aNewDomain — Here’s Rick Perry:
The constitution provides freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.”
And Kim Davis’ lawyer:
You don’t give up your right to practice your faith just because you take a government job.”
Let’s pause for the lovely applause coming from the CPAC or an NRA meeting.
Unfortunately, that sentiment is totally wrong.
Test it out. Go apply for a job in the military. First question: Are you a conscientious objector? Because, if you are, you don’t get to work for the military. The military’s job is to kill people and blow shit up. You got a moral problem with that? Then this ain’t the job for you.
Become a conscientious objector once already serving and they’ll likely deny your application and discharge you for mental health reasons. Maybe they’ll agree to discharge you on your terms or make you a non-combatant, but you’d have to make a clear-headed case.
Granted, the county clerk job out in the blue hills of Kentucky isn’t the same as being a sniper in the army.
Kim Davis won’t ever be played by Bradley Cooper, either. But the same principles apply.
Because freedom of religion requires freedom from religion.
What Brown Got Wrong
Some religious/political groups keep trying to establish a state religion. I’ll give you three guesses which faith. People of faith sometimes think the government would run better if it ran on faith principles — their own faith principles. They often can’t see that the government has adopted a religion and, often in a short period of time, has become a tyrannical force in the lives of everyone not that religion — and many who are.
Many Catholics, for example, utilize contraception — because this is the 21st century. If the religious right got their way, they’d ban contraceptive use for everyone. People of both Catholic faith and non-Catholic faith would then be stuck living Biblical principles. Whether they wanted to or not, no matter how seriously they took their faiths.
We already have such systems of religious government in the world. Take ISIS, for example.
Islamic governments sometimes empower the illiterate. Mullahs tend not to have read the Koran. This isn’t because they don’t want to, usually. It’s because they can’t. All their knowledge is hearsay, and that hearsay tends to have a particular bias.
It’s this same bias that allows the U.S. armed services to be very, very Christian.
Now El was a little vague on the thing about not killing people. “Thou Shalt Not” murder Canaanites if you want their land. (But at the same time, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”)
“Thou Shalt Not” murder idolators. You get the picture. But Jesus was a lot clearer on the pacifism thing. Forgive, turn the other cheek, and that ultimate example of letting the Romans nail him to a cross. Put away your swords, the meek shall inherit.
We know the story.
But we’ve got Jesus all mixed up with Hammurabi. That old-time Sumerian eye-for-an-eye stuff replacing the Christic revelations, judgement replacing patience.
Kim Davis has the right to …
Some folks — abroad and right here in the U.S. — think the government should reflect their religious values. But that would be a horrible mistake. We’d be putting the Mullahs in charge.
In order to be free to practice your faith your way, faith must be kept out of government. That means freedom from religion guarantees freedom of religion.
The Kim Davis problem is that nobody can marry until she retires or dies, because her religious beliefs (supposedly) prohibit her from signing any licenses. A host of personal attacks have been leveled at her – how long she’s been a Christian, how many times she’s divorced and so on – but those attacks are inelegant and unbecoming. We don’t have to destroy the woman to make the point. It might be fun to do, but it isn’t necessary. It plays to the lowest common denominator.
In remote parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, Mullahs and judges ride around their territories dispensing justice. Their justice has little to do with national or local laws and everything to do with their own faiths, derived from hearsay. The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) says,
The reasoning behind this project is that in Afghanistan, tribal codes such as the Pashtunwali, which trace their origins back a millennia (sic), are often conflated with Islamic legal norms, which trace their origins to the seventh century. And while one system precedes another by centuries, Islamic law has long been seen as a transcendent source of legal authority in Afghanistan, a position carved out in the Constitution, which states that ‘no law shall contravene the tenets and provisions of the holy religion of Islam in Afghanistan.
Even among Afghanistan’s religious scholars, however, it is unclear where the fault lines between culture, customary law and religious law lie. This point was highlighted by a decree issued on Women’s Day 2012 by the Ulama Council—the presidentially appointed religious body of Afghanistan—which declared, ‘men are fundamental and women are secondary.’ While no such unconditional notion exists in either classical or contemporary Islamic jurisprudence, it is a sentiment bolstered by Pashtun customary norms but cloaked in a veil of Islamic legitimacy.”
Government is so far away in these places, corruption so commonplace, that the people often prefer these Mullahs. Invite them, respect them. But in these parts of the world, if the Mullahs dislike you — if they have perceived that you have sinned or left the faith, they’ll have you murdered.
The U.S. is, in its most basic respects, a government founded on the principle of personal faith. The separation of Church and State. Yes, the government is sometimes incompetent and frequently corrupt. But the entity is ever-present and reliable.
And that government, even the most pandering, childishly conservative elements of it, have ordered Davis to step aside. Do her job or go away. Even Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. Because Scalia didn’t fail high-school civics. He knows you can’t put the Mullahs in charge.
Images in order: Separation of Church and State by Ben Huebscher via Flickr; Conscientious objector screenshot courtesy Life, All Rights Reserved; Church/State Separation screenshot courtesy Nick Anderson and Houston Chronicle, All Rights Reserved; Ten Commandments via Wikimedia Commons.