In the wake of Arkansas House Bill 1228, and Act 137, which would prohibit local governments from enacting anti-discrimination ordinances, Bishop Larry Benfield in the Diocese of Arkansas continues to speak out against discriminatory legislation in the name of “religious liberty”:
It is important to remember that the dust has not indeed settled. The governor’s office has contacted my office to see what next statement I might be making. My reply has been in the form of a letter to the governor, asking him to do three things:
- Issue an executive order to prohibit discrimination in state agencies on the basis of sexual orientation.
- Seek the future enactment of legislation to prohibit such discrimination by employers throughout the state.
- Speak in favor of the effort to repeal Act 137 through a voter initiative.
As I said in the letter, discrimination is immoral, especially when done in the name of religion. There is a theological underpinning to this statement, an underpinning that is especially appropriate to bring into the conversation during Easter season. Those post-resurrection appearances in the New Testament so often involved seeing the resurrected Christ in the form of some of the most unlikely of people, for example, gardeners and travelers on dusty roads.
When we see the resurrected Christ in our own age, it is often in the form of the most marginalized of people. I hope that when we speak out against discrimination, we do so not just as a good business decision, but as a theological issue: we want the world to see the risen Christ and thus experience resurrection in their own lives. When we do so, Easter starts making a lot more sense.