Friday, August 6, 2010

Just say no to laws based in religion

In case you haven't heard that Prop 8 was overturned by a federal judge two days ago, you're welcome. Facebook and the rest of the interwebs have, of course, exploded, which is great because it's been a while since I got a good dose of internet venom. Personally, I think it's much ado about nothing until the appeals climb all the way to the Supreme Court.

When Prop 8 was passed almost two years ago, it seemed clear to me that it had no real basis aside from private religious views. Maybe it's my relatively small sample size of friends, but it seems like that is still the case. Judge Vaughn Walker said this explicitly in his decision, and the Prop 8 defense lawyers apparently couldn't make a very good argument otherwise.

I almost hate to say this, because I want to think the best of people and I know there are some people who have been convinced to support Prop 8 on grounds other than religion. But for the great majority of Prop 8 supporters in my experience, it simply boils down to the idea that God, the Bible, or church leaders said so. Deep down at a bedrock level, that is the fundamental reason to support Prop 8. It really, really is.

Of course, no one ever leads by saying they object to gay marriage because of their religion. We all pay lip service to the idea that our laws need to serve some secular purpose. But I've seen too many people trot out arguments like "homosexuals can't procreate" or "homosexuals are inadequate parents" or "churches will be forced to perform gay marriages" or "marriage has always been between a man and a woman." And when each of these arguments is refuted, it usually comes down to, "Well, I believe God said it's wrong."

But private religious views cannot be the basis of law in the United States. I wish more people would realize that the separation of church and state is as much a protection for your religion as anyone else's. Just because your religious view happens to be a majority does not make it constitutional to pass discriminatory laws based on your religion. If the rise of Islam overtakes Christianity in the next century, will you fight to pass laws criminalizing graphic depiction of Muhammad? If you understand why not, you should understand that Prop 8 has been rightly struck down for the exact same reason.


dbd said...

Amen and Amen!

Sabayon said...

"I wish more people would realize that the separation of church and state is as much a protection for your religion as anyone else's."

I got into a very interesting discussion about this recently. On the fourth of July I ended up in church with my family, and during the opening prayer in sacrament the speaker said something about being grateful that god had created a free nation so that the church could be founded again on the earth. I actually think, from a historical perspective, that this is true and in fact the LDS church could not have been founded if the constitution did not guarantee freedom of religion. Not only because it started out as a weird minority religion that in other places would have been crushed, but because freedom of religion set off an era of questioning religion and great religious excitement in the form of the Second Great Awakening that was absolutely necessary for the emergence of the Mormon church. The Democratization of American Christianity is a great book on the subject.
In any case, fast forward to Relief Society and someone is making pointed statements about taking god out of the classroom and public buildings. I pointed out that the LDS church could not exist without separation of church and state and religious liberty so it would be profoundly wrong for anyone from this church especially to try to restrict the religious liberty of others, or to bring religion into government spaces. It was amazing how many people agreed with me that freedom of religion is vital and America is awesome and our freedoms make it awesome, yet then said "but we should really have the bible taught in school", or "but we shouldn't remove God from our government". *head-desk*

Saganist said...

Thank god we have freedom of religion so that I can push my own religion into the government? That's a true head-desk moment. I know it takes a little effort to imagine the world from outside one's own point of view, but some people apparently find it too difficult even to try.

Burk said...

Another fantastic post. You are raising the bar lately, Michael.

@Sabayon I have endured enough of those moments in various church classes to fill a book. Christians do not believe the same rules apply to them because they are "right". Jesus/Monson/Smith told them to do it and they follow blindly. I wish everyday that my family would wake up and think for themselves.

Saganist said...

Thanks, Burk!

Ahab said...

Good observation. Most of the homophobia in this country seems to be rooted in fundamentalist religious beliefs.