When the Roll Is Called Out Yonder in the States that Discriminate

In 1893, James Black wrote the familiar Christian song, When the Roll is Called up Yonder which says:

Then when all of life is over, and our work on earth is done,
And the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there.

The implication is that the good works of Christians will propel them to the heavenly gates and that their names will be on the roll when it is time to enter.

I was raised in the South in a church where this song was standard fare on Sundays. Over 60 years, I have watched predominately white, male-led religious organizations and churches misuse and abuse this presumed privilege to discriminate against women, African-Americans and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender identified people. Their confidence that discrimination was good work never seemed to waver except when they got caught doing something clearly illegal or immoral. Frankly, I never thought that these same groups could brainwash state legislators and governors into deconstructing our Constitutional guarantees and I was dead wrong.

As the roll call is taken in the State Legislatures this spring, it is clear that we are in a very sad State of the Union.

If we were counting on States to exercise the extraordinary duty of care that they have for all citizens, we were all dead wrong. Here is the most up-to-date roll call to accountability:

  1. 21 States have passed a version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which targets lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender identified citizens
  2. 3 States have banned non-discrimination ordinances against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens
  3. Anti-LGBT bills were introduced in most stage legislatures in 2015, i.e., religious refusals or municipal preemptions
  4. Anti-LGBT bills are expected to be introduced in many state legislatures this year
  5. Most states do not have LGBTQ anti-discrimination protections (most citizens do not know this is true)
  6. 4 states have received widespread backlash and criticism from businesses for recent anti-LGBTQ bills

And, the Tennessee Legislature has withdrawn funding of the University of Knoxville Diversity Center http://blavity.com/students-launch-mydiversitymatters-state-removes-diversity-funding/

This is another strategic attempt to stop equity and inclusion from making more inroads into campus life. The good news is that I trust the good people in student affairs and services on campuses and in residential life communities to create safe space for students regardless of the whims of legislators. They've been doing so for many years when Jim Crow and the KKK thrived and I trust them to do so now.

The higher education association where I work in DC, the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) dba College Student Educators International http://www.myacpa.org has taken a very public position regarding these bills. They are harmful to students and professionals, to campus environments and to the communities in which these egregious bills are enacted. Students can be denied counseling and health services, public accommodations, work and housing where these bills are crafted to do so.

Public land grant institutions are the backbone of higher education in the United States. No one has yet calculated the cumulative impact of these bills on the economic well being of these institutions, and therefore, the states in which they exist.

We can only hope that the widespread backlash and criticism from corporations and businesses over anti-LGBTQ bills will stem the tide. ACPA has joined these for-profit entities in removing our scheduled Institute for Assessment from Charlotte, North Carolina. http://www.associationtrends.com/news/trends/headlines/bad-business-north-carolina-law-turn-associations

As reported earlier this year, ACPA has also joined the grassroots mobilization efforts in Indiana http://www.myacpa.org/blogs/dr-cindi-love-executive-director/acpas-response-indianas-rfr-act and Houston http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-dr-cindi-love/hero-takes-a-hit-in-houst_b_8475956.html to stop the continued slide of the states and municipalities into a very dark period of US history.

We hope you will join us. In most cases, very small percentages of total registered voters are showing up at the polls and pushing these bills through passage or legislators are assembling the necessary votes very quickly and pushing the bills through on days when the national attention is elsewhere.

We need to tune in and turn up the volume of those of us who object to the reenactment of the times in our nation when states could depart from the national conscience regarding discrimination.