Thursday, July 7, 2016

Davis, Day, others fight to defend constitutional right to freedom of religion

Those who thought the same-sex marriage debate ended with the Supreme Court’s decision in June have another think coming. Kim Davis, the embattled Rowan County, Kentucky, county clerk, was released from custody today. While she was jailed, her supporters turned out to be more than simply a bunch of nut-jobs waving signs outside her cell. Presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee also trekked to Kentucky in support of Davis. A more cynical person might conclude that they are merely using her newsworthiness to move their stagnant campaigns forward.

Meanwhile, a circuit court judge in Marion County, Oregon, Vance Day, who has served in Oregon's Third Judicial District since 2011, has never married an LGBT couple. Day says performing gay marriages would go against his religious beliefs, and has reportedly instructed his clerks to refer gay couples to other judges. Ominously, the judge, whom we may assume knows the law, cited his first amendment rights as justification for his refusal. The LGBT movement may find him a bit tougher to pick on than Davis.
Did the Supreme Court mean to override the strongly held religious beliefs of individuals like Davis and Day when they ruled in favor of same-sex marriage? The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Kennedy, reads more like a romance novel than a legal document:
 “Same-sex couples, too, may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage and seek fulfillment in its highest meaning.” 
 On the opposite side of the 5-4 decision, Chief Justice Roberts wrote a scathing dissent:
“Marriage did not come about as a result of a political movement, discovery, disease, war, religious doctrine, or any other moving force of world history — and certainly not as a result of a prehistoric decision to exclude gays and lesbians. It arose in the nature of things to meet a vital need: ensuring that children are conceived by a mother and father committed to raising them in the stable conditions of a lifelong relationship.”
On what are the religious beliefs of Davis, Day, Cruz, and Huckabee (and millions of others) based? The Bible, presumably. What, if anything, does the Bible say about same-sex marriage?
The subjects of marriage and gender come up very early in the Bible.
  • When God brought Eve to Adam He said, as recorded in Genesis 2:24, “A man will leave his father and his mother and stick to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
  • Within a couple hundred years of that command, it was broken by a man named Lamech, who took two wives. (Genesis 4:19)
  • Several hundred years more, and the Bible tells of ‘sons of God’ taking as wives “all that they chose”, again violating God’s specific command that marriage be one man and one woman. (Genesis 6:2)
  • Several hundred years more, and the Bible records homosexual activity. But it records it, not simply as an “alternative lifestyle” but as a practice that was repugnant to God, even though widely accepted by the society of its day. The account of Sodom and Gomorrah, which gave “sodomy” its name, says it was commonly accepted by “all the men and boys of the city”. (Genesis 19:4) Its acceptance by nearly everyone did not persuade God that He was being old-fashioned or homophobic and needed to broaden his tolerance. We all know what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah.
A commonly heard argument made by modern Christians is that Christianity is all about tolerance. Homosexuals and their supporters claim that Jesus was accepting, not judgmental. He made no condemnatory statements about homosexuals, and that, if he were walking the earth today, he would accept homosexuals with open arms. Is that true?
  • In Matthew 10:15 Jesus said, about a village that refused his message, “It will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.” What do you think Jesus had in mind when mentioning Sodom and Gomorrah in such a context? There is no record of Sodom being known for murder, bestiality, or pedophilia; only of their homosexuality.
  • Likewise, when Capernaum rejected his ministry, Jesus said, (at Matthew 11:24 TCNT) “The doom of Sodom will be more bearable in the 'Day of Judgment' than yours." Again, to what conduct of the Sodomites was Jesus referring?
  • At Luke 17: 28, 29, Jesus said about tolerance of lifestyle: “In the days of Lot they were feasting and trading, they were planting and building; But on the day when Lot went out of Sodom, fire came down from heaven and destruction came on them all.” If Jesus was in favor of tolerance of homosexuality; if his message was simply ‘Live your own life your own way. Eat, drink, plant, build, and tolerate how others do the same things,’ would he have said this?
  • What did Jesus teach his disciples? His apostle Peter wrote: (2 Peter 2:6 RSV) “By turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes God condemned them to extinction and made them an example to those who were to be ungodly.”
  • Jesus disciple Jude wrote: “Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 7) Do you think Jude learned from Jesus only that Christians should be tolerant of those with alternative lifestyles.
If Davis, Day, and others impacted by this decision stick to their guns it will create an opportunity for the Supreme court to correct a gross miscarriage of justice. It would not be the first time they've changed directions. In 1941, in Minersville School District v. Gobitis the Court ruled in favor of kids being expelled from school for refusing to salute the flag. Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote that the recitation of a pledge of allegiance advanced the cause of patriotism, and that:
“National unity is the basis of national security.” He further claimed that “conscientious scruples have not, in the course of the long struggle for religious toleration, relieved the individual from obedience to a general law.”
That sounds very similar to what the gay lobby has been shouting at Davis, does it not? Then, as now, mobs took to the streets, believing the Supreme court had just given them carte blanche to chastise the ‘religious nuts’ who had lost the case. A mob burned down a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in George Bush’s summer hometown, Kennebunkport, Maine. Over the next several months mobs beat, tarred and feathered, and even castrated, Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Yet, in 1942, the Supreme Court realized it had goofed, and reversed itself. In West Virginia v. Barnette, they ruled that compelling anyone to salute the flag, recite a pledge, or sing a song with whose lyrics they didn’t agree, was unconstitutional. Justice Jackson famously wrote, in the majority opinion:
“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."
Would the Supreme Court, ruling that Davis and Day must “confess by word or act their faith” a principle with which they disagree, count as an “official, high or petty”? You’d better hope so. Kim Davis’ right – and, make no mistake, your right, and my right – to go to work, to do her job, to interact with others, in harmony with the dictates of her conscience and religious beliefs, needs to be one of those ‘fixed stars in our constitutional constellation.”
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