Slavery Was Once for Many a "Sincerely Held Belief".

Author:Bergstrom, Malia
Position:UP FRONT

Is the commission using this as a catcall or shibboleth, identifying themselves to a "we" with whom they want to ally?

When the editor of this publication reached out to inquire if she could publish a version of my letter to the editor of my local paper concerning a resolution passed in my county, I had reservations. Indeed, my progressive Christian beliefs differ from those of many Humanist readers and contributors. I was curious what my voice would add to the conversation in these pages. She responded that my perspective would offer a fresh reminder that not all Christians want Christianity to be prioritized in civil matters, that many progressive Christians are secularists who value church-state separation as much as their nonreligious counterparts. So, here goes.

The County Commission of Fayette County, Georgia, a suburban Atlanta county where I reside, recently passed a "Protecting Religious Freedom" resolution. The county grew tenfold in the last fifty years from a small, rural "Dixiecrat" region to a largely white, conservative Republican/Libertarian bedroom community with many airline workers and excellent schools. The schools and businesses brought new neighbors, including African-American, Hispanic, South-Asian and East-Asian populations. Still, the largest voting block is comprised of white Republicans, with strong support from evangelicals.

The county resolution echoes one that failed to pass in the state legislature. It reads:

Fayette County shall not infringe upon the ability of individuals to act in accordance with their sincerely held beliefs. Fayette County condemns any behavior by any other government that limits the ability of individuals to express their religious beliefs. I recognized the audience for this resolution because I grew up in that demographic, though I no longer vote Republican nor claim the evangelical label. I spoke up because I am one of many followers of Jesus who are not comforted by this resolution and in fact believe it's an affront to those who take seriously the teachings and actions of Christ. My original letter appeared in the Citizen on January 2, 2019.

In it, I stated that the passage of the "Protecting Religious Freedom" resolution by the Fayette County Commission reveals a misguided understanding of the role of the commission and is overreaching and reactionary. I am astounded that a governmental body would grant unqualified permission to any individual to "act in accordance with their...

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