Losing His Religion?

First of all, I’d like to begin by saying that my hometown of El Paso, Texas, is not backwards. Despite the beliefs that this is a one-horsed, dusty desert town way out west, we’ve been learned the right way. There is an Apple store here, after all.

But there are people destined to keep this town cemented in place. Actually, they’d prefer to turn back the clock to when it was common to openly practice bigotry. Unfortunately, one of these people calls himself a man of God, something that makes this story all the more pathetic, confusing and overall sad.

To bring you up to speed, here’s the rub in a nutshell: A local preacher, Tom Brown, helped organize a November 2010 initiative that would strip health benefits to gay and unmarried partners of city employees.  The initiative was successful, however controversy ensued because many voters later said the wording was misleading. Some voters actually voted for the initiative thinking that they were voting in favor of gay and unmarried partners keeping their health benefits.

As a result of that controversy, a judge ruled to uphold the voter-approved initiative, as misleading as it was. Despite that ruling, El Paso Mayor John Cook and four City Representatives voted to restore the health benefits anyway.

And so now we have a recall effort underway, led, of course by the good preacher who insists he’s not abusing his IRS tax exemption status by spearheading the recall. He wants Cook and Representatives Susie Byrd and Steve Ortega out of office (the other two representatives who voted to restore benefits are no longer in office).

This, of course, is all pretty embarrassing. To think that we’re well into the 21st century, times are different now – please tell me we didn’t all forget the 2008 Presidential election – yet here we are, making headlines for the wrong reasons.

In essence, Brown went from preaching about Christ and His peaceful messages one minute to openly spearheading an effort to deny people their basic human rights the next, all because gay and unmarried partners live a different lifestyle than his. He’s using the pulpit to execute an agenda that discriminates. And because he thinks God is on his side in this perverted form of spiritual warfare, he’s justified.

It’s an issue that has recently turned uglier than ever, with one of Brown’s supporters going so far as to creating violent-filled images of the mayor in effigy.

I’m taking a stab in the dark, here, but maybe this is why we’re supposed to not mix religion and politics. Brown and his church got the attention of Americans United for Separation of Church and State; the organization filed a complaint with the IRS. As a result, Brown is putting his church and his flock at risk. Meanwhile, no other church, even if they agree with him, has uttered a word. Well, except for this nut, at least.

So a recall could be underway and Brown is poised to push ahead with his anti-gay rants and beliefs that city money shouldn’t be used for sinners. Bigotry in the name of God is pretty sinful, if you ask me. Meanwhile, Cook, Bird and Ortega, public servants who decided to vote with their consciences in the belief that everyone was created equal and should have equal rights, remain in limbo. A city and its reputation hang in the balance.

It’s funny because there was once an anti-militant, peaceful guy, who preached for love and peace and, despite public opinion, went against the grain in spreading his word. Last I heard he left a pretty incredible legacy, that guy. Cook, Byrd and Ortega went against the grain, too.

Ironic how the good preacher Brown has conveniently forgotten that?

RIP R.E.M.

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