Church-State Separation · Criticism of Religion


Yesterday social media exploded with the news that the Supreme Court had finally rendered a decision as to marriage equality: It is now the law of the land.

As you probably can guess by now, I supported this decision, so this is good news to me. I have a gay cousin and a gay brother-in-law, and while the decision didn’t affect them directly because the states they live in had already approved gay marriage, it does illustrate that I knew people who knew people who were directly affected.

Along with the rejoicing in my feed, I saw news reports of pastors, Rick Scarborough in particular, who had “promised” that they would set themselves aflame if the Supreme Court had ruled against their views. My initial response was to post nonchalantly: “Does he really promise? He shouldn’t get our hopes up.”

I was kidding. But I don’t think everyone is kidding who reacts this way. And to them I say, “Really? Are you really going to condone suicide in this instance?”

Maybe I’m weird, or maybe my history lets me see things differently. I used to be a very devout Catholic. All you had to tell me in my adolescence was that the Church opposed something and I would follow lock-step. No one ever came out and said to me back then that the Church didn’t like gay marriage, so I wrote a column in partial support of the concept. I can’t remember when and under what circumstances I found out that the Catholic Church didn’t like the idea; it was a long time ago, and by then I might have been a supporter.

But I remember being rabidly anti-choice. So I can’t say that I don’t have any sympathy for those who despair for America today.

Justice Kennedy apparently had some sympathy for them too. He wrote this:

Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here. But when that sincere, personal opposition becomes enacted law and public policy, the necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the State itself on an exclusion that soon demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied. Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right.

Can you guess who said the following?

As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.

It was George Washington. Not who you expected, huh? He saw it coming: As time goes on, we become more liberal. It’s the inexorable progress of time.

If anyone actually considering self-immolating is reading this, I can only say this: Please don’t do it. Your death won’t accomplish anything.

Social and legal progress is outstripping the progress of many (not all) religions. It’s time for those religions to catch up. Homosexuals aren’t monsters or demons and they don’t deserve to be treated as such. They only want what the rest of us want: a normal life. It’s not too much to ask.

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