It is also immoral to lie about the Easter Bunny
Kristīne Garina, Member of the Board of the LGBT and their friends association “Mozaika”
June 2 is not far when society again will split into those who support pride and think that it is a normal part of democracy, even if they don’t have much to do with it – and those who are against it and believe that they should by no means see and experience the event in their city and their country. For the latter, if you compile all of the arguments and make one big generalization (though an imprecise one), it provides for a pretty good characterization of the situation – they just don’t like the whole idea of pride. They don’t like these “unacceptable” people who will be walking on the streets of pride opponents, who will be holding posters, that pride opponents don’t agree with, or god forbid, they will be singing songs which are so dear to pride opponents. They will be seen in all their glamour and on evening news, where the news presenters (who pride opponents probably care a lot about) will have to talk about it. It is not fair.
If we look carefully, every year there are events towards which I have if not identical, then very similar emotions. Why so? Because there are two million of us, and it would be really strange if all of us liked everyone. As rational residents of a democratic country in the 21st century, we understand that the prize for having somebody in the public sphere who we don’t like is our own right to exist in this public sphere when others dislike us.
The enemies of pride such as Kaspars Dimiters or Jānis Šmits should think about this, because if there was a popularity contest in the sphere of trashing the public space, then possibly they would be the first ones voted out. Nonetheless, they have such rights. Ironically, those are the same rights that will be defended in the march organized by “Mozaika.” And when Šmits will lay on the ground blocking the march which is pulling a log around the Cabinet of the Ministers, the supporters of pagan rituals will also be able to cite the right of assembly. It is the same right that has been ensured by the unpopular, controversial and police protected marches. On the other hand, when the “Family Festival” will take place and the participants will go on a march through the Old Town and will hold up signs praising the only real and correct family model, which is as far from social reality as it can be, all those who have lived and continue to live in such families, which do not adhere to the formula “mother, father and their biological children,” then their opportunity to express this fairly narrow view on the right to be called families will not be constricted. On that day nearly half of households in Latvia would, in the best case scenario, be declared some sort of incomplete family hybrids.
It is understandable that representatives of religious denominations stick to the, in a way, classical definition of marriage, which requires going to church to register a marriage. Today’s society is obsessed with rituals. These rituals, of course, most often cost money. The wish of people to ritualize their lives should not be undervalued. It must, however, be understood that for each of us these rituals vary.
A large number of rational, reasonable and educated people go swing on Easter, quietly still hoping that they will not be bitten by mosquitoes in the summer. If a black cat crosses the street, there will definitely be someone spitting over their left shoulder. Some do not leave the house without looking in a mirror. Some will spread a substance originating from cow manure at their workplace to “attract more money.” This, by the way, costs LVL 3 [USD 6] for a 100 gram package. Some believe that if two people put on identical rings, they will live happily until the end of their lives. Do all those who have hanged hundreds of locks on bridge rails in Latvia really dive in to get the key before they separate from their spouses? We choose our rituals and we believe in them in a way that is comfortable. And that is normal. For some pagan rituals are unacceptable, for some Christian rituals are impossible to understand, whereas someone else creates a cocktail of rituals only understandable to themselves, and which allows them to believe that everything would be alright. The problem arises when somebody thinks that their rituals are the only right ones and should be practiced by everyone, and that the other rituals should be considered evil.
This situation is well illustrated by Riga City Council Member Jānis Šmits, who has repeatedly said in public that pride march offends his Christian feelings. Since in Latvia we have religious freedom, this offense to his religious feelings sanctions a ban on a pride march because Mr. Šmits, as a Christian, has every right not see the march and not be subjected to its moral challenge. However, it is important in this instance to understand what exactly religious freedom means – the direct meaning of it is that it protects the right to religion in its different expressions, and it also protects freedom from any religion. In the context of the law, the right to religion is also the right to atheism. These rights protect us all. They protect Šmits, for who pride march is unacceptable. At the same time, they also protect Šmits’ neighbor Peter who is a worshiper of Krishna, and who practices other rituals that are, undoubtedly, important to him. Peter’s feelings might be offended by other irritants. Another citizen’s feelings might be really offended by the pilgrimage to Aglona, because maybe in their religion such pilgrimages are by no means important. In the middle of all this, there is an atheist shrugging their shoulders and not understanding why we can’t admit that we all live in the 21st century, when science can explain that, which cannot be explained. This is how we each practice our convictions. Democracy is a mechanism which, although imperfect, of all available forms of governance ensures our right to equally not like each other.
The problem with limiting the rights of certain social groups in the interest of the majority is that each one of us is a minority. There are many characteristics that unite us into one larger majority, but we each possess some attribute by which we can be grouped differently at any time. Are gays and lesbians the only ones who’s “lifestyle” is disliked by religious leaders? It is enough to take a look at the US presidential candidate fight among Republicans. In all seriousness, they are proposing not only to disallow equal rights for gays and lesbians, but also limit access to contraceptives, not pay for medical care for single mothers who refuse to release the identity of the child’s father and carry out a mandatory DNA test. It has to be understood that refusing rights to a group because of moral norms could eventually lead to any of us being counted as part of a morally unacceptable group. It will not matter if they are single mothers, unmarried couples, people who have decided not to register their marriage at a church, women who use contraception, women who want to work and earn the same as men, atheists, left-handed people, who were not that long ago labeled Satan’s freaks by the church. If we let one group fall then nobody is safe. We can always be next. Our right to go to the church on Easter, to hide colored eggs in the yard telling kids that the Easter Bunny has brought them, is closely linked to our right to attend pride, not to attend pride, to protest against it or ignore it. The only thing that we cannot do is to ban pride just because we don’t like it. Then next year we could have a ban on lying to children about the Easter Bunny. This too, from the religion point of view, is pretty immoral.
Translated by: Artūrs Saburovs, Revised by: Viktorija Graudiņa