Friday, March 21, 2008

Separation of Church and State, no exceptions

Today marks the beginning of the second annual Blog Against Theocracy. This is my first time participating, as I was just taking little baby blogger steps back in July 2007 when the first round took off. But today, I'm happy to be a part of this important discussion.

First off, let me state for the record that I view myself as a religious and a spiritual person. Within my family I have a long religious tradition, including my grandparents' missionary work. My religious beliefs are a very important part of who I am. (And yes, I did just shamelessly promote my mother's book, again, with that link -- sales are a little slow, what can I say.)

However, my religious beliefs may very well be different from your religious beliefs. Or, you may not believe in organized religion at all. And according to the Constitution of the United States of America, that's o.k.! In fact, the Framers believed in it so strongly that in 1791 they amended the Constitution to ensure clarity of this most basic right. Indeed, it became the First Amendment of what is known as the Bill of Rights:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Being in the majority of Americans who follow the Christian faith, I must admit that I am rarely confronted with faith-based discrimination. Until I want to marry my partner. Then suddenly it's wrong, for no other reason than someone says "because the Bible tells me so." So, even though my particular church accepts same sex commitments, the majority's religious beliefs trumps mine?

In other words, I can't marry my partner because of established religious beliefs, even though the Constitution clearly states that there shall be "no law respecting an establishment of religion"?

My head hurts.

In Maryland, legislation is being introduced which is called the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Act. The bill states:

(A) Only a marriage between TWO PEOPLE, NOT OTHERWISE PROHIBITED FROM MARRYING, is valid in this State.

(B) THIS SECTION MAY NOT BE CONSTRUED TO INVALIDATE OTHER SECTIONS IN THIS TITLE

SECTION 2. AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, THAT NO OFFICIAL OF A RELIGIOUS INSTITUTION OR BODY AUTHORIZED TO SOLEMNIZE MARRIAGES SHALL BE REQUIRED TO SOLEMNIZE ANY MARRIAGE IN VIOLATION OF THE RIGHT TO FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION GUARANTEED BY THE FIRST AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND BY THE MARYLAND CONSTITUTION AND MARYLAND DECLARATION OF RIGHTS.

In other words, if it's against your religion, don't do it. Kinda like when comedian Wanda Sykes says, "If you're against same sex marriage, don't marry someone of the same sex."

7 comments:

donald said...

thanks sue, this issue really needs much more attention. we have become a country where a few, want to tell all, how to live and love. they seem to forget that our forefathers came here to escape that same thing, and they tried to enact a constitution to protect all americans from that happening again.

Buffy said...

Good post. Sadly people have come to the point that they feel they have the right to impose their religious beliefs on everybody, via force if necessary. Then if anybody attempts to even say "I'm not interested, thank you" that becomes persecution somehow.

Religion should be a personal path, not a weapon to be used against others. Freedom of religion also means freedom *from* religion.

BTW, I feel your pain. Right now my SO and I are awaiting the decision of the CA SCOTUS to see if we will be allowed to be married, or just get a Domestic Parnership. Of course the RWers would have us not be allowed anything, but we're hoping for the right to marry.

FranIAm said...

I see you commenting elsewhere but have never come here. How glad I am to visit with you for this Blog Against Theocracy.

Brilliant post- I really like what you say and how you say it.

Time causes me to be brief, but I had to say something.

Sue J said...

Donald, you're exactly right. We've forgotten where we came from, as a nation, and that's a dangerous thing.

Buffy, I've been following the CA battle -- best of luck to you and your partner!

FranIam, so glad you stopped by -- and thank you for your kind words!

Mauigirl said...

Great post, Sue. I like the way you pointed out that the right to marry is part of the whole separation of church and state issue. Well done.

Sue J said...

Thanks Mauigirl! The legislators put a lot of thought into naming the bill the "Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Act" for that very reason.

BAC said...

Sue, as you probably know there are houses of worship that do solemnize same sex marriages, and want those to be recognized by the state in the same way the state recognizes marriages of opposite sex couples. This truly is a religious liberty issue.


BAC