Friday, February 10, 2012

North Carolina's Amendment One: Religion attacks liberty in American politics


by Andrew Riggio | February 10, 2012

The American Constitution and Declaration of Independence inscribe an idea--that everyone is equal--into our nation’s soul. 

John Trumbull's painting, Declaration of Independence.
As foundation documents for the creation of a nation, these stand apart as some of the most revolutionary works of all time. Despite the grandeur of the ideas contained within, little has sparked greater conflict within the hearts and minds of American citizens as discrimination against other citizens.

History of hate

One of the nation’s most beloved presidents, John F. Kennedy, had to fight an uphill battle to win the election because he was a Catholic. He gave a critical speech addressing Americans' concerns about this, in fact, as it was such a liability to him. At the time Catholics were heavily discriminated against by the mainly Protestant population.
Posthumous official presidential portrait of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, painted by Aaron Shikler.
 One need hardly mention the challenges faced by our black citizens. They’ve faced a centuries-long fight--to first strip away slavery, then win equal rights--and still face racism from many white Americans. Slavery and Jim Crow laws were reinforced from the pulpit by clergymen waving Bibles and proclaiming religious justification for oppression of people with dark skin.

Modern resurgence 

The demographic du-jour to be hated and reviled today is the homosexual community, and once again religion rears its ugly head to bellow hatred from the mountaintops. The venom spewed from the forked tongues of men at the altar remains as deadly to open hearts as it ever has been.

It seems that for every state, like Washington, that embraces our national ideal of equality there is another, like North Carolina, seeking to crush a minority under the hob-nailed boot of oppression. While Washington State legislators just voted to allow gay people the right to marry, North Carolina is seeking to permanently enshrine bigotry in its state Constitution.
Protester letting Minnesota state Senators know his position on gay marriage.
North Carolina is putting Amendment One, which would define marriage as “between one man and one woman” to a general referendum. The right wing backers of this movement appear to hope the citizenry will vote with hatred coursing through their veins.

Sadly, they may get their wish. It has always been easier to motivate people to action to destroy than to create. Our petty prejudices are easily goaded into making otherwise decent people act out of malice. On the other hand, those who have good and decent motives can be harder to motivate, partly from their inability to imagine just how readily the armies of evil will march against freedom.

Religious sources

Of particular note is that this hate stems mainly from religious sources. It is only in “holy books” that one finds the inspiration to destroy others merely because they love differently. We can see in theocratic nations, like Iran, the power of religion over real-world concerns.

While Americans generally disdain the idea of living in a theocratic nation, what they appear to really mean is that they don’t want to live in some other religion’s theocracy. They’re perfectly willing to employ theocratic totalitarian methods against others when their own religion is calling the shots.

This, then, is the danger of failing to completely separate church and state. When religious people can influence public policy they will, by definition, feel their religious beliefs hold higher importance than real-world concerns. The religious feel they serve a higher power than the civic body to which they belong. So long as this is permitted oppression will continue. Religion needs enemies against which to rally the faithful, and its rallying cries bring out the greatest horrors of which mankind is capable.

Andrew Riggio is a news commentator on Yahoo! News, a Content Writer and Voice Actor. You can find his work on www.AndrewRiggio.com

Photo credits: Public Domain/Wikimedia CommonsPublic Domain/Wikimedia CommonsFibonacci Blue/Wikimedia Commons

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