Monday, August 30, 2010

Church's Who Wont Marry Gays Should Lose Their "Special Status"

Formerly closeted GOP Senator Roy Ashburn has curiously asked Governor Schwarzenegger of California to veto the religious freedom in marriage bill that passed the House and the Senate of that state with flying colors. Why? On Top Mag explains...
The Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act says religious organizations could not be stripped of their tax-exempt status if their clergy refuse to perform any civil marriage that is contrary to the tenets of his or her faith.
Ashburn says he agrees that religious freedoms should be protected, but notes such protections are already in place under existing state law and the U.S. Constitution.
Ashburn says in a letter addressed to Schwarzenegger that he shared with On Top Magazine that he objects to the bill because it would create “second class” marriages for gay and lesbian couples.
“The major change under this bill would be the creation of a new class of marriages. SB 906 seeks to redefine the definition of marriage by inserting the word 'civil' before the word 'marriage' throughout state statue.”
“What I seek is full, equal marriage rights for all people, regardless of sexual orientation,” Ashburn added. “SB 906 is clearly less than full marriage equality and therefore, I respectfully ask for your veto.”

This my friends brings up a very good question, a question that also gave me pause when it came to "cheering" for the bill in California. What is true equality? Is it equality when an organization can purposefully discriminate based upon a religious belief? Is it even more discriminatory when such organizations are allowed to meander around tax laws because they have tax-exempt status?

As I have stated before in this blog, there are two major players in the world...religion and government. Government controls the laws, yet religion controls the minds. So therefore, when you have a law that conflicts with religion, I propose that religion should not get a "get out of jail free" card. For by doing so...by not being held to the same standards that society has set, you allow the Church to actually trump society. Let me explain this in two ways.

First, laws such as allowing same-sex marriage are based upon the philosophy that all men are created equal and should be treated as equals; all men have the same rights and responsibilities. Our Constitution, with its promises of Due Process and Equal Protection undoubtedly back this up. Yet when we allow the concept of religious freedom to "trump" these equality rights, we are allowing private organizations (which are government funded because of their tax exempt status) to be placed above the law. If religion does not agree with something that the government has enacted, all it has to say is that it cannot abide by said law because of its religious beliefs. Does this make the Church and Government equals? No it does not, it allows for the Church to rule over the Government. For though the Government might say something, the Church still can make its own rules.

Second, because Religion controls the minds of society, allowing it special privileges based upon religious beliefs, reinforces discrimination. If you don't think that this would happen with LGBT people and marriage equality, all you have to do is look at the status of women in society today. Though women have made great strides in business, politics, etc. the Church is still one area where women are mostly not allowed to enter. For example, they are not allowed to be Priests in the Catholic Church, they are not allowed to be ministers in the Southern Baptist Convention. Religion, I postulate, has subjected women to male dominance and has been allowed by government to have a "pass" on gender neutralizing itself. This may be why we still have the glass ceiling in politics and business, because women are not allowed to be leaders in the Church, and so in their minds it is reinforced that they should not try to attain that in society.Religious inequality and discrimination have exacerbated the problems facing women and I know that it will do the same with LGBT people if bills like California's are allowed to go into effect.

The first amendment of the Constitution is very important, and its freedoms of religion are very much cherished in the United States. But when does ones freedom of religion allow you to discriminate against others, while at the same time receiving governmental priority? If organizations want to discriminate, that fine with me, because I cannot forcibly control their actions. Yet if a government truly cares about equality for all of its citizens, it must stop underwriting those who purposefully discriminate through tax-exemption.

One final thought in conclusion...how would Americans feel if the KKK was tax-exempt? Or the Neo-Nazis? They advocate racial discrimination and white supremacy; but what is the difference between gender discrimination or sexual orientation discrimination, and male supremacy or heterosexual supremacy?

3 comments:

  1. Churches should lose their tax-exempt status; but not because they won't marry gay people. That would only feed their persecution complex and cause more problems.

    Churches don't deserve to be subsidized by the taxpayers. Despite all their hubub about being "charitable institutions" most of them do very little charity work (and if they do any they can get an exemption specifically for that). What they are is businesses--they spread their dogma--and they should be taxed as such.

    So eradicate all the tax exemptions, across the board, and none of them will be able to claim they're being targeted because of Teh Gays.

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  2. I would disagree with many of the points made, but I would also want to offer historical and contemporary examples of what you're talking about.

    One, looking at the last 200-300 years of the relationship between the state, religions and the public, I find that there are advantages and disadvantages to both the current laissez-faire approach and the more regulatory approach. The laissez-faire approach means that those who believe differently about the current status quo would be able to find each other on the fringes and build their case for legitimacy even under the pressure of a state which is more beholden to the views of the majority which backs the status quo. The regulatory approach, on the other hand, offers the ideal of a closer regulation of the status of a belief or a sector of people with immutable characteristics, but with the trade-off of having to rely upon the state to move everything forward with rights, privileges and whatnot.

    Also, what you're advocating for is a stronger form of France's laicite, which is where the government is not only officially secular, but also strips many privileges from religious authorities, such as the certification of a marriage by a clergyperson. In France, Mexico and a number of other states, all marriages are first certified by a judge in a civil ceremony; the couple may then choose to get a religious ceremony afterward, but the latter only has symbolic, cultural weight.

    Also, after 1905, all religious buildings in France became the property of city councils, with religious organizations (i.e., the RCC) merely renting them.

    The problem with closer regulation of the activities of religious organizations is similar to the closer regulation of political organizations: there are a wider variety of ways to fall afoul of the state through the actions or professions of subscribers.

    Finally, I look at Europe and its governments' attempts to regulate the Catholic-permeated cultures vis-a-vis the desire to prevent too many racial or religious outrages by those mired into Catholic doctrine or liturgical culture. I wonder if we still see racial and religious bigotry in Europe - even in France - either because of the government's current regulation of religion and culture or the prior government's own state support to, and propping-up of, the Catholic church as the state church. Or if it is because of any state subsidization of culture, or just something in the water over there.

    And what gives with France, which abolished sodomy laws in the French Revolution, not having legalized same-sex marriage, only allowing PACS for same- and mixed-sex couples? Maybe laicite isn't as much of a guarantor for the speedier advancement of human rights and liberties into constitutional law in some countries than it is in others.

    Maybe the United States, having never had a state religion (even when early states themselves had their own state denominations), could be a better implementer of laicite and its tighter regulations upon religion and education. But, given that we have such a denominationally-mixed population, forgive me if I'm not totally sold on it as providing an easier route for the advancement of human rights and liberties, even absent the intervention and obstruction by religious organizations.

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  3. Also, any of the many KKK spin-offs can technically register for tax-exempt status, and many have. They already participated in Missouri's Adopt-A-Highway program back in the 1990s, despite the state trying to keep it out of the program (the Supreme Court validated the KKK's right to do so). Ultimately, the KKK were kicked out of the program for not keeping their adopted portion clean of litter.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adopt_a_Highway

    So it's not a foregone conclusion that tax-exempt organizations can even be formed for the least-respected opinions and ideologies, and can also practice freedom of association (another part of anti-LGBT bigotry by ideologues).

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