Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Why waste a morning rant on Facebook about the Founding Fathers and Scotch-Irish rage and Controlling Marriage?

I share a lot of DNA with Guy and Robbie, so I pay attention to what they post, and get wound up over the false claim that this was founded as a Christian country.

  • I say this with sincere love to my many friends who are passionate fundamentalist Christians who believe that the SCOTUS’s decision yesterday on marriage equality is an abomination to themselves and to God: As a lawyer, I need to attempt to set the record straight.
    Our country was created by our founding fathers very deliberately to prevent the establishment of a national religion from our governance. The Church - Catholic or Anglican - was central to almost every other country in the world historically, especially England from which our founding fathers separated. It was critical to our founding fathers that one central religion NOT be declared and NOT be incorporated into our Constitution or governance. They understood that an establishment of a national religion would ultimately abridge the very rights they believed were fundamental and were meant to be recognized and protected by the Bill of Rights and ultimately the Constitution.
    Religion-based loss of basic rights had been their experience in England and they wanted to prevent that here.
    The fact is that this decision yesterday was a LEGAL decision about the scope of our Constitutional rights as humans and US citizens. It was not about religion, religious beliefs or religious freedom. It is about equal rights, just as the decision in this country to give women the vote and the decision to abolish slavery were about equal rights. Any decision regarding the scope of a constitutional right (whether passed by Congress or interpreted by the SCOTUS) is a legal decision, not one based in religion or morality.
    Rights are not and should not be up for a popular vote or up to the states to determine. Rights are absolute and cannot be dependent upon anything other than the fact that the person is a human being and is a citizen of the US. If those two conditions are met, YOUR belief system about what is MORALLY or spiritually right or wrong does not matter and should not. You should be glad that is the case, because it would be just as easy for another religion to take over and curtail your rights as a Christian (something that has happened throughout history).
    In fact, one religious party believing they know the truth for all humans is how terrible oppression starts - that is how Naziism started, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, the Klu Klux Klan, Al-Qaeda and now ISIS - the most destructive, hateful, murderous periods of human history have arisen directly out of one religious group (ironically, most of these examples were lead by Christians) believing their religion and religious beliefs were THE truth, and therefore they had the right to take away the rights (and lives) of those who lived or believed differently than them.
    Our founding fathers wanted to prevent that outcome. So does our current Supreme Court. THAT is the law of the land and I could not be more grateful to be an American than when human rights are protected. I don’t have to agree with you to believe with all my heart and soul that YOUR rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should be protected against oppression or prejudice. LGBT US citizens deserve exactly the same treatment. God Bless America.
    p.s. Those railing against the decision of marriage equality as a basic constitutional right are confusing the idea of constitutional (i.e human) rights with certain types of behavior (the stuff they call "sin"). But human rights are inherent in all human beings and US citizens - not doled out based on who is behaving "well" and who isn't. All US citizens should have the equal right to pursue life, liberty and happiness, regardless of the "sins" they commit. The only behavior that should curtail your constitutional rights is if you commit a crime (a felony) and are convicted. But even then, criminals can still marry, have kids, own property, work and live in our communities. The only things they can't do is vote and carry firearms. If committing a sin was a barrier to receiving basic constitutional rights in this country, we would all be in big trouble, not just the LGBT community.
  • Robbie Head while not disagreeing with the sentiments, I don't believe any study of history would give credence to the statement that the most destructive, hateful, murderous periods in human history have arisen out of one religious group... The Klan was not motivated by religion anymore than Adolph Hitler was. Religion has been used as a fig leaf by certain groups to further their own agenda, but no one can truthfully say that the major blood shed in history was motivated by religion. the mass murderers of the 20th century were definitely not religious; most were amoral stone cold atheists. Stalin, Hitler, Mao, those responsible for the killing fields in Cambodia, and the list goes on and on.
  • Hershel Parker Robbie, I don't know who Mathews is, but I agree with most of what she says. Most important, I know that this was not founded as a Christian country but as a country that would have a separation of church and state. For the last couple of years I have been reading documents about my ancestors, including many of yours, and seeing how strong a part religion played before the Revolution. The Massachusetts Puritans founded a theocracy and actually tortured and killed Quakers. That experiment worked well for the Calvinists but not anyone else. One group of Quaker ancestors lived successfully on the eastern shore of Maryland under the Catholics (who were careful not to rock the boat by being too oppressive) but when the Anglicans came to power they fled to Onslow, SC. Quaker ancestors in Virginia were fined for fornication because they could not be married in the Anglican Church. An ancestor in Virginia a few months after the Declaration of Independence voted in the Burgess for freedom of religion because he had been taxed to support the state church, Anglican. Anglican landlords ground down the Scots in Ireland so that as late as 1772 a Presbyterian minister organized 5 shiploads of refugees to sail to Charleston. In the passenger list for the last ship, the Free Mason, are our Copelands, and they were given free bounty land far out west so they could be a buffer to the Indians (who cared if they got scalped while taking the land?), but their hatred of the established church was that they all were Patriots in the Revolution. The SC church of the minister who had brought they here was burned by the British. The Quakers were not interested in establishing a state church, but I think the Presbyterians would have been very happy to have control in each colony. The Founding Fathers knew better than to declare this to be a specifically Christian country and knew that the way to keep it from becoming a theocracy was to say that there would be no laws about the establishment of religion. Under W that separation of church and state got eroded by "faith based initiatives." I joke (seriously) that I am so old that I remember when the Baptists believed in Original Sin and even in separation of Church and State. [If I hit return for a paragraph this gets posted.]..................................................... I wanted to add something about anger that a lot of us Scotch-Irish feel. There is a terrific book by David Hackett Fischer, ALBION'S SEED: FOUR BRITISH FOLKWAYS IN AMERICA, which explains it in terms of the economic exploitation of the Scots in Scotland and the Borders and then in Northern Ireland so that when they came to a colony they came angry and resentful and ready to fight. He traces a straight line down to our cousins in the pickup trucks with rifles and the Confederate flag. I internalized that rage in the late 1930s before I knew particular instances of economic abuse (like making such improvements to a farm in 1934 that the owner raised the rent the next year and drove us out). Former Senator Webb (the only out of state candidate I ever sent money to) says we are BORN FIGHTING. Yes, and the anger makes it hard for us to remember that this was not set up as a Presbyterian country (which is what a lot of the Scotch-Irish would have wanted) but as a country in which an established church would not grind down all other churches with taxes and humiliation and actual torture, in the case of Quakers. The Anglican control over marriage meant many of our ancestors could not have state-sanctioned marriages and would be penalized because they were not legally married. Now--well, my rant has to stop--we have governors and clerks who want to do what? Oh, the governors and clerks want to control marriage.Oh, now I get it. Round and round we go.

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