Public Office and Political Activism Just Don’t Mix

As I’ve mentioned before, my home state of Alabama has recently been wrangling over the subject of gay marriage. A federal judge in the city of Mobile ruled that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, which made us the 37th state legalizing it. Even though the state was dragged into this position, I couldn’t help being a little proud that gay marriage became legal here before the Supreme Court’s ruling.

But of course, a couple of weeks after the federal judge’s ruling went into effect, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore (of 10 Commandments monument fame) finally ordered all probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, oddly claiming, “This is a case of dual sovereignty of federal and state authorities. The United States Supreme Court is very clear in recognizing that federal courts do not bind state courts.”

It’s hard to understand his position, considering past precedent. As Ruthann Robson (a law professor at the City University of New York) states, “If what Moore says is true, then no federal court could ever hold a state law, regulation or policy unconstitutional. And the 14th Amendment, then, would be essentially meaningless.”

The county probate judges have now been put in a difficult position between following a federal judge ruling (which applied to a specific case in Mobile County) and a direct order from the state supreme court. Last I checked, all counties in Alabama had stopped issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, and I think Mobile County simply stopped issuing them to anyone after being trapped in a catch 22.

So that’s the background. Today, someone pointed me to a lengthy blog post by a Christian here in Alabama entitled Same Sex Marriage: Where Do We Draw the Line? As you might imagine, it explores the recent events and asks “how should a Christian feel about this, and what should he or she do in response?” It won’t surprise most of you to find out that I disagreed with quite a lot of what she had to say. And not just from my differing religious and political views — I also think she makes some factual errors, and I even think her reasoning is flawed from the Christian perspective. I left a comment, and since I don’t know if she’ll approve it or not, I decided to repost it here for consideration and discussion:

So there are a number of areas in which you and I disagree.

First, you seem to suggest that the United States is a theocracy in the same way that the Israelites were under the Law of Moses. Is that what you believe? Because in the New Testament, Jesus repeatedly tells the disciples that he didn’t come to establish an earthly kingdom (like the Jews had expected of their Messiah), but a spiritual one. Later NT books back this up by saying that there is no more Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free — instead, all have access to God. Instead of “God’s people” being a particular nation, as it was in the OT, it now simply means those who serve him, regardless of race or nationality. Galatians, Colossians, and Hebrews in particular explain that Christians are not bound by the Law of Moses. Therefore, using 2 Chronicles to state that God is going to judge us as a nation is reaching quite a bit. That applied to Israel and Judah — nations that were actual theocracies.

One of the founding principles of the United States was freedom of religion. That means citizens are free to practice whatever religion they believe in (or practice no religion at all) without fear of government intrusion. That means that if someone like Governor Bentley or Chief Justice Moore take on public office, they are promising to uphold the laws of this secular government, not whatever religious rules they believe in. They should certainly exercise the same rights we all have in living their personal lives according to their religious convictions. But in their role as a public official, they can’t bind other citizens to their own religious beliefs. If that’s a problem for them, then they should step down. In your article, you seem to conflate public office with political and social activism. The two just don’t mix. If Moore wants to lobby against homosexual marriage, then he should step down from the state supreme court and do just that.

As to whether or not this is a civil rights issue, I think you’re mistaken. Civil rights applies to more than just race. When Christians are targeted in other parts of the world, is that totally fine? Or in order to see a problem with it, must one also be a Christian? No, I think it’s obvious that discriminating against a person because of their religious beliefs definitely falls under civil rights. The same goes for sexual orientation.

You may feel from personally knowing a few gay people that you understand them very well, but I tend to think they understand themselves a bit better. I am personally heterosexual, and I know it would be very difficult for me to choose to be anything different. Is that how you view your own sexuality as well, or do you feel that you could very easily be attracted to other women if you simply changed your mind about what’s attractive?

Now instead of arguing that homosexuality is a choice, if you were simply arguing that it’s a personal manner in which some people are tempted, just as others are tempted by gambling, others by alcohol, etc, then I could accept that premise. Then the problem of homosexuality would just be its indulgence, instead of the thought-crime route you’re currently running with.

Regardless, what does it really matter? Maybe God has a problem with homosexuality, but it’s also claimed that he has a problem with divorce, gossip, lying, etc. Does that mean that we, as other individuals, have a right to judge those people, or that we should legislate against their right to live as they choose? God’s not going to hold you accountable for the actions of two other consenting adults who happen to live in your state. What they do is between them and God.

Therefore, since we do live in a secular society that respects all religions equally, as well as the right to have no religion at all, how can we deny people the right to marry under religious grounds? If this country ever became majority Muslim, but still had no established religion, should you be required to wear a hijab just because others want you to? Or should you be allowed to make that decision for yourself?

Finally, the last point I want to make, is that the biological argument against homosexuality is a bit silly. Do people only have sex to procreate? Or if procreation should be a requirement of marriage, what do we do about people who are sterile? Or what about two people who are past childbearing years, yet want to marry? The percentage of homosexuals in any population is always a minority, and it always has been. It truly is an “alternate lifestyle.” Also, homosexuality is not contagious. So we don’t have to worry about the human population dropping to 0 because everyone becomes gay.

Look, tell people why you think homosexuality is wrong. If that’s part of the “good news” of the gospel, then by all means preach it. Our country protects the right to free speech, so go for it. But don’t try to legislate morality. What good does that really do? Does it suddenly make a homosexual couple no longer want to get married? Does it make them stop being gay? Does it even keep them from having sex? People have to make their own choices about that, and if they don’t share your personal beliefs, let them live how they want. Isn’t that what you would want people to do for you? Or should we start fitting you for a hijab? 😉

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25 thoughts on “Public Office and Political Activism Just Don’t Mix”

  1. I too am an Alabamian dismayed at Judge Moore’s actions. Really he shouldn’t have been allowed to run for a judge’s seat after getting ousted the first time. He has less of a grasp of the law than a first year law student who slept through every class.

    Normally I don’t link drop, but I ranted about this stunt he pulled here. Personally, I think if Alabamians can just get rid of him and judges like him, this state could actually make some decent progress.

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  2. Hi Sirius, thanks for the comment! It’s always nice to run into a fellow Alabamian skeptic. There aren’t that many of us! 🙂

    I agree with you about Moore. I was so embarrassed when he ran for re-election, and even more embarrassed when he won.

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  3. Looked at from this distance (in the Chicago area), I see Moore’s actions as something to laugh at. I have memories of when governor George Wallace stood in the school house door and declared “Segregation today! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!” Judge Moore is doing something similar on a smaller scale. And history will not judge him kindly.

    As for how Christians should see this — I’m inclined to think that the story of the “The Good Samaritan” sets the example. But then I’m not sure that there is much Christianity left in America. The religious right have badly corrupted the message.

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  4. Yeah, good points. It’s especially ironic since so many evangelicals are also sympathetic to libertarianism.

    And you’d be surprised by how many have compared Moore to Wallace. Then again, maybe you wouldn’t… 🙂

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  5. good points nate.

    I’ve never been to alabama, if it were during wallace’s day, it’s odd to think that I’d be forced to sit in certain booths or drink from “colored” designated fountains, but regardless, neil is correct. History will not look kindly upon Moore.

    the bible certainly condemns homosexuality, so if you believe in the bible, then i can get that you’d believe it’s wrong. but now what? if you live in the usa and enjoy its religious freedoms, then why try to oppose freedom?

    do as you like and let others do as they like as long as no one’s doings infringe on the doings or rights of another.

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  6. Very well stated. I was recently thinking of a point made by a friend of mine, that remarriage was categorized as adultery by Jesus; so why is there ZERO outrage over heterosexual remarriage?

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  7. Hi Nate, this isn’t a topic I feel ready to discuss, but I thought I would record that, though you and I sit on opposite sides of the God-belief fence, I think I agree with everything you say here.

    Marriage can be seen as both a civil and a christian matter. If christians wish to keep christian marriage heterosexual (I’m not sure at present what I think about that) then they are free to do so, but if the majority want civil marriage to transcend gender identity, then I have no wish to oppose that. Thanks.

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  8. Thanks for weighing in, unkleE. I think there are a number of Christians who probably feel the same way, and that number seems to be growing. And for what it’s worth, I also agree with you that the religious significance of marriages should remain in the control of those various religious groups. Also, if any clergy are uncomfortable performing same sex marriages, they shouldn’t be coerced into doing them.

    And thanks to everyone else for all the other great comments! Victoria, I wasn’t familiar with that Hitchens quote, but it’s brilliant. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. Maybe God has a problem with homosexuality” – OR, maybe homosexuality is simply god’s solution to overpopulation —

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  10. And let’s not forget that two of Jesus’ disciples were known as the “sons of thunder.” If that’s not a ringing endorsement for homosexuality, what is?

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  11. Nate – I’m also glad to see the growing number of Christians changing there viewpoint on this, and fast too. The pastor of the church I used to attend told me that those in the 20 something group in his church cannot take the bible verses about homosexuality literally. And his church is somewhat conservative.

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  12. And then there’s the disciple who is always touted as, “the one Jesus loved,” and twice we have a brief reference to a naked young man —
    (Don’t have the book, chapter and verse at my fingertips, but one appearance was in the Garden of Gethsemane.)

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  13. That’s good to hear, Howie. While I disagree with all versions of Christianity, I really don’t have a problem with moderates, especially those who believe in separation of church and state. As far as I’m concerned, we’re on the same side!

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  14. I just don’t understand my fellow Alabamian’s inability to see this as a liberty and freedom issue. The south is the home of “Don’t Tread on Me”, shouldn’t we have that same attitude towards sexual orientation? To bad the bible belt is whipping us back 75 years while the rest of the country continues to progress. Maybe one day my friend, until then the few of us will continue to speak up for liberty.

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  15. Hey Nate! Sorry I was always comment and run in the past but I just had lack of time for a while with a small child and my former busy job and there was one point in the past where my religious and political views were different also I would have been in the minority commenting on here. They have changed a lot over the years like yours but I agree with everything you said here and I think Jay would too and we live in Alabama lol I will try to follow up a little better but I do read your post as often as I can. I have always been very open to different view points and have always admired how open you are in your quest for truth. It is hard to be around here.

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  16. Great comment, Nate. I do hope she read it through and took it to heart. I am always amazed at how easy it is for certain individuals and groups to default to the “Christian nation” idea.

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