Religious Right groups spend a lot of time beating on church-state separation. TV preacher Pat Robertson once called that constitutional principle “a lie of the left” and said it comes from the old Soviet Constitution.
Not to be outdone, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association asserted that Adolf Hitler invented church-state separation.
Others have been less hyperbolic but have still made it clear that they’re no fans of the handiwork of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
Take Alan Sears, for example. Sears runs the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the nation’s largest Religious Right legal group. He once called the church-state wall “artificial.”
Funny, though, how that “artificial” wall that the Religious Right tells us over and over doesn’t exist and was never intended by the Founding Fathers can come in handy sometimes - like when the right wing wants to attack yoga in public schools.
In Encinitas, Calif., an attorney named Dean Broyles has filed suit against the Encinitas Union School District, asserting that a voluntary yoga program for students violates church-state separation. Broyles runs a small legal outfit called the National Center for Law and Policy, which, according to its website, defends “faith, family and freedom.”
Broyles is proud of his association with the ADF and notes that he “has received extensive training in pro-family, pro-life and pro-religious liberty matters at ADF’s outstanding National Litigation Academies (NLA). Because of Dean’s pro-bono work, he was invited to receive special training at ADF’s advanced NLA. Dean is proud to be an ADF affiliate attorney and member of ADF’s honor guard.”
Was Broyles asleep when Sears explained that separation of church and state doesn’t exist? How else can we explain his use of the principle in this lawsuit?
Or could it be that Broyles and the ADF are just being hypocritical? They have no use for separation of church and state when they’re trying to inject fundamentalist Christianity into the public schools. When that’s their game, they tell the courts, the media, and the American people that separation is not a valid legal principle. When they’re attacking what they perceive to be school promotion of a religion they don’t care for, suddenly the church-state wall is their best friend.
Broyles is arguing that the yoga program violates Article I, Section 4 of the California Constitution. That provision is longer than the federal constitution’s First Amendment but essentially provides for the same measure of church-state separation.
It reads in part, “Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed…. The Legislature shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
In a press release, Broyles observes that the yoga program “represents a prime example of precisely why in America we wisely forbid the government from picking religious winners and losers, especially when you have a captive audience of very young and impressionable children as we do in our public schools.”
I agree wholeheartedly with that part about the dangers of the government picking religious winners and losers in public schools and the need to shield impressionable children from coerced religious activity. I just wish the ADF and its allies applied that standard to all religions.
I don’t know if Broyles has a case. A lot of people these days practice yoga for secular reasons - mainly as a relaxation and stress-reduction tool. But if Broyles can prove that the school’s use of it has a religious component or that it’s a feeder into a religious program, he deserves to win. The court has an obligation to consider the matter carefully.
I’m not bothered by the case. What bothers me is that the people behind it are raising church-state separation when they normally have no use for that concept. They seem to believe separation should be ignored when conservative Christians want to use public schools and other units of government to promote their faith but applied vigorously to every other religious group.
Sorry, guys, it doesn’t work that way. Separation of church and state is the best policy for all religions - and that includes the ones you like best.
Inside The Campaign for Gay Equality: How Activists Rewrote the Political Playbook and Finally Won Over Voters in 2012
At a speed that resembles nether a tortoise nor a hare, these efforts are less a race and more a construction project. Sound legal foundations are being dug and legal infrastructures are being set in place. Will there be delays along the way? To be sure. Legal challenges will have to be dealt with along with expected and inevitable issues with social acceptance.
For reasons dictated by vocabulary, religious groups often conflate marriage with matrimony. Because of that there is much confusion and unnecessary adversarial and confrontational relationships. Let’s look at the definitions fo some clarity.
Marriage is a legal contract which always supersedes religious dictate. In other words, the state recognizes the union of a couple regardless of religious affiliation. All marriages are treated equally by the state and by the law. In effect, the marriage is a contract between the couple and the state.
Matrimony is different in that there is a religious component to that union which the celebrants hold to be the primary aspect of their union. Once a state of matrimony is entered into, there is a by product of state recognized marriage.
In other words, marriage is the contract entered into between the couple and the state and matrimony adds a religious component to that union. For people of faith, it is that religious component which is primary in their union.
Why is gay marriage an important issue? Because all marriage is good for society. Stability, commitment are the bedrocks of our society. Marriage is a promise of fidelity. Marriage is promise to add a link to the chain of continuity of our culture and society. Anything which contributes to the stability 9f society is a good thing whether the couple is heterosexual or homosexual.
No one can or should force religious institutions to confer matrimonial status on same sex couples. There are religious institutions or clergy which will marry gay couples and there are those which won’t. That is their prerogative. We cannot force them to do so nor should we want to for any number of reasons. In the same we won’t tolerate the state endorsing a particular religion, we cannot dictate to religious groups what they can and cannot believe or do.
In the end, gay marriage is not about the law or wedding parties. It is about couples establishing a home, putting down roots, having or adopting children and contributing to society. It is about making a home and contributing to the betterment of our wives, husbands or partners. All very good things.
The Marriage Plot: Inside This Year’s Epic Campaign for Gay Equality: How Activists Rewrote the Political Playbook, Reversed Decades of Defeat, and Finally Won Over Voters in 2012. « Sigmund, Carl and Alfred
On May 9, President Obama sat for an interview in the White House with the ABC News anchor Robin Roberts. Both of them knew what she’d been summoned there to discuss, and Roberts didn’t waste any time. “So, Mr. President,” she said, “are you still opposed to same-sex marriage?”
Obama was ready for the question. A few days before, Vice President Biden had said on Meet the Press that he was “comfortable” with men marrying men and women marrying women. The surprise statement went against the president’s own ambiguous stance, which was that he was against gay marriage but in the process of “evolving.” At the same time, evidence of the political risk inherent in the issue was abundant. The day before, May 8, voters in North Carolina — a key swing state Obama narrowly won in 2008 — had overwhelmingly voted to ban gay unions, making it the 31st state to take such a step.
Obama sat back in his leather chair, his legs crossed, his hands in his lap, composed and a bit detached. “Well, you know, I have to tell you, as I’ve said, I’ve been going through an evolution on this issue,” he began, in his usual roundabout way. “I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally.” He pointed to his administration’s repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and its refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. He’d hesitated to embrace gay marriage, he said, out of respect for tradition and a belief that civil unions offered enough protection to same-sex partnerships.
But now the president had changed his mind. “I’ve just concluded that, for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” he said.
he reasons for Obama’s about-face, as he explained them, seemed perfectly normal. His thoughts, he said, had gone to his own staffers “who are in incredibly committed, monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together.” He’d thought about the troops, fighting on his behalf, yet still facing the constraint of not being “able to commit themselves in a marriage.” He talked about the values he wanted to pass on to his own children and the emphasis his own faith placed on the Golden Rule.
Downtown Dewey Square is crammed with tents and tarps of Occupy Boston protesters, but organizers made sure from the start of this weeks-old encampment that there was room for the holy.
In this Oct. 21, 2011 photo, Ayman El-Sawa, who is originally from Egypt and now lives in Highlands, N.J., prays during Jummah at the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park, in New York. The Council on American Islamic Relations New York Chapter and the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York hosted Friday prayer at Occupy Wall Street. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
In this Oct. 14, 2011 photo, Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry speaks to various religious leaders who have come together to pledge their support to the Occupy Wall Street protests at Judson Memorial Church in New York. Organizers of protests in cities across the country have taken pains to include a religious component because they say cultivating the spirit of love and unity is an important part of bringing change. (AP Photo/Andrew Burton)
In this Oct. 14, 2011 photo, Rev. Michael Ellick, center, of Judson Memorial Church, introduces “protest chaplains” to various religious leaders who have come together to pledge their support to the Occupy Wall Street protests at Judson Memorial Church in New York. Organizers of protests in cities across the country have taken pains to include a religious component because they say cultivating the spirit of love and unity is an important part of bringing change. (AP Photo/Andrew Burton)
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No shoes are allowed in the “Sacred Space” tent here, but you can bring just about any faith or spiritual tradition.
A day’s schedule finds people balancing their chakras, a “compassion meditation” and a discussion of a biblical passage in Luke. Inside, a Buddha statue sits near a picture of Jesus, while a hand-lettered sign in the corner points toward Mecca.
The tent is one way protesters here and in other cities have taken pains to include a spiritual component in their occupations. Still, Occupy Wall Street is not a religious movement, and signs of spiritually aren’t evident at all protest sites.
Clergy emphasize they are participants in the aggressively leaderless movement, not people trying to co-opt it. Plus, in a movement that purports to represent the “99 percent” in society, the prominent religious groups are overwhelmingly liberal.
Religion might not fit into the movement seamlessly, but activist Dan Sieradski, who’s helped organize Jewish services and events at Occupy Wall Street, said it must fit somewhere.
“We’re a country full of religious people,” he said. “Faith communities do need to be present and need to be welcomed in order for this to be an all-encompassing movement that embraces all sectors of society.”
Religious imagery and events have been common since the protests began. In New York, clergy carried an Old Testament-style golden calf in the shape of the Wall Street bull to decry the false idol of greed. Sieradski organized a Yom Kippur service. About 70 Muslims kneeled to pray toward Mecca at a prayer service Friday.
A Chicago group, Interfaith Worker Justice, has published an interfaith prayer service guide for occupation protests nationwide.
Clergy who support the protests say they are a natural fit with many faiths, because they share traditional concerns about economic injustice. They also point to history, including the civil rights movement and abolition.
“Every movement for social change that has really made a difference has included the power of God, the power of the spirit and the power of people of conscience,” said the Rev. Stephanie Sellers, one of the Episcopalian “protest chaplains” praying with protesters at different sites.
Sieradski said his Jewish faith’s commitment to helping the powerless was one reason he was attracted to the movement, but he didn’t intend to establish regular Jewish services. He announced his first event, a Sabbath potluck dinner, on online social networks, not knowing what to expect. The strong turnout led him to help organize the Yom Kippur service, activities during Sukkot, and what Sieradski hopes will be regular religious events.
In Boston, Marty Dagoberto said the Sacred Space was also created in an unforced way, after he suggested the idea at Occupy Boston’s first general gathering. He said the space helps promote a spirit of calm and unity crucial to bringing change.