So You Really Want to Keep “Religion” Out of Politics?


Okay, I’m going to rant here for a minute. I ask your forgiveness in advance if what I’m about to say somehow offends you. Too bad… The politically correct gloves are coming off, and I make no apology for that.

This is called a losing, unjust cause

This is called a losing, unjust cause

I am getting sick and tired of the thoughtless bumper-sticker memes, slogans, and feel-good tripe out there suggesting that religion just “butt out” of politics, most especially the gay marriage/marriage equality debate. It’s same old yada-yada that there is this “constitutional separation of church and state.” That it false. The phrase “separation of church and state” is attributed to Thomas Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. You can read all about that. It’s not in any of the founding documents, and meant something completely different from the “kick religious voices out of the legislative process” sentiment that is out there now.

To all the folks who want religious people to just shut up about the legality and Constitutionality of marriage equality or any other important issue we face, let me remind you of a few things.

  • Major movements in civil rights and equality in America were spearheaded and championed by people of faith, including suffrage and equal rights for ethnic minorities.
  • There are many strong proponents for gay marriage/marriage equality who are from the faith community. Do you honestly want them to shut up, too? [pregnant pause] I didn’t think so…
  • There are people of faith seeking to influence all kinds of issues, including the issues you care about, and are most likely voicing your opinions in the places where laws are debated and passed.
  • There have been awful times in human history in which the church’s silence was either purchased or coerced. A prime example: Germany in the 1930’s. Hitler and the Nazi Party would have never risen to power if the Catholic Centre Party of the German Parliament had not been intimidated into silence. Now before anyone flies off the handle at this, I’m not comparing anyone to Hitler or the Nazis. But the point is, when the voice and influence of the faith community has been shut out, terrible things can and have indeed happened.
  • Laws are statements of what we value, what we hold to be right and wrong, and what we affirm to be just and unjust. What informs how we make these decisions? Isn’t it our philosophy, our values, existing law and tradition, and our morals? For most, faith is foundational to how we understand all of those things.

Now, I don’t believe that religious voices should possess any more power or influence than anyone else. I don’t believing in forcing you to legally abide by my religion or religious convictions. But that does not mean we don’t have a voice at the table. Our Constitution does uphold, in freedom of speech, the right of the faith community (and everyone else!) to be a voice in any pressing issue. Our prophetic voices cannot be silenced, and no one–God help us– will ever silence us in any arena, especially the political arena that molds and shapes our laws.

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22 Comments

Filed under Rants

22 responses to “So You Really Want to Keep “Religion” Out of Politics?

  1. Nathan Morley

    It’s the nature of religion that makes many want to lean towards it being out of our legislative process. Inherently, followers of one religion will believe that another religion outside of their own is wrong. So if we were to give one of these religions dominant power in our system, then it could lead the sub-dominant groups being shoved under a rug.

    We can all say “oh, THAT won’t happen” but it still will. And it’s not unique to the situation of religion in the government.( i.e. Texas Board of Ed band Islamic textbooks that they felt portrayed Islam in favorable light)

    I totally understand what you are saying as far as the fact that religion does instill values into many that we carry on to our law making. It makes sense 100%. But what we don’t want is a government RUN by a religion . Instead, keep the religion second hand.

    What I mean is, religion influences people, so let those people make the decisions. And not limit it to who can and can’t get in on it because of their beliefs. Then we have a platform to work with and you don’t have the issue of people worrying about religion getting in the way.

    • Edmund Mettheny

      Oh good – and I was just wondering what to do with my morning!

      “I am getting sick and tired of the thoughtless bumper-sticker memes, slogans, and feel-good tripe out there suggesting that religion just “butt out” of politics,”

      If and when I no longer have to be subjected to all the thoughtless bumper sticker memes, slogans, and feel-good tripe out there suggesting that religions in general any Christianity is specific are wonderful, I’ll let you off the hook. Until then, suck it up – the First Amendment doesn’t only apply to stuff that you personally like.

      “Major movements in civil rights and equality in America were spearheaded and championed by people of faith, including suffrage and equal rights for ethnic minorities.”

      You are being very selective here. Let me remind you that major movements in opposition to civil rights and equality were also spearheaded and championed by people of faith.

      “There are many strong proponents for gay marriage/marriage equality who are from the faith community. Do you honestly want them to shut up, too? [pregnant pause] I didn’t think so…”

      I think that your premise is flawed here. You are interpreting the issue too simplistically. I personally have no objection to people voicing their opinions or holding beliefs other than mine, no matter how silly or inappropriate I think they are. But religious arguments have no place in deciding an entirely civil matter. The government is enjoined from imposing the religious beliefs of one group of people on another group that do not share those beliefs. So religious and non-religious people alike are welcome to argue for or against such matters as gay marriage on the basis of its effects or projected effects upon society. But when the religious argue their point by making reference to the strictures of their holy book, a holy book which is not considered authoritative by all, then the use of such an argument by the government to either approve or deny civil rights is a violation of the first amendment.

      Now if the government were trying to force religious organizations to perform gay marriages, the first amendment would protect the rights of the religious organizations to practice their religion as they see fit. But it isn’t. Nobody is requiring the Methodists or the Baptists or the Quakers to start performing gay marriages. The effort is to allow individuals, regardless of belief or sexual orientation, to have equal civil rights under the law.

      “There are people of faith seeking to influence all kinds of issues, including the issues you care about, and are most likely voicing your opinions in the places where laws are debated and passed.”

      Again you are misinterpreting the issue. Saying “I believe that gay people should be able to get married” or “I do not believe that gay people should be able to get married.” is a perfectly legitimate use of freedom of speech and is assured to everyone by the constitution. But the argument “Gay people should not be able to get married because it says in the Bible that homosexuality is an abomination” is not an argument which, constitutionally speaking, can or should carry any weight in deciding purely civil matters.

      “There have been awful times in human history in which the church’s silence was either purchased or coerced. A prime example: Germany in the 1930′s. Hitler and the Nazi Party would have never risen to power if the Catholic Centre Party of the German Parliament had not been intimidated into silence. Now before anyone flies off the handle at this, I’m not comparing anyone to Hitler or the Nazis. But the point is, when the voice and influence of the faith community has been shut out, terrible things can and have indeed happened.”

      No. Come on. You know better.

      The voice of religion has been a force for good in the world, and it has been a force for evil in the world. Choosing one example that supports your point does not allow the counter-examples to be ignored.

      “Laws are statements of what we value, what we hold to be right and wrong, and what we affirm to be just and unjust. What informs how we make these decisions? Isn’t it our philosophy, our values, existing law and tradition, and our morals? For most, faith is foundational to how we understand all of those things.”

      There is nothing wrong with that, but again you are misinterpreting. You can make individual choices based on your faith. Collectively a majority of people have faith of one kind or another, so it is unsurprising that faith should play a role in all aspects of society.

      But what you cannot do is use the tenets of your faith as a foundation for the justification for treating some people differently. Simply being offended by something (whether for religious or non-religious reasons) is not grounds to deny it – you need to be able to demonstrate that actual harm is being done. Simply pointing to whatever holy texts/teachings you hold dear and saying “we shouldn’t do this because my holy text says so” is no argument because other people have different holy texts, and they say different things.

      • “If and when I no longer have to be subjected to all the thoughtless bumper sticker memes, slogans, and feel-good tripe out there suggesting that religions in general any Christianity is specific are wonderful, I’ll let you off the hook. Until then, suck it up – the First Amendment doesn’t only apply to stuff that you personally like.”

        I respect your place and right to voice your thoughts, and as a friend, I value them, even when I disagree. Of course I’m not tying the First Amendement to the mere number of things I agree with. I have never said that.

        “You are being very selective here. Let me remind you that major movements in opposition to civil rights and equality were also spearheaded and championed by people of faith.”

        No less selective than you are continually pointing out all the flaws and errors of religion.

        “But religious arguments have no place in deciding an entirely civil matter.”

        Civil, as in we the people. Many of we the people are people of faith whose ideas, worldview, and values are shaped by our faith. As a matter of practice, how would the government enforce the elimination or the barring of any “religious thought” from shaping a viewpoint? The answer: it’s impossible. Take any matter of justice and equality, and you’ll find religious views shaping it.

        “The government is enjoined from imposing the religious beliefs of one group of people on another group that do not share those beliefs.”

        You’re looking far too simplistically on this matter. The government cannot impose religious doctrine, no. But that’s merely what we’re talking about here. We’re not talking about doctrine or dogma. We’re talking about values, equality, and justice. Anytime a law is passed, a particular understanding of justice, equality, and values is passed which affects all of us. That’s not, however, imposing religious doctrine or dogma. I’m not asking you to believe by law that Jesus is Lord or to pray the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of your school day.

        “Now if the government were trying to force religious organizations to perform gay marriages, the first amendment would protect the rights of the religious organizations to practice their religion as they see fit. But it isn’t. Nobody is requiring the Methodists or the Baptists or the Quakers to start performing gay marriages. The effort is to allow individuals, regardless of belief or sexual orientation, to have equal civil rights under the law.” Agreed.

        But the argument “Gay people should not be able to get married because it says in the Bible that homosexuality is an abomination” is not an argument which, constitutionally speaking, can or should carry any weight in deciding purely civil matters.

        But when we the people make that argument, right or wrong, that and any other view should and does enter the forum. Then those who legislate and pass laws will sort all of that out, create laws which represent the will of we the people, and pass them.

        “The voice of religion has been a force for good in the world, and it has been a force for evil in the world. Choosing one example that supports your point does not allow the counter-examples to be ignored.”

        But it’s a darn good example, and one of many, Ed.

      • Edmund Mettheny

         

        (For some reason I could not reply to your reply Chris, so I am replying to my original statement, though putting in your reply as well.)

        I respect your place and right to voice your thoughts, and as a friend, I value them, even when I disagree. Of course I’m not tying the First Amendement to the mere number of things I agree with. I have never said that.

        Sorry – I misinterpreted your statement. I didn’t realize that the phrase “I am getting sick and tired of the thoughtless bumper-sticker memes, slogans, and feel-good tripe out there suggesting that religion just “butt out” of politics, most especially the gay marriage/marriage equality debate.” was followed by an implicit “but I really hope that they continue to speak up anyway.”

         

        No less selective than you are continually pointing out all the flaws and errors of religion.

        Apples and oranges. Also, not germane to the matter at hand. You’re the one making the argument, you’re the one who needs to support and defend your statements. If you offer weak evidence, you leave yourself open to rebuttal.

        Civil, as in we the people. Many of we the people are people of faith whose ideas, worldview, and values are shaped by our faith. As a matter of practice, how would the government enforce the elimination or the barring of any “religious thought” from shaping a viewpoint? The answer: it’s impossible. Take any matter of justice and equality, and you’ll find religious views shaping it.

        That’s easy. As I say in my previous posts, it is not possible, or desirable  to prevent views from being heard, but what matters in the end is whether or not the matter is actually harmful or discriminatory. Ethiopian Muslims have every right to lobby for the US government to institute mandatory female circumcision and infibulation based on their beliefs too. But ultimately what the courts need to decide is whether the issue does harm to people and whether that harm is outweighed by other principles such as fairness and equality under the law, public safety, etc. Our constitution specifically prevents religions from imposing their beliefs on others. If the government discriminates against a group because of the religious beliefs of another group, rather than because, say, that group does harm to society, then it is violating one of the first principles of the constitution.

        You’re looking far too simplistically on this matter. The government cannot impose religious doctrine, no. But that’s merely what we’re talking about here. We’re not talking about doctrine or dogma. We’re talking about values, equality, and justice. Anytime a law is passed, a particular understanding of justice, equality, and values is passed which affects all of us.”

        Unless you are planning on getting gay married, no – in this case it doesn’t.  Giving another group the same rights that you enjoy under the law does not in any way infringe on your rights.  It neither picks your pockets, nor breaks your leg.

        That’s not, however, imposing religious doctrine or dogma.

        Unless you can prove that granting a specific group, like gays or Jews or folks from Ohio, the same rights that everyone else has is damaging to society, then yes it is. “It should be illegal because my deity says it’s icky.” should have no legal standing as an argument.

        “I’m not asking you to believe by law that Jesus is Lord or to pray the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of your school day.”

        No. You are asking that certain of my friends, people whom I love and care about, and certain of your neighbors and members of your community and school teachers and fire fighters and government officials and soldiers be granted less civil rights than others because your holy book says they are bad people because of the way they have sex.  And I won’t stand for that.

        But when we the people make that argument, right or wrong, that and any other view should and does enter the forum. Then those who legislate and pass laws will sort all of that out, create laws which represent the will of we the people, and pass them.

        That is only true to a certain extent.  Our nation is founded on certain principles which cannot be overridden  despite the will of the people except by a fundamental change in the constitution.

        But it’s a darn good example, and one of many, Ed.

        Actually, its a pretty tired one, as evidenced by the existence and widespread popularity of Godwin’s Law

    • Hi Nathan-

      Thanks for chiming in! I don’t believe that any one religious tradition can or should have a voice that is more valued or empowered than any other. And as long as the First Amendment is firmly in place, that will never happen. The case you mention concerning the Texas Board of Ed is a good one, and yes, out of line. What I’m concerned about however, is that it is basically un-American to try to systematically push aside any one voice. So to say that religious ideas should not be a part of the public forum of law and policy making because of the “nature of religion” is not true to the First Amendment anymore than my efforts as a Christian to push aside atheist or agnostic voices, or voices of other religions from the public square. All voices need to be a part of the debate, and the legislative process will sort all of it out.

  2. d'Alex

    Religion and personal religious beliefs do not have a place at the legal table. Justice is blind – see her blindfold – see the scales. Politics and personal political beliefs have no place at the legal table. Justice is blind – see her blindfold. The law is impersonal. We seek laws that will allow EQUAL justice for all under the law. Be very careful of the laws you support, because they can come back and bite you because they do not support or allow EQUAL justice for all. And we will work to have these UNJUST laws that allow DISCRIMINATION removed from humanity.
    Now religion and politics go hand in hand – along with fleas and the plague. When relgion and politics are mixed together, rats run around all over and those fleas and that plague just spread like wildfire and chaos ensues. Politics is generally used to advance personal religious beliefs ….. and to tell others that their personal beliefs are wrong ……….
    I do believe Chris that you are refering to the US Supreme Court recent cases that deal with (1) who has legal standing to bring such cases before them (as in who has jurisdiction- and who really should be making decisions); (2) who has the right of decision – State or Federal Government – can the Federal Government compell States; (3) Is the Federal Government compelled by individual State law, which allows more EQUALITY than the Federal Government. Religion has no place in any of that discussion – never has, never will. It is a matter of Law (capital ‘L’).

    • Edmund Mettheny

      Well said.

    • Find for me the law or a statement from the Constitution or the founding fathers that says that as a religious person and my church, we do not have any legitimate say in matters that regard we the people– no matter the issue– and I’ll shut up. Until then, I think it’s highly suspect that folks who are complaining about the role of religion in debating and passing law are all up in arms about views they don’t support. Meanwhile, as I mentioned before, there are many people of faith on both sides of marriage equality issue, as there should be. Would you have firm Constitutional grounds to eliminate all of these voices?

      This is about “we the people” and many of “we the people” are people of firm faith convictions who understand our sense of values, right and wrong, justice and injustice through the lens of faith. That will never be subjected to the thought police who would rather see them all go away.

  3. markwalt

    Chris,

    First of all, nice rant! I have ranted a rant in my time (as you well know) and I can appreciate a good one when I see one.

    Naturally, since I’m a lefty-liberal atheist, I see things with a different set of lenses, so there will be some disagreements, and I may have some insights that differ from yours.

    So, here’s a response / rebuttal to some of the things you ranted about.

    “You can read all about that. It’s not in any of the founding documents, and meant something completely different from the “kick religious voices out of the legislative process” sentiment that is out there now.”

    Two things here. First of all, you may not know this, but my degree is in Cultural Anthropology with a minor in History, and a particular focus on American history. That doesn’t make me an expert, but it does make be a fairly well-informed loud mouth. And this well-informed loud mouth does believe that the constitution does require separation of church and state. Yes, you absolutely correct that that phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the constitution. But scholars, lawyers, and the Supreme Court have all decided that the clause in the Constitution regarding “respecting the establishment of religion” means just that.

    A 21st century reader might not see it quite that way, but bear in mind that the language has drifted a bit, and words in those days were crafted as much for their aesthetic value as they were for their intrinsic value. It depends on what your definition of “is” is, but in this case the words “respect” and “establishment” actually don’t convey exactly the same meaning today that they did in the 18th century. As a Bible scholar, I’m sure you can relate.

    This clause actually says that the government needs to be separate from religion. And that’s why the Supreme Court has ruled in the way it has.

    Why did they do that? Didn’t those guys believe in God? Didn’t they think that God is Great? Why would they hobble their government by keeping God out of it?

    I have some insight into that as well. They weren’t anti-religion, not by any means. They weren’t atheists, either, most of them. Franklin and Jefferson were close to being atheists, but even they believed in God.

    Some of them were quite religious, and many of them were pretty pushy about it. But nearly everyone agreed that the church should be kept out of the government. Even the fundamentalists agreed with this. Why?

    Because of the concept of “divine right” which holds that if you are King it was because God likes you better than anyone else.

    To them, this was a bad thing, because it had produced many bad results. The people who claimed to be chosen by God weren’t the sorts of people that Man would have chosen to do the same thing. The vast majority of government on the planet in those days were ruled by people who claimed to have God’s blessing, but wouldn’t have made the short list of candidates if chosen by Man.

    Divine right is the opposite of democracy. In a democracy, if you’re in charge it’s because Man put you there. Not God. And those who think God should control everything don’t particularly like the hubris of a man who rules without God’s permission.

    This is all nice and well, but what’s it got to do with your rant?

    Because if the various churches aren’t kept out of government, eventually somebody will legislate that God likes someone better than someone else, and we’ll stop being a democracy.

    I know that you think that your church is a good one, and your church is filled with good people. And you’re probably right. But think about it. Given the people you know, if they had the ability to legislate the church into the government, some of them would do it? They’d do it because they’d think that was the right thing to do. After all, God is Great. Isn’t He?

    Some people do want to “respect the establishment” of religion in this country. Not because they want to create an evil empire, but because they want to make a paradise on earth, and that’s a nice thought. I’d love to live in a paradise.

    But if it were possible to make a good place to live by putting religion in charge of things, then those places on Earth where religion is in charge of things ought to be good places. But they’re not.

    The places where religion was in charge in the past but is no longer, are better places than they used to be. Any cursory reading of medieval history will show that. There is a reason why those same “divine right” religious monarchies are now “constitutional” secular democratic monarchies. Because the latter works way better than the former.

    So here’s the part where I try to tie my ramblings to your main theme:

    When I see any religious group spending money or putting effort into a political area, I freak out a little. I don’t think you’re a bad guy. I’m glad you care about some of the same things I care about. But your church needs to know its place. Your church might want to start legislating God, and that has a very bad track record. I don’t want to give them even an inch. My government will “respect no religion.”

    I hate it when people invoke the “Founding Fathers” in an argument, but I’m going be a little hypocritical and do it now, because I actually do have some sense as to what they said and did.

    The “Founding Fathers” fought over almost everything, and we very nearly failed to get our little Republic off the ground. In fact, I’m kind surprised they managed it. If you think the vitriol is harsh these days is rough, you should read some of the broadsides published in the late 18th century. But for all that, they almost unanimously agreed on keeping the church out of the politics.

    They had direct firsthand experience with it.

    • Hi Mark-

      I really appreciate bringing your knowledge in history and cultural anthropology into the discussion. Obviously the First Amendment is there for a reason, two reasons actually- to protect free speech and to assure that the government doesn’t set up our version of the Church of America, establishing state-sponsored religion of any kind. But how does that somehow limit the role of religious voices in places like Capitol Hill, especially if any religious voice or non-religious voice has a say in things? If we’re going to limit or altogether ban lobbying efforts, then totally shut down K Street.

      Aside from the legal/Constitutional arguments, there was one statement of yours that was truly telling:” When I see any religious group spending money or putting effort into a political area, I freak out a little.” I think that’s at the heart of it. Among the non-religious or among those who do not like the religious voices they’re hearing is a fear factor and the desire to just shut them down. But that’s not America. I don’t like every voice and opinion I hear, but I will defend your right to say it and to say it anywhere, to influence whomever you want. That’s what makes our country great!

      To throw you an olive branch of sorts, Mark, especially since you’re quite a generous guy, I think the heavy insistance on separation of church and state and upholding the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is a very good thing. That’s also what makes us American. It’s all about upholding freedom of conscious, and the freedom to practice faith or no faith. Amen to that! Just so long as it doesn’t exclude religious voices or stamp them out, as I sense is going on now, then we’re okay.

      • Edmund Mettheny

        “Just so long as it doesn’t exclude religious voices or stamp them out, as I sense is going on now, then we’re okay.”

        How on earth do you come to the sense that religious voices are being stamped out?

      • markwalt

        ” But how does that somehow limit the role of religious voices in places like Capitol Hill, especially if any religious voice or non-religious voice has a say in things? ”

        It’s a matter of degree really. Having religious values is generally a good thing, because most of those values are things like “don’t steal” and “don’t lie” and “don’t kill.” It’s pretty easy to be on board with those kinds of things. They’re very humanist after all.

        But there have been attempts, sometimes successful, to legislate religion into private life. That’s what we need to freak out about a little.

        When you hear about religious texts being public school curriculum, as they have in a few places; or forcing someone to pray in school or forcing someone to take an oath before God for civil service, as they have done in places; or forcing someone to attend Christian services as a condition for probation, or….

        Yeah, of course I can go on. I’m sure you’ve heard it all already. Some of it from me, probably.

        Those things, and other things like them, to me, are very problematic. Now, I do believe that on the whole, these kinds of things are generally happening less and less. 2013 is far less religiously legislated than 1953, but that’s because guys like me are calling attention to it.

        We have to keep doing that. We’re not done yet.

  4. Edmund Mettheny

    Nice.

  5. In addition to all the excellent arguments above, religious organizations were originally given tax-exempt status to compensate for the fact that they were supposed to have no official place at the political table, so they would not be disenfranchised. When religious organizations which are exempted from millions of dollars of taxes behave as lobbying organizations, they are effectively taxpayer-supported lobbies with no public oversight.

    I think there is no place for religious organizations to pressure for government policy in the name of religion. As others said above, if there are good arguments to be made for a policy, then make them, but don’t use “because my religion says so,” or “because I have a religious duty to demand this policy.”

    • Edmund Mettheny

      You got to pay to play.

    • Okay, if you’re going raise the tax issue as a means of shutting up religious voices in matters of law and public policy, then go the full measure and remove the 501c3 tax status. Otherwise, you’d have a hard time weeding out religious versus non-religious voices without getting into freedom of speech and establishment clause issues. Not only that, but if you start taxing my church, you would see a great deal of community work and service diminished. My denomination, for example, does a lot more with our tax-exempt dollars to meet human need than lobbying politicians.

      • I’m not necessarily opposed to removing the tax exempt status for 501 (c)(3), but I think it would be fairer for all organization, religious or not, to place a ban on lobbying except in narrow circumstances.

      • markwalt

        The church has a rather unequal advantage in their tax situation. 501c3 organizations are subject to an awful lot of regulation and openness that churches aren’t.

        Also, 501c3’s aren’t allowed to make a profit. Churches can.

        I would be in favor of abolishing church tax exemption, and just having churches form non-profits to handle their charitable work, as that would put them on more even ground. They’d have to pay taxes on their income from things like bookstores and rental income and such things, but so does everyone else.

        They could set up non-profits that have disclosure requirements, so people donating to them would know how much money is going to the charity, and how much is going to the salaries of the people involved, and therefore make an informed decision about donating.

        As it stands, churches don’t have the same requirements with respect to openness. I’m sure some are open and honest, but I’m also sure some aren’t.

  6. Incidentally, “Hitler and the Nazi Party would have never risen to power if the Catholic Centre Party of the German Parliament had not been intimidated into silence” is incorrect and incomplete. First, the Nazi were not in a position to intimidate the Church yet until they seized power and started changing their tone; second, they intimidated unions, the press, political organizations, etc. first, the Church was just part of the sweep-up.

    I don’t even want to get into whether the Church was only intimidated or also complacent or complicit or any combination — don’t mae me go there. Let’s just move away from Godwin’s Law.

  7. Edmund Mettheny

    I believe that the commonly accepted penalty for activating Godwin’s law is that you automatically lose the argument. But I am not sure how that applies when you include it in the original statement before the discussion begins.

  8. Edmund Mettheny

    Let me try this another way:

    As an individual, you have the right to express any opinion you want. Christians can express their opinions on issues. Muslims can express their opinions on issues. Atheists can express their opinions on issues. MABLA members can express their opinions on issues. Your right to free expression is protected by the First Amendment, and so is the right to free expression by people who hold views different than yours.

    But what this comes down to is interpretation of the establishment clause of the first amendment. What you are taking is known as the “accomodationist” position – the first amendment prohibits the government from taking any preferential stance on one religion over another, but does not prevent the government from entering the domain of religion, or religion from entering the domain of government for that matter, for purposes of protecting freedom of expression. This view held sway in the US legal system up until the late 40’s.

    Since then, however, there has been a growing trend for separation between church and state. Holders of this view are known as “separationists” Although only recently come to prominence, this view developed during the late 1800’s when the courts were working to determine the religious status of Mormons. In this view government must be neutral among religions and nonreligion: it cannot promote, endorse, or fund religion. Eventually a legal litmus test was developed (the Lemon test, after Lemon v. Kurtzman). In order for a government action to avoid violation of the establishment clause it must meet the following criteria:

    1) The government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose
    2) The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either inhibiting or enhancing religion
    3) The government’s action must not result in “an excessive government entanglement” with religion.

    Under the Lemon test, religious arguments against gay marriage clearly fail. The argument that homosexual marriage violates the religious principles of any (or even all) religions is immaterial because it is a religious, not a secular argument. Thus, it has no standing in terms of determining the legality of the issue.

    Also – in theory at least it does not matter if even a majority of the people of the United States are opposed to an issue of civil rights. Civil rights aren’t matters to be voted on, which is why they are rights. We live in a country where, at least on paper, equal civil rights are granted to all members of our society unless some compelling reason restricts them. “I think gay sex is icky”, or even “the entity I believe is the author of the universe has declared that gay sex is an abomination” are not compelling reasons, because in the United States we have a civil right to freedom of expression, but no civil right never to be offended by anything.

    As an aside, I also wanted to mention that your argument that “Separation of Church and State” is not in the constitution is true so far as it goes, but while literally accurate it is functionally incorrect, in that when Thomas Jefferson wrote the words he wrote them specifically to spell out the intent of the authors of the establishment and prohibition clauses of the first amendment. In other words, while the exact phrasing isn’t in the constitution, that idea was precisely the intent of those who wrote the first amendment.

  9. Will D.

    Really, Last time Religion and Politcs were mixed INNOCENT PEOPLE MURDERED, BURNED AT THE STAKE ! With the Cha,rge of WITCHCRAFT! Which we Realists politely call BULLPUCKY!

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