Marriage and religion

6 March 2012

Last night I sat down to watch Piers Morgan’s interview with former Republican presidential hopeful and current US Representative from Minnesota, Michele Bachmann. I decided to tweet my thoughts during the segment.

My comments during the show led to my first ever Twitter disagreement with a Twitter user going by the handle @mikefromkormak. (One day, I hope to participate in a full-on Twitter war with someone.) Eventually, I felt the character limitations of Twitter stifling the need for full dialogue on the issues that arose from the disagreement.

It is my hope to use this blog to respond at more length to some of the points @mikefromkormak raised. It is also my hope that the user would feel free and respond to me.

With that preamble, let us jump into the meat of the issue.

The conversation started innocuously enough.

7:17 PM @mentalmacguyver (me) – “Is @michelebachmann standing up for Rush Limbaugh because healthcare will cause women to be sluts? @PiersTonight”

7:19 PM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver @michelebachmann @pierstonight No that’s not fair ! She said he apologized that’s all she said”

7:21 PM @mentalmacguyver – “@mikefromkormak She said he apologized and noted this is what we get when we have one person in charge of healthcare.”

After discussing the Rush Limbaugh conversation and how Rep. Bachmann should have responded, we moved on to her misguided views on homosexuality, which surfaced when Mr. Morgan asked her about Kirk Cameron’s recent nonsensical public disdain for homosexuals. Although she did make the highly spurious claim that religious persons are more persecuted in the US than gay individuals (perhaps if that religious person is not of the dominate Christian belief), she generally sidestepped the direct question.

7:33 PM @mikefromkormak – “@mikefromkormak @mentalmacguyver She dodged the gay question too,, no guts”

7:35 PM @mentalmacguyver- “@mikefromkormak It is much easier to discriminate via legislation than on national television.”

From here, my conversation began taking an interesting turn toward the right of churches to discriminate (particularly in marriage) and just what gay rights means.

7:42 PM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver the government has no place in the bedrooms of the individual, being said you shouldn’t force gay rights on churches”

7:43 PM @mikefromkormak – “@mikefromkormak @mentalmacguyver they cannot have it both ways”

Fair enough. If churches, many of whom talk incessantly about love and loving one’s neighbor and unconditional love, wish to claim that certain groups of humans are inferior, wrong, inadequate and worthy of hatred and discrimination, it certainly is well within their right to believe so. In this country, we can believe whatever we want to believe, no matter how misguided or hateful.

7:46 PM @mentalmacguyver – “@mikefromkormak I suppose some would argue churches have the right to be bigoted, discriminatory and hateful of their fellow humans.”

7:49 PM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver well yes. People have the right not to be part of that church, and this is not a gay rights debate but a freedom debate”

7:49 PM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver unless they get government money, then they have to be fair to all,”

Let’s start with “this is not a gay rights debate but a freedom debate.” Same thing. Freedom includes the ability of human beings to expect and receive equal treatment under the law and not to face discrimination and judgment simply for existing.

And I really hate to say it, but I love the argument that only organizations that receive government money should “have to be fair to all.” So, even though religious organizations (wrongly) receive exemption from taxes and have major influence over many of our elected officials, they should only concern themselves with universal welfare if the government forces them to do so? It would be difficult for me to make a better case for the moral bankruptcy of religion and the reasons why it should be separated from the state (which it currently is not in the US).

8:01 PM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver how do you feel about gay marriage ? Should a catholique priest be forced to perform the ceremony ?”

8:45 PM @mentalmacguyver – “@mikefromkormak The issue is not just marriage, but individual rights. Churches have too much power to limit civil rights in the US.”

Marriage is marriage. Or at least it should be. Separating marriage into groups (gay marriage, heterosexual marriage, black marriage, Asian marriage, etc.) is patently wrong. As I mention later, marriage should be universal and should not be the property of the church.

Following these tweets, I logged off for the night to watch the first season of Fringe (which is where religion should be by the way). I awoke the next morning to find additional comments.

5:14 AM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver Churches, people, should have the right to their own opinion, and government should not legislate them”

As I said before, I agree. Churches and people do have a right to their own opinion without fear of government legislation. However, the opinion of churches does not belong in the public sphere when deciding public policy. Marriage, a legal contract with various benefits for the parties engaging in the contract (tax breaks, hospital visitation rights, etc.), does not and should not belong to the church. Just as the state should not have authority to regulate churches, churches should have no business in matters of the state.

5:15 AM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver Personally gay people should have the right to marry but forcing religions to do it just gives the far right an argument”

Marriage, as a state institution, should be available to all. If a church believes it has the right to cast judgment and not allow a certain person into its fold, then it certainly has the right to such a presumptuous prerogative. As I said before, marriage should not belong to the church. Additionally, the “far right” will always have an argument because (a) they have a right to argue and (b) they are trying desperately to hold on to their own sense of power and control and the only way to do so is to maintain unquestioned authority to separate “sheep from goats.”

5:28 AM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver it’s always a dangerous slope when we make special provisions for only certain segments of society #gays #lesbians”

Equality for all members of society does not count as a special provision. Additionally, as I note below, gay persons are not simply a ‘segment’ of society. They are not separate from society. They are society. Just as heterosexual individuals are society. Just as persons of different races, ethnicities, beliefs, income levels, etc. are all society. Unfortunately, religion must create and insist on a nonexistent differentiation between “saints and sinners.” Just because religion chooses to embody and justify hate by targeting certain humans, does not mean these judgments have any justification or basis. (In fact, they do not.)

7:34 AM @mentalmacguyver – “@mikefromkormak We make special provisions for churches and religious folk. Besides, gay persons are not a just ‘segment’ of society.”

7:52 AM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver When I say segment I mean no disrespect, but in the gay aspect they are a small part of society as a whole ,”

I would argue that the number of persons in a certain group does not excuse inhumane vitriol leveled against them. Perhaps I simply misunderstand this statement.

7:53 AM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver I believe in live and let live , but you cannot have it both ways”

Unfortunately, religious persons do not believe in “live and let live.” The examples are nearly innumerable, but you can easily point to the Catholic Church’s ludicrous obstruction of no-cost birth control and the ever-growing list of anti-abortion regulation in states around the US. (Both examples happened within the last year and are still occurring. Frightening to think that we still live in a society that should be so backward.)

Religion has no business in state affairs, such as marriage. If a person wishes to be married in a religious fashion (provided they live up to the capricious standards of that particular religion), they should be able to do so. However, that religious marriage should receive no state benefits. State, secular, marriage should be a separate agreement into which (most) anyone in this country should be able to enter.

I look forward to hearing what others think of this debate and conversation.

Retrograde fever

Hello again everyone.

Yesterday, the Virginia House of Delegates approved HB 1, the “personhood” bill granting constitutional and property rights from the moment of conception. News outlets have done an accurate job of reporting the dangers of such legislation passing in Virginia (my favorite reports were from The Rachel Maddow Show, the Huffington Post and Mother Jones).

The reports and the debate in the General Assembly frequently focus on what the bill will do. Among the extreme results likely if the bill becomes law: the complete outlawing of safe, legal abortion in Virginia, the criminalizing of many forms of birth control and the development of a model that other states can use to strip away women’s rights and send our country to some Biblical notion of gender roles. (Fitting that I am listening to Metallica’s “Holier Than Thou” while writing this post.)

Particularly striking to me in reading the coverage is the mere existence of the conversation.

The year is 2012. When he heard that year, the ten-year-old version of Joseph Patrick Richards envisioned flying cars, hoverboards, omnipresent virtual reality simulators (Facebook does not count) and meals in tablet form. While technology has come a long way, our ideals seem more retrograde than any time in the last 50 years. (As the AP reports, Virginia is a clear example of moving backward.) When we should be living on Neptune and paying for sewing kits with chips planted in our thumbnails we are instead focusing on doing everything we can to make sure women have only the role of broodmares in the future of the US.

Why? Why does this rhetoric exist? How can it be part of the national conversation? How can we be nearly 40 years on from Roe v. Wade and somehow find ourselves moving to the pre-suffrage days?

I am deeply troubled that our national dialogue continues to center on rejecting advancements in human rights. I believe it is entirely acceptable to hold bigoted views in your own life. It is your right to be a senseless asshole. However, as soon as you enter the public stage, especially in the role of leader (as a member of the press, public official, politician, etc.) you no longer have the right to act on your view that some people in this country should not be people. I believe every proposed bill should have to pass a human rights test. Will your strict voting requirement bill limit the human rights of certain individuals? If yes, then you do not have permission to even waste time or the public conscience by officially submitting your bill. Next. Does your bill in anyway single out women or abortion providers for restrictions you do not place on men or other doctors? Sorry, but we do not accept restrictions of human rights in this country. We’re the United States of America. We believe human rights are inviolable.

At least thirty-year-old Joey can dream.