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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Taking a Stand Against Theocracy

In February 2006, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock ruled that a Maryland state law banning same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. In response to that decision, state lawmakers opposed to same-sex marriage introduced a resolution to impeach Judge Murdock (a move which was defeated in the Judiciary Committee) and a bill calling for the amendment of Maryland's constitution to prohibit all same-sex marriages. Although the bill failed to garner sufficient support for passage, it was reintroduced in a version that would define marriage as a union between a man and a women only but would still allow for civil unions. The latter bill was being debated by a Senate committee on 1 March 2006, when, according to the Baltimore Sun, "Clergy, constitutional law experts and children of gay parents were among those who packed the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee room to speak out on the issue."

Part of that debate featured some give-and-take between Nancy Jacobs, a Republican state senator, and Jamin Raskin, a professor of constitutional law from Washington's American University over the influence of the Bible on modern law. The Sun reported the following exchange taking place between the two:
"As I read Biblical principles, marriage was intended, ordained and started by God — that is my belief," [Jacobs] said. "For me, this is an issue solely based on religious principals [sic]."

Raskin shot back that the Bible was also used to uphold now-outlawed statutes banning interracial marriage, and that the constitution should instead be lawmakers' guiding principle.

"People place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution; they don't put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible," he said.


unhyphenatedconservative said...

So when Harriet Beecher Stowe and other abolitionists made religious arguments for abolishing slavery, when the Constitution clearly indicated its legality, were they advocating theocracy? Or what about Catholic legislators who argue against the death penalty on religious grounds?

Given that your last post was about a man who would be executed for his religious belief, throwing around terms like "theocracy" in the American context is at best bad taste.

Lynn Green said...

The reason why Abdur Rahman was threatened with death was that he is living in a theocratic society. Our founders wanted a secular government meaning that it allowed those with differing religious convictions the freedom to act according with their own consciences as long as those actions did not violate the liberties of others.

Your error lies in your attempt to say that a secular society is an amoral society. That those in our secular government are barred from drawing from their moral principles including those of faith in deciding on legislation.

What is harmful is to try to say that my particular faith should be binding the behavior of others. That because I believe in a certain revelation, that revelation must be the one and only truth that all must follow.

Unless I can show how a certain action violates human dignity, degrades justice, or creates real inequality, then I stand on very shaky ground when I say that your behavior must be held to my stand of morality.

Clearly slavery violates human dignity. And unless you can convince me with absolute certainty that the death penalty is always applied without error and in a completely fair manner, that the poor and the marginalized aren't more likely to be put to death than the wealthy, then I have to believe that the death penalty is an unequal, unfair, and unjust punishment both cruel and unusual to those who lack the means to fight it.

unhyphenatedconservative said...

Ahhh, I see. When you agree with the person making the religious based argument, then it's okay.

Let's face it. One can make religious arguments but in the end it is secular lawmakers making the decision. If you don't like their decision or the basis for their making that decision, you can vote them out of office.

Throwing around terms like theocracy undermines your argument.

Lynn Green said...

Kevin Phillips, who once worked for Richard Nixon's political campaign and wrote "The Emerging Republican Majority", has written in his latest book, "American Theocracy", that the current Republican party is America's first "religious party". We have a president whose closest advisors are right wing clerics. I am not alone in my concern that we are seeing the establishment of a government based not on justice, but on a narrowly defined religious dogma.

unhyphenatedconservative said...

I've seen the book and it also goes into the dark oil conspiracies as well, a topic that I find little to do with a theocracy, unless he means annointing oils?

And who are these clerics? Karl Rove? Cheney? Rumsfeld? Rice?

Again, its conspiracy theory type arguing that weakens legitimate arguments and turns off conservatives who might agree with you on other issues.

You should read Dreher's "Crunchy Cons" because it gives a good clarion call for conservatives and liberals to stop demonizing each other and learn to work toghether where we can.

Lynn Green said...

The clerics are people like James Dobson, Pat Robertson and the like. They may not be elected officials, but they wield power over those who are. My desire is to warn, to sound a prophetic voice if you will. People tend to dislike prophets in the present tense and honor them in past tense. Just look at people like Dr. King for a recent example.

unhyphenatedconservative said...

"The clerics are people like James Dobson, Pat Robertson and the like. They may not be elected officials, but they wield power over those who are."

Two thoughts. First, the only "power" these folks wiel is their aility to generate votes. That's called democracy (or, mre accurately, representative republicanism) and I rather like it. Why should religious leaders be barred from having a voice in politics?

Two, I missed the Revs. Jackson, Sharpton and Lynn from your list. Surely they have influence over liberal legislators. Why is their influence any less pernicious than conservative clerics?

Lynn Green said...

The day that Revs. Jackson or Sharpton say, "Any church member who votes Republican is not a real Christian.", they will receive my condemnation also, rest assured.

Believe you me, there are conservative clergy, some in my town of OKC, who have said that Christians don't vote Democratic.