Establishment Clause and Faith-based Platforms and Policies

In my view, your religious beliefs and mine (should you or I have any such beliefs, which is not a given) should not be encoded into civil law at all. This is of course the raison de etre of the First Amendment: We are free to worship as we wish without government interference.

And as it was well known even at the time of the Constitutional Convention that various religions had opposing views on such matters,and also that some people hold no religious views at all, it was considered necessary that the State itself not take ANY religious matters under consideration for the purposes of any governance.

For example, in the modern era some Christian faiths and some Jewish faiths have diametrically opposed views on the acceptability and perhaps even righteousness of abortion in certain circumstances. To embed either position into civic law to appease that group would be to diminish the faith of the other, in direct opposition to the Establishment Clause of the First.

Of course, there is a simple secular solution – people of either religion (or any other) are free to do as they see fit in their own personal lives, to be guided by their personal faith, entirely outside the purview of government sanction or prohibition of their preferred views.

Similarly in the issue of civil marriage and the associated rights, benefits, and obligations associated with it: In the civil sense, it is and has always been a secular contractual matter between consensual parties. Often, but not always, the parties enter into a simultaneous non-secular marriage of the faith of their choice, and for convenience the state may allow a representative official of the religion to act as the state’s witness in order to have both the secular and non-secular arrangements happen simultaneously.

This is merely a matter of convenience from the State’s point of view, as the State has no official or unofficial interest in the religious sanctity of the marriage. From the state’s point of view, it is not and never has been necessary for a religious party to be involved to sanctify the civil marriage, nor has there ever been a religious litmus test, such that the parties must declare allegiance to a religious faith, be it of their choosing or not, in order to have a legal civil non-secular marriage.

Currently, as with abortions, various religious faiths, and even various sects and denominations within individual faiths have differing views on if the religion ought to and will sanctify a non-secular marriage of same sex parties. Of this there is no doubt: There do exist even some Christian churches that welcome such ceremonies and are glad to perform them, and there are some who don’t.

Some of those who don’t (and they are not all Christian churches in this group, there are non-Christians as well) are very vocal in that they insist that their non-secular beliefs about marriage be encoded into civil, non-secular law about who and who may not get married.

This strikes me as more than a little strange for it to even be an issue in the United States, as there is very definitely a conceptual difference between civil and non-secular marriage, even though two parties may enter into both simultaneously.

As with abortion, the First Amendment allows the government to not favor or disfavor any religious entity from sanctifying the non-secular marriages that it sees fit, while simultaneously leaving it up to the parties who wish to enter into a civil, secular marriage to decide for themselves whether or not to do so under the standard laws of contractual consent.

Yet oddly one party has in its platform the advocacy of encoding their preferred religious view on both of these purely secular matters as key parts of its platform. They wish to impose on me, a Jew, the Christian view of abortion as a matter of law instead of faith, even though it is well known it is counter to my faith.

Similarly they wish to impose on me their faith’s view on who can be married in their churches in a non-secular religious ceremony upon my choice to enter into a secular civil marriage contract. The reason they give for this, in a nutshell, is their oft-repeated claim that “The US is a Christian country”

These are both very very big deals to the Republican Party, I am sure I don’t have to explain that.

And the Democratic party platform says that matters of faith should be separate from matters of civics such as I listed just above. The reason that they give for this is to point to the First Amendment and say that people should be able to exercise matters of their faith and worship independently of the government approval or disapproval.

The parties could not be in starker contrast here, and this has not just come up, and not in just these tow matters: this has been their modus operandi, not just a platform, since even before I was an adult. Both sides walk their talk, of that we can be sure.

For these matters, where various combinations of faiths clearly have different views, and under the First Amendment’s Establishment clause, I really have to ask why one party takes the position in all cases that matters of faith alone are separate from civic matters, and the other party wishes to impose, in civic matters, the views of one faith (or even the views of a subset of one faith) on all, whether of that faith or not or of no faith at all.

Why is that do you suppose? Why should I be required to act as your faith requires in matters of, for example, abortion or marriage, when it is in direct opposition to my own faith? Is your faith to be favored over mine? Or vice versa, to be fair – why should you be expected to conform to my faith in opposition to your own? Why should my faith take precedence over yours as a matter of law?

Particularly when it is easy to separate civic secular matters from non-secular matters of faith, and to say that in civic matters, all are free to weigh their own faith as they see fit in exercising civic matters, and allowing others to do so also? Why is that not sufficient, and why is it not REQUIRED under the First’s Establishment clause?

Anyone care to take the Republican side here?

Posted in Facebook rants and raves, Same Sex Marriage Rights.