being brutalized for entertainment. But I watched anyway, and the first scene I saw had a handmaid held down and forced to endure a rape so that she may procreate. The premise behind The Handmaid’s Tale is the weaponization of religion by the government against the citizens. While it may be depicting an extreme form of proselytizing, I can’t help but see the parallels within our own government.
Let me say at the outset that I am a Christian. My faith is as much a part of me as my race and gender. Faith to me is not an abstract thought; it is a living testament. With that being said, I believe that a clear and present danger lies when the lines between religion and government are blurred. Locally, we have become accustomed to our elected officials proselytizing from office. When our County Commissioners made Denton County a “Bill of Rights County” because they believed their religious beliefs were under attack, no one challenged them to explain. The Supreme Court had recently ruled those businesses could not discriminate against providing service to same-sex couples. Perhaps this was an attempt to ratify that practice in Denton County. So the line between proselytizing and governance and or representation is blurred. What does this say to members of the LGBTQ+ community in our county?
But let’s get further into this and the real parallels between The Handmaid’s Tale and our current Texas administration.
Without going into detail, this weekend, I counseled a young lady who was sexually assaulted. Like most sexual assaults, the perpetrator was someone she knew. She was close to his family. She, in fact, had discussed the incident with his parents. They were supportive of her up until she decided to report the incident to law enforcement. As I was counseling this young lady who was already traumatized, I couldn’t help but think how more traumatizing it would have been having her become pregnant. Add to that the new law signed by Governor Abbott would force her to carry this pregnancy to term or risk criminal penalties and civil fines, which her rapist’s family could enact against her. This is not a pro-choice versus pro-life discussion. This is using religion as the foundation of government policy. This is the weaponizing of religion in Texas, just like was seen in The Handmaid’s Tale.
See, I can’t really tell the difference between the scene of the handmaiden being held down and raped to procreate and that of my young friend being raped and forced to carry that pregnancy to term. A selective interpretation of the bible is the foundation of this law. Once we start using the bible to dictate law, then I, as the reigning 1979, 1980 memory verse champion of Mt. View Baptist Church, can tell you that there should also be a policy against providing service to adulterers and punishment for persons engaging in pre-marital sex. Can I refuse to sell a car to someone buying it for their mistress? Can I refuse to rent a hotel room to any couple who is not married?
Yet somehow, we’ve been able to pick what religious principle needs protection selectively. Not surprisingly, we’ve selected a principle that only applies to a woman for a condition only a man can place her in. This sounds a little hand maidenly. Someone’s interpretation of religion has shaped policy.
Good policy would seek to decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies by enacting proven methodologies.
Those methodologies would include providing access to birth control combined with realistic sex education, including abstinence education, affordable healthcare, and supporting a living wage.
Criminalizing women for a condition that only men can put her in smells of misogyny in its worst religious form. This is the government’s weaponization of religion against its citizens. We’ve come back to where I began this piece, discussing a show in which an authoritarian society developed after religious zealots took control of the government. It could be called, The Handmaid’s Tale of Texas.
Delia Parker-Mims is an attorney, writer, public speaker, and strong advocate of Democratic policies. She was the Democratic nominee for county office and ran as a progressive in the local municipal race. She’s working to Disrupt the Republican stronghold by helping to build the infrastructure necessary to turn out Democratic voters. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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