Monday, August 16, 2010

Perry and the (Non-)Attack on Religious Liberty

As the debate over the Proposition 8 ruling – and what it entails for some critics when it comes to religious liberty and the law – continues, a number of faith leaders and commentators have been offering their perspective. Some of these views were highlighted in an article this past weekend in the Washington Post.

David Fishback of the Metro DC PFLAG chapter offered his own response to some arguments made by commentator Albert Mohler and shared them with the PFLAG blog here:

In an article in the August 14, 2010, edition of the Washington Post, Rev. R. Albert Mohler criticizes the recent United States District Court decision finding Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional because, in his view, it "establishes secularism as the only acceptable basis for moral judgment on the part of the voters." Rev. Mohler misses the point of the First Amendment, which bars any establishment of religion by the federal government, and the Fourteenth Amendment, which makes the First Amendment to be applicable to the states. The entire purpose of the Bill of Rights is that matters of individual rights that are protected by the Constitution may not be swept away by the majority, absent constitutional amendment.

Rev. Mohler’s sharp distinction between the secular and the religious is troubling. The fact of the matter that the core of all major religions is the Golden Rule, which is a concept not limited to theology. President Obama provided a useful framework here when he wrote that "[w]hat our deliberative, pluralistic democracy. . .demand[s] is that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific values. It requires that their proposals must be subject to argument and amenable to reason. If I am opposed to [something], and seek to pass a law banning [it], I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or invoke God's will and expect that argument to carry the day. If I want others to listen to me, then I have to explain why [it] violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all." [ The Audacity of Hope, p. 219]. When it comes to Constitutional matters involving equal protection under law, that principle may not be pure theology or a general hostility not rooted in facts.

At trial, the proponents of Proposition 8, represented by some of the most prominent and experienced social conservative attorneys in the country, were given every opportunity to present evidence to support their assertions same-sex marriages would undermine opposite-sex marriages or hurt children, thus providing the arguably requisite "rational basis" basis for discrimination. They were unable to provide any evidence at all. In contrast, the opponents of Proposition 8 presented overwhelming evidence (1) of the harm caused by discrimination against gay couples with respect to the right to marry and (2) that equal marriage rights would create no harm to opposite-sex marriages or children.

Where, as here, it is demonstrated that there is no rational basis for the discrimination – instead, only theological opinions and uninformed prejudice – the Constitution requires that the discrimination cease.

When transient majorities of voters can deprive minorities of basic rights guaranteed in the Constitution – including equal protection under law – then America will cease to be the beacon of liberty and justice that has made it a light unto the nations.

David S. Fishback
Advocacy Chair, Metro DC Chapter of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

No comments: