Saturday, September 20, 2008

Why the ACLU Opposes Proposition 8

There are many powerful people who purport to believe that religion, "the opiate of the people (Karl Marx)," is a scourge on humanity. Altruists, they purport to genuinely believe that society would be better if all religions, especially Christianity, were expunged from planet earth.

That’s not a constitutional view of course. Freedom of religion is as sacred as the freedom of speech. Like the right to marry, it is part of what is innate in people and what is part of who we are as humans prior to government. Of course governments need to, as much as is possible, keep out of the business of policing religions. Any law or ordinance that puts government into the business of arbitrating religious belief should be shunned. Indeed, governments ought to be in the business of promoting and exalting those freedoms that abound in a free people. This includes the “right to marry” and the practice of religion openly and freely.

The ACLU may believe in the right of same-sex couples to call their unions a marriage too. That’s fine; however, if Reverend James Wilson is correct, perhaps it has a more nefarious agenda in mind. Perhaps there is a secret treasure to be exhumed from the corpse of our mangled California family law. With a victory against Proposition 8 in hand, perhaps the ACLU can end religion in public life completely. We will be able to think religious thoughts, but we will not be able to either speak our beliefs or practice them in public.

Reverend James Wilson wrote in his September 15 article “Proposition 8 protects freedom of religion” at that:

“The state Supreme Court decision OK'ing civil rights laws for suppression of doctors' consciences is …part of an alarming pattern. The decision held doctors liable after they refused — for religious reasons — to inseminate a lesbian. The doctors referred her; there was no injury to the woman as she was inseminated and gave birth. … But the court said doctors lose their right to free speech and religion when licensed to practice medicine in California. And — if the experience of northern Europe and Canada is any indicator — pastors will lose those rights should Proposition 8 fail in November. That is because courts in those nations have found pastors (and any who express politically incorrect views) guilty of ‘hate speech.’:”

One would ordinarily think this is ridiculously alarmist, but reading the series of bilious comments by readers of Wilson’s article gave me pause. Here are several:

• “Rev. James Wilson, it's a shame you don't follow Jesus' teachings to love one another instead of spreading hate like this column.
• Practice what you preach.”
• You have no idea what the Bible says, do ya...

Rev. Wilson did not quote the Bible, but anyone who has read Romans chapter 1 knows that he did not quote it out of courtesy.

• “He's just being a hypocrite.”
• it IS "hate speech", MR. Wilson (you don't deserve to be addressed as "Reverend" - that title should be reserved for people who attempt to reflect God's love and compassion in their lives).

Rev. Wilson’s most controversial line was that “love without truth is not love.” I admit that I’ve picked the most obvious examples of spiteful disregard found in the reader comments. Nonetheless, Reverend Wilson’s article is simply one of a tremendous variety of instances in which the volume of the spiteful ad hominem attacks increases exponentially when faith is mentioned at all. The raw enmity expressed in any number of reader comments associated with those expressing religious disagreements with homosexuality itself is a firestorm. Whether the religion is Roman Catholic, Mormon, or Muslim, the hate as furious as it is obvious.

Of course I had to get into the act. I commented:

“The Reverend's article, although restricted to an audience of Bible believing Christians, nevertheless proves its broader point by the overwhelming anger and hate personally directed at its author for his faith. Are we to trust any movement that so indiscriminately hates those who offer reasonable disagreements with it based on personal religious beliefs?”

Since my post was not faith based, the response I received from a fellow reader, “specialK” was reasonable and well-measured:

“It's not for his faith, rather his active campaigning to rescind and eliminate the civil rights of a small minority of citizens when he himself and the majority here enjoy the legal recognition of your primary relationship. To claim that his rights are being impinged on because I now have the same, or shall I say, equal civil (not religious mind you) rights, should not in any way interfere with the Rev's religion. The hate must only be coming from those who suffer from ignorance and fear.”

However, “specialK”’s response was not to the point. He, like many, did not see that freedom of speech and freedom of religion could be impacted by the laws of California. He (or she) thinks that it is alarmist to assume that letting same-sex couples say they're married could, in any way, impact freedom of religion. Still, the motive of those seeking to defeat Proposition 8 should be relevant to us. Is the motive of those who seek to defeat Proposition 8 less government? Plainly not. If it is more government, then what is it they most seek to govern? Likewise, all voters might want to ask, ‘what segment of society are the opponents of Proposition 8 most willing disparage?’

My articles have not been addressed to a faith audience, and so, because I understand the nature of our competitive Western society in which we take adversarial positions in order pursue the truth, I haven’t been particularly troubled by readers who ignore my arguments and then endeavor to defame me because my thesis is disagreeable to them. That’s all part of the American smear machine we call our national discourse. Even though the often decried ad hominem attack is a well-known logical fallacy, it is as beloved of 21st century America as apple pie and college football.

I also recognize that very often the more intense and unnecessarily disagreeable disagreements contain a question not answered in an article. That intensity is not what I’m writing about. There is a significant difference, an intense intolerance, shown by opponents of Proposition 8 to those who have religious beliefs. They feel entitled to this intolerance. Voters who value religious freedom should be hesitant to ally themselves with such intolerance.

Besides, who knows, perhaps there is something sacred about humanity. Who knows… maybe there is something true in these ancient religions handed down from the mists of time. I know, I can hear the barrage coming now. This article is not for them; it’s for you.


Sapphocrat said...

It's really very simple:

How can you expect me to respect your religious beliefs and defend to the death your right to worship and speak as you like, when you are attempting to force me to live by your beliefs?

Those who support Proposition 8 believe respect is a one-way street.

It is not.

paulbenedict said...

Howdy Sapphocrat,

Wasn't Sappho part of a polytheistic society that believed that the victor named the gods? Thats why Apphrodite became Venus?

Anyhow, you prove my point. There is obviously a direct conflict between religious liberty and many of those who oppose Proposition 8. Americans should consider this choice at the ballot box.