Religious Freedom and Judge Roy Moore

(I was asked to speak at the No Moore Rally today at the Alabama Supreme Court Building in Montgomery, AL.  Judge Roy Moore was being tried on six out of seven ethics violations when he urged Alabama Probate Judges to disobey US Supreme Court Ruling on the constitutionality of Same Sex Marriage. Here is what I said.)

We have been standing here for quite some time now awaiting the verdict that Judge Moore is found guilty of violating the Supreme Court orders to enforce marriage equality in this state. Judge Moore believes that he is above the law of the land.  He believes he is called to impose his brand of religion onto the citizens of this state. He believes that his brand of religion is the one true faith, that he has the pure and unadulterated interpretation of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. That all other interpretations of these sacred texts are heresy and therefore should be purged from the state of Alabama.

However, Judge Moore does not live in a country where only one religion is declared the official government religion.  Where only one interpretation of that religion is sanctioned. Where other religions are persecuted.

The United States does not have an official government sanctioned religion.  Here we have religious pluralism and the promise of religious freedom for all religions to not only be practiced but to have their rituals protected and recognized by the Government. This protection is found in our nation’s most sacred of texts, a text that Judge Moore vowed to uphold in his role as judge.

From the Declaration of Independence:  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness—that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among people, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Preamble of the Constitution of the United States. We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Constitution of the United States, 1st Amendment:  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Constitution of the United States, 14 Amendment, Section 1.  All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

It is from these documents that I stand here today to proclaim that my faith, which teaches me to love one another, no matter who you are or whom you love is to be respected under this constitution.  My religion, while a minority religion in the state of Alabama, has under the US Constitution the legal and moral authority to have its marriages recognized by the government of these states.  This right has been denied the members of my faith and other faiths for decades.  It was a right that was finally recognized by the Supreme Court as being fully constitutional.

Roy Moore and his ilk want to deny people, who do not agree with his religious faith, their rights as citizens of these United States. The followers of his religious faith are not hindered in any way by the practices of those who follow another faith or who follow no faith, just as my faith is not hindered in any way by the practices of his.  Where hindrance occurs is when followers of his faith demand that I and others adhere to his faith tenets.

In countries where there is one sanctioned religion his approach would be legal but here in the United States all people are free to practice their faith.  All people have the right to pursue happiness.

But here is thing; Judge Moore’s faith doesn’t even follow the tenets of his religion. His professed religion is Christianity.

Jesus declared that for his followers, and I am reading from the King James version, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Judge Moore violates this commandment. He is not loving his neighbor.  His behaviors show no respect for the diversity of his neighbors.  His behaviors show only contempt which goes against his very faith which insists on following the author of love, by doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I feel sorry for Judge Moore.  I do.  Truly.  I feel sorry for him because he has no love in his heart.  He has walled himself off from knowing the freedom that divine love gives to each of us when we are willing to be embraced by that love.  He is afraid. And in his fear, he attacks others who have found the freedom that love bestows.

That love for one another is expressed in the Christian Scriptures of Galatians 3:28. Here is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

We do not need to be afraid of each other any longer because when love is present, when love is placed at the center of our hearts, the need to separate us into categories falls away.  The desire for ensuring mutual respect of our differences rises to the fore.

But Judge Moore has not experienced the very redemption his Christian faith teaches him.  Redemption is more than just reciting a few words on a page.  And the Redemption I am talking about is not just in the life to come, but redemption in this life. Freedom in this life which our founding parents of this nation in their wisdom codified into law—the redemption of being able to have life and the pursuit of happiness.  He does not know this redeeming love.  He only knows hatred for others who not only are different than he is, but have found happiness and love through that difference.

He is going to need a bit of a nudge from today to be told once again, that he does not have the right to enforce his hatred onto the citizens of Alabama.  He does not have the right to impose his version of Christianity onto the citizens of Alabama—who have found the power of love through other Christian denominations, through Judaism, through Islam, through Buddhism, through Baha’i, through Sikhism, through Taoism, through atheism, through humanism, through Jainism, through Wiccan, through indigenous faiths, and yes, even through my faith, Unitarian Universalism.

Judge Moore, you have betrayed the trust of the state of the Alabama by violating our most sacred creeds as a nation.  Not just once, but twice.  You must be removed from office this day.  And you cannot be allowed to serve a public office again because you have proven yourself as not being able to hold the people’s rights above your own interests and agendas.  Perhaps one day you will realize that Love is Love and that all people have the right to experience love and have that love recognized by the government.

The heart of the debate

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence [sic], promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

I was having a friendly debate the other day on facebook about a quote by Ayn Rand and indirectly about the health care debate that is raging in this country.  One of the participants placed this quote from the preamble of the US Constitution into the conversation.   I suddenly realized that the current polarization that is occuring in this country is when stripped of its emotionalism of fear is based on how we interpret this preamble.  

I personally believe that healthcare needs to be a right or privilege  given to the citizens of this country as one of the benefits of being a citizen.   It is part of the process of establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquilty, of promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.  For me this seems clear cut and a logical extension of  these principles that this country was founded on.  From my perspective providing health care as a right given as a benefit of citizenship will reduce many of the domestic problems we have;  reduce bankruptcy, reduce crime (Think the story of Les Miserables), reduce infant mortality, increase life expectancies, increase quality of life across the board.

My friend in this debate believes that government should not interfere with the lives of people in any way, benevolent or otherwise.  His perspective claims that there would be a loss of self-sufficiency if the government was given the power to dole out health care provisions.  He bases this on the dependency he sees in generational recipients of welfare assistance.  How it seems that once a person is on welfare not only do they remain but their children and grandchildren remain on welfare.  His perspective points out the need for reform in many arenas not just healthcare.  In short his perspective emphasizes what he sees as the primary goal of government which is to provide for the common defense of the nation.  Period.   If this is done, he believes that the rest is assured or made possible by the ingenuity of private enterprise.  

I now have a better understanding of his position.  However, I still disagree and for this reason.   President Reagan proposed what became known as trickle down economics.  The notion that if the government de-regulated various industries and reduced government taxation on corporations that the money earned by these industries and corporations would trickle down to the working class.  President Reagan believed that government should be smaller and less involved in the daily operations of corporations.   It is an argument that has been debated repeatedly and it presumably is the main difference between two political parties.   Whether the answer to various problems lies in government intervention or in no government intervention is the core debate.  

Well, Reagan’s theory of trickle down economics was an interesting one but unfortunately nothing trickled down.  The top 1% got richer and the bottom got poorer faster than ever before.  The  middle class shrunk and continued to shrink as the policies instituted by Reagan’s administration were emulated by the administrations that followed.   In fact, the current recession / quasi depression is the result of policies begun in the Reagan trickle down econmic era.   

To be fair to President Reagan, I need to add that the current health care debacle is based on policies instituted not by Reagan but by President Nixon.  President Nixon allowed for deregulation of health care insurance companies allowing them to become predominantly for profit industries.  This was when the shift from the doctor making the decision with the patient on a particular plan of action to the health maintenance organization making the decision took place.  It was supposed to cut costs and not allow doctors to perform unnecessary treatments.  The HMO’s however were formed to be in it for profit and so denying a treatment saved them money and increased their profit margins.  

The question remains how do we form a more perfect union? Is it through private enterprise and if so how do we ensure that private enterprise serves the best interest of the people and not their own coffers?  Or is it through government regulation and offering a public option of health care and the risk of making a people who are ultra dependent on a government? 

I believe the debate is anchored in this preamble.  There in lies the question of who we are as Americans and how we see ourselves as citizens not only of this country but also as citizens of this world.  Blessings,

Published in: on September 12, 2009 at 3:22 pm  Comments Off on The heart of the debate  
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