This story was written by Gerald Cox, Badger Herald
Diminishing the euphoric celebrations of progressives at the election of Barack Obama was the ominous shadow cast by the success of measures like Proposition 8, which limits marriage to heterosexual couples. As a result, the issue of faiths role in government and politics has been raised again. Religion, it is often argued, has no place in politics, and Proposition 8 has been cast as a prime example of the result of its interference.
The idea of some rigid and impassable wall between the religious beliefs of Americas citizens and the operation of its government is grounded in Thomas Jeffersons assertion of a wall of separation between church and state, an approach to the issue that has been adopted by the Supreme Court. This separation, of course, was intended to protect various religious beliefs of Americans from government interference, and not so much to protect government from religion.
To wit, the forefathers were all too aware of the pervasive and oppressive state religions in Europe that interfered with the operations of other European Christian denominations. Jefferson and others were concerned certain state actions could lead to the establishment of a state religion at the expense of other religious denominations. But Jefferson and James Madison, the most vocal proponents of this wall of separation, never dreamt of excluding God from government. There is, after all, the issue of Jeffersons preamble to the Constitution, which states, in part, that man is endowed by his Creator with certain inalienable rights, specifically life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That is not to say that every half-cocked idea our forefathers had was a good one. The allowance of slavery is a historical and reprehensible example of just how bigoted Madison, Jefferson, Washington and their contemporaries were capable of being. But I offer the preceding argument as a means to show that if one is to use Jeffersons idea of separation of church and state as a means of precluding God from government, one must also acknowledge that Jefferson insisted upon rights that are ensured by a Creator. Our nations independence is grounded in the faith that God created man to be free.
The civil rights movement led by men of faith like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was infused with a faith in a merciful Almighty that would have no man be considered less than another. This is a belief that is grounded by Pauls assertion in Romans 2:11 that God is not a respecter of persons. God is just and equitable. This civic aspect of faith demands that all men and women be considered to be truly equal, and the civil rights movement demanded that government honor this godly tenant.
There is, then, ample precedent to support the idea that God and faith have a place in American government and politics. It is my belief that government has a mandate from God to ensure that its citizens rights are protected, and to provide an environment where one can lay claim to the inalienable rights as spelled out by Jefferson.
Christianity, for the most part, holds that homosexuality is a sin. The anachronistic ideas espoused in Leviticus are often cited as precedence for this, but it is in the New Testament that Christians ground their faith. Paul, in the first chapter of Romans, speaks disparagingly and damningly of the homosexual practices of the residents of Rome.
Government, however, does not have a religion, but a mandate from the Almighty to protect its citizens rights. As long as the main arguments against same-sex marriage are predicated on the religious belief that homosexuality is sin, government has no business upholding bans on same- sex marriage.
If government does not want an answer from its citizens that is opposed to its role as insurer of Americans rights dont ask us the question. Referendums are ineffectual in the arena of procuring civil rights. Theres a reason why segregation in the South was not defeated by referendum.
What then is faiths role in government? I believe that faiths role in government is at its best when it seeks to protect or procure rights for people. For example, faiths role in the civil rights movement and the ideas of American independence and individual freedom and equality. For further example, the role of faith in procuring rights for the unborn is a just cause worthy of support regardless of ones faith or lack thereof.
But the role of faith in obstructing gay marriage is unnecessary and misapplied. We, as believers, dont have a dog in this race. Gay marriage does little to affect the rights of churches or infringe upon our ability to practice our faith. There is no precedent from the Bible that urges believers to interfere actively with a groups right to engage in something God calls sin when it does not interfere directly with our ability to worship and follow Him.
Lets rid our discourse of the notion that God and faith have no role in our politics. When faiths role in government is guided by the godly principles of equity and love, there is little to fear from its involvement.