The controversy over same sex marriage in some jurisdictions, as illustrated by recent events in Alabama with Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court Roy Moore leading the opposition, perplexes but does not surprise me. We need to remember that Justice Moore was previously removed from his position as Chief Justice because he refused a Federal Judge’s order to have a Ten Commandments monument taken away from the Alabama Judicial Building. Should we expect his removal again, hopefully, legally and permanently?
Justice Moore, with the backing of many—perhaps a majority of—Alabamians, has conflated misunderstandings of Biblical Laws and States’ Rights under the U.S. Constitution. His confusion leads to the erroneous presumption that the Constitution is a Judeo-Christian document and that the U.S. is a Judeo-Christian country legally subject to Biblical Laws in all respects, especially the Ten Commandments. Justice Moore may sincerely believe the Bible prohibits same sex marriage, and that Alabama state courts and probate judges trump the rulings of Federal judges ranked lower than U.S. Supreme Court justices. If so, he appears remarkably ignorant and/or disdainful of Judeo-Christian theology, Constitutional Law, and history.
No “Cherry Picking”
I see no need for a prolonged discussion of Biblical pros and cons concerning homosexuality and same sex marriage. Simply put, if we believe Holy Scripture considers homosexuality an abomination, we must also adhere to all other Biblical prohibitions and approved behaviors including:
(1) Execution of non-virgin brides, adulterers, and married couples who have sex during the wives’ menstrual periods,
(2) Husbands, but not wives, may have sex with prostitutes,
(3) Slavery and sex with slaves, and marriage of girls eleven to thirteen years of age are allowed,
(4) A widow of a childless husband must have sequential intercourse with the husband’s brothers until she bears a male child to inherit the husband’s estate,
(5) Leadership roles for women in churches, and women speaking out in, and coming bareheaded to, worship services are prohibited.
Faith-based intellectual honesty requires us to observe all of these prohibitions and approved behaviors, if we’re going to accept homosexuality as a sin. The idea boggles the mind, doesn’t it?
Not A Judeo-Christian Nation
I freely admit that many of our Revolutionary War heroes and Founding Fathers of our democratic republic were Judeo-Christians, some even of the evangelistic persuasion. Walter B. Edgar, in his highly interesting book, Partisans and Redcoats: The Southern Conflict That Turned the Tide of the American Revolution, emphasizes the crucial role guerilla or irregular fighters from South and North Carolina Scottish Presbyterian Churches played in the Revolutionary War. These partisan militias kept Lord Cornwallis occupied in the southern states until General Washington and the French welded the Continental Army into an effective fighting force. The Patriot movie starring Mel Gibson touches on these themes.
Despite the crucial involvement of Judeo-Christians in the Revolutionary War and framing of the Constitution, we have neither a Constitutionally-sanctioned national religion nor do we exclude any religion as defined in the First Amendment to the Constitution: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Further, the Constitution prohibits any religious test for public office. The U.S., therefore, logically cannot be considered a Judeo-Christian nation, a point well-developed in The Myth of a Christian Nation by the Rev. Dr. Gregory A. Boyd.
Yes, some of us believe this status is only temporary because we look forward to, and work for, a time when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess the Lordship of Jesus Christ. That is, we anticipate a one-world government, a theocracy under which Jesus Christ is God’s vicar or governor on earth. Until such time arrives, Judeo-Christians should work first for an absolutely neutral political playing field among all religions, as envisioned by the Framers.
A Religious Ceremony Not Required
Judge Moore is correct that, for Judeo-Christians, marriage is a holy sacrament ordained by God. He profoundly, and I suspect willfully and knowingly, errs when he declares the Constitution has nothing to do with marriage. I am unaware of any jurisdiction in which Judeo-Christians, adherents of other religions, or atheists can be legally married without a state-issued marriage license. Either a religious or civil marriage ceremony may follow. Even without the religious ceremony, the couple will be married in the eyes of the state.
Issuance of the license clearly makes marriage a civil function that falls under the laws of the state. Tremendous amounts of blood were shed, many lives lost, and huge treasure expended during the Civil War to enforce the Constitutional principle that state laws are subservient to Federal laws when the two conflict. In a very real sense, the on-going struggle for Civil Rights reinforces the principle that Federal laws under the Constitution trump state laws.
No Constitutional Distinction
The Constitution makes no distinction about the rights, privileges, and obligations of all citizens regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof, political party (except when the party advocates violent overthrow of the government), or socioeconomic status. This lack of Constitutional distinction means that no state or local jurisdiction may pass laws disenfranchising certain groups of citizens from the rights, privileges, and obligations—including paying all owed taxes—bestowed on all citizens through the Constitution. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens of legal age and standing, therefore, cannot be denied their civil rights, including marriage. I believe this line of reasoning should lead SCOTUS this summer/fall to toss out all state laws prohibiting same sex marriage.
Only one way exists to legally prohibit same sex marriage: A Constitutional amendment. Such an amendment has a vanishingly small chance of succeeding: The Framers intentionally made the amendment procedure extremely difficult. Absent this amendment, persons who believe homosexuality and same sex marriage violate Biblical Laws are not prohibited from using non-violent methods to “preach” their beliefs and try to convince LGBT citizens to refrain from marriage and engaging in homosexual acts. Again, the probability of these outcomes on a large scale is vanishingly small.