Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cannoli Numero Uno: The Sweet Taste of Freedom

My friend Vince Cohen likes to call my writing style a cannoli. Perfectly self-contained and wherein lies the beginning, the middle and the end, of which covers everything it sets out to cover. So to that effect, I have decided to call the essays I write from henceforth Cannolis. Actually, the term cannoli is a plural in Italian, and if you need to know what a cannoli is, look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannoli. I prefer sfoliatella, but then again I am Napolitano.

There have been a lot of discussions on blogs of late about the violence, anger and rudeness associated with the reaction to the marriage amendments that have passed in several states. These negative reactions have primarily and largely been from the homosexual community. Some believe this is necessary as the gay community is fomenting revolution and they may do so by any means necessary. Others take a more balanced and sane approach and realize that making enemies of their position is not the correct way to proceed.

On one side of the argument are religious fundamentalists. Included in this group, but not limited to are the Mormons and Evangelical Christians. Their position is that a marriage is between one man and one woman (at one time Mormons allowed one man and many women, but currently this is not the case). This position is consistent with Judaism and Christianity as it is related to scripture and doctrine. I think this position is fine from the standpoint that people have a right to their religious beliefs, even if it conflicts with what others believe, and as long it is not illegal.

On the other side of the argument we have the gay community and other liberal minded folks. Gays believe that marriage, as a legal instrument through the government, should be open to any two human beings. It would be my guess that some also believe it should be allowed in all churches and synagogues, but I do not know the full extent to of that. In an effort to promulgate equality, some states have legislated that gay marriage is legal. In other states, changes to marriage law if you will have been attained through the courts. The rub of late is that four states passed referenda that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. I believe those states are California, Arizona, Michigan and Florida.

The reaction by the gay community has been dramatic and at times violent, intrusive, rude, disgusting and illegal. Going into houses of worship and throwing used condoms on parishioners, spray painting churches, engaging in sex acts in church bathrooms, and other disruptive acts during services is the wrong thing to do and it causes people that would otherwise support gay rights with marriage to the very least turn away in indifference. Some have told me it is a revolution that must be won by any means necessary. Some believe as I do, others have remained indifferent. So where’s the beef?

The problem is that we are dealing with two different authorities. One is common law and the other is religious law. Article I of the Bill Of Rights states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.  This portion of the first amendment affirms what it believed to be a natural right that people may believe and worship as they desire and just as important, the government shall not have an official religion. The reason for this is that at the time of the founding documents, England and other countries had official religions. In England, in order to hold certain positions in government or academia, a person had to be a member of the Church of England. In the case of the latest skirmish in regards to gay marriage, some of the religious folk have been accused of taking Church doctrine and law, and trying to create legislation based on it. I believe this is arguably true. Conversely, is it true that the gays are trying to change church doctrine? More accurately, it is seen that the gay agenda is trying to change the very moral fabric of society.

If gays were trying to change church law and doctrine, I would agree that is egregious in that using the current methods it would be an infringement of people’s religious freedoms and it would also be intolerant. Again, people have the right to believe as they wish. I am not so sure this is the case and if it is, they lost me here. On the other hand, I think they are correct in wanting equality in the eyes of the law. What religious fundamentalists seem to not realize is that in order to make a law that marriage is only between a man and a woman, I believe that the only way to do this legally, is to make homosexuality illegal. I cannot for the life of me see how this would be possible. In my opinion, gays are born that way. Just as a black person cannot change their skin color, a gay person cannot change their inborn sexuality. The rub with bible thumpers is that they believe that homosexuality is a choice. This has to be true for them because if they admitted that homosexuals were born that way it would imply, due to scripture and church doctrine, that god made a mistake. This is where I believe the conflict arises with them. God can’t make mistakes. As Obama said, that is above my pay grade. All I know or believe is that they were born the way they are, just as I was born the way I am. Was it a mistake? Ask god.

The only solution I see to this mess is a separation of church and state. The first assumption is that marriage is a religious concept. Only churches can marry and it is in the eyes of god. On the other hand, for marriages to be recognized by the state for legal purposes, there exists a legal standard in issuing of a license for that purpose. Only the state can regulate the legal aspects of a common law union. So, to this effect, the state should create or change marriage licenses to common law union licenses for everyone. This document establishes a legal relationship so as to settle estates, living wills, probate, etc. If the people who obtain a common law union license wish to have their marriage recognized in a religion, which is up to the religion to decide who may or may not be married in their church/synagogue. Through this separation, equality can exist within the natural rights of people.

“Jefferson believed that each individual has ‘certain inalienable rights.’ That is, these rights exist with or without government; man cannot create, take, or give them away. It is the right of ‘liberty’ on which Jefferson is most notable for expounding. He defines it by saying rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. It is not 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” Hence, for Jefferson, though government cannot create a right to liberty, it can indeed violate it. And the limit of an individual's rightful liberty is not what law says it is but is simply a matter of stopping short of prohibiting other individuals from having the same liberty. A proper government, for Jefferson, is one that not only prohibits individuals in society from infringing on the liberty of other individuals, but also restrains itself from diminishing individual liberty (Appleby and Ball, p224, 1999).

The previous paragraph is how I see liberty and freedom on this earth and in the universe. If we could all live by this, which is an extension of Christ’s commandments, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, we all would be better off. What prevents this, in my opinion, is that people want power. In an ideal state of liberty and freedom, no one, including the government, has more power than any other individual or entity. Human beings, due to their survival instincts, look for an advantage. Part of an advantage is to look for power over others. Be that as it may, the quest for power relegates the desire for equality to second place. I think this is something that some wish not to admit. Take this particular issue, if my solution was implemented, which I believe offers the greatest chance at justice and equality, I would bet that neither side would be satisfied because equality is not the ultimate goal of either side. It is the promulgation of their respective agendas and the power that would be gained by the hegemony thereof that may be the true goal. If this is the case, then a pox on both your houses.

The latest war on liberties demonstrates the quest for power. The Mormons and other religious groups use the government to promulgate their religious views in law. The gay community is infringing on people’s individual right to practice religion when they perpetrate acts in religious places and moreover, expose people that contribute as individuals to campaigns that promulgate religious views. In as much as the courts may strike down the referenda, a person’s individual right to practice religion and participate peacefully in a political process should not be violated by anyone. What baffles me about the rude and unlawful behavior is that in every case that I recall, the courts have struck down such referenda. My question is, why the militant behavior? Considering gays account for less than 10% of the population, it’s a literal fight that can’t be won by those means, and I would suggest it won’t end well in the end. My advice would be to use the courts to seek justice in this case, and the legislature if necessary, but above all, the rights of people on both sides of the issue must be respected if we are to have equality and justice. My favorite civil rights advocate is Frederick Douglass. While Mr. Douglass said “Power concedes nothing without demand. It never has and never will. Show me the exact amount of wrong and injustices that are visited upon a person and I will show you the exact amount of words endured by these people.” Demand does not equal unlawful, disgusting or rude acts. While I believe there are instances where people may act in kind, or in effect to defend oneself, this is not one of them.

Thank you for reading this blog.


Appleby and Ball (1999) Letter to Isaac H. Tiffany, April 4, 1819 from Thomas Jefferson


El Gato Limon said...

Right Guy,
Interesting take on things. I wanted to comment on a few things you said, if I may.

First, I too, believe that God created each of us. The way we are is the way He made us. However, the Bible is clear about how God feels about men sleeping with men and women sleeping with women. So, I have to believe that He made feminine men and masculine women but did not intend for them to be partnered with someone of their same sex. Beyond that, I don't want to comment further.

Secondly, I was a little confused on your statement about Jesus' greatest commandment. He never said treat others as you would like to be treated. It was similar to that. He said that the greatest commandment was "To love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and all your soul." And then He said, "And the other commandment 'to love your neighbor as yourself' was next to it."

Similar thought as the 'golden rule' that you stated. And I'm not trying to split hairs with you. I just wanted to clarify.

Thanks for blogging.

The Right Guy said...

I guess I stand corrected on the commandments as to which is greatest, but from my point of view, I am concerned with what I know and the context I am in. There were three, no? The third was honor your father and mother... One of my points is that we live in a society with a government that has no official religion, and that while it is clear with judea-christian traditions as to homosexuality, in such a society, unless you outlaw such activity, these people are entitled to the rights of any other. There is a line in regards to what people are born with that should be protected, but I don't think this crosses it. My greater point though is that because we have no official religion, this allows these different rights to co-exist without interference from either side of the issue. I really do not believe that the government should have a say with anything to do with church doctrine or teachings and if you wish to create secular law solely on doctrine, you have opened the door on government making changes in church doctrine. My question stands, do you want power, or justice and equality? The trick is to live your life as you will within your rights and with respect to the rights of others. I do have concerns that both sides do not want justice or equality but superior rights that enable them to infringe on the rights of others. It's a fine line to walk, but it can work. Thanks for your comments.

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