San Antonio, Texas, Mayor Ivy Taylor recently shared some disturbing views – blaming systematic poverty on people’s lack of religiosity.
At an April 3 mayoral candidate forum, Megan Legacy, the director of SA Christian Resource Center, asked Taylor “What do you see as the deepest, systemic causes of generational poverty in San Antonio?”
“To me, it’s broken people… people not being in a relationship with their Creator, and therefore not being in a good relationship with their families and their communities… and not being productive members of society,” Taylor responded. “I think that’s the ultimate answer, but that’s not something that I work on from my position as mayor of the community.”
Taylor’s unexpected response went viral this week.
To attribute systemic poverty to people’s lack of religious belief is not only offensive, but it’s blatantly false. In San Antonio, 14.6 percent of residents live below the poverty line, some of whom are probably religious. Their relationship with God clearly has nothing to do with the economic issues that impact them, but Taylor didn’t see that way. In a statement released Monday, Taylor insisted that her comments were edited to “mislead viewers” and that the negative reaction to it is “politically motivated.”
“I have devoted my life to breaking the chains of generational poverty – as an urban planner, the District 2 Councilwoman, and now Mayor,” she wrote. “I’ve done so because of my faith in God and my belief in Jesus’s ministry on Earth. I believe we are all called on to help lift our brothers and sisters out of poverty.”
Taylor's view of systematic poverty is simplistic.
While Taylor insists her religious views are separate from her policy, her comments and non-apology remain deeply problematic. Her opinion is a simplistic view to a complicated problem.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Taylor has shown a tendency to prioritize religious beliefs over respecting other people’s rights.
While a councilwoman in 2013, she voted against a nondiscrimination ordinance that would have prevented businesses from discriminating against LGBTQ San Antonians. In a 2015 interview, she defended that decision.
“Although I wanted to vote ‘yes’ on the ordinance because I believe that all human beings deserve respect and should be free from harassment for any reason, I also strongly believe that individuals should be free to exercise their faith or moral values,” Taylor said.
Indeed, religious freedom is fundamental – but that principle does not mean religion can be used as excuse to undermine the rights of others.
After all, religious freedom means we are free to believe or not as we see fit, and what we believe or don’t should be of no interest to the government. For that reason, Americans United will continue fighting to ensure that people of all faiths and those of no faith, are treated equally by the state.