Church and State

Here in Indiana, we’re used to religious warfare. We aren’t called the buckle of the bible belt for nothing.

Those battles generally pit people who understand religious liberty to require state neutrality in matters of belief against folks who want government to make everyone live in accordance with the “correct” beliefs (which just happen to be theirs).

That, in a nutshell (no pun intended) is what the current fight about HJR 3 is all about. Proponents can pontificate all they want about what’s best for children or society, but opposition to same-sex marriage (and the desire to send a message to GLBT folks that they really aren’t welcome here) is entirely based upon religious dogma.

Given the visibility and mean-spiritedness of so many self-identified “Godly” people, we sometimes forget that plenty of religious believers “get it.” They not only understand their God to require love and inclusion, but they also–importantly–recognize the threat to authentic belief posed by those who would use government to impose their doctrines on others.

Matt Boulton is President of Christian Theological Seminary. He testified at the legislative hearing against HJR 3, and although he made many other good points, his compelling closing observation deserves to be widely shared:

Now, my position as president of CTS puts me in relationship with a dazzling variety of Indiana religions and denominations and congregations and theological points of view.  Indeed, questions of human sexuality are matters of passionate debate within Christian circles; we have a good dose of that diversity at CTS.

 You’ll hear later today from the other side that civil unions would threaten the “traditional view of marriage” allegedly demanded by Christian faith, and so on.  I respect that perspective, even as I disagree with it.  But here’s the point I want to underline:  despite what those on the other side may say, there is no one Christian view of HJR-3.  Many Christians, even those who disagree on the underlying human sexuality issues, oppose HJR-3 because their Christian faith calls them to be open, hospitable, fair, and loving toward their neighbors.  And the role of the State, we respectfully suggest, is not to take sides in this theological debate, much less enshrine one side or the other in the Indiana state constitution.  Rather, the State’s role is to respect the religious diversity of our community on this question, and to allow freedom of religion – faith’s freedom – to flourish in Indiana by setting aside HJR-3 once and for all. (Emphasis supplied)

And let us all say, “Amen.”


  1. It’s worth noting the way the right has begun to restructure their argument away from wanting to impose their religious view on others to a so-called battle for their own “religious freedom” in which allowing some to live according to their own doctrine infringes upon the religious liberty of others. This argument has a simplicity and is gaining real traction among those who don’t care to stop and think what they’re really saying or what the implications of their view are.

  2. To those of your readers who believe in me (I reserve capital letters for special occasions like the Big Bang), I say “Amen” to what you’re saying.

    To those of them who don’t, just render civil marriage unto Caesar, where it belongs under the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause. I can deal with the lack of attention.

  3. Sheila; I just completed and attempted to post a lengty comment on this issue. After a lengthy wait a blank page popped up and my comment was somehow deleted. This is the second time in a few days that this has happened; what is going on?

  4. Joann, I have no idea! I’ll ask my webmaster (son), but he’s in Europe right now.
    Michael, this has been a trope for some time: if the government isn’t imposing my moral beliefs on everyone else, it’s discriminating against me!

  5. I agree with what Sheila is saying. However, Michael has taken the argument further making the argument on his post and in more detail on his blog that as long as a law doesn’t affect what people believe about their religion or how they worship at their church, then the law is okay. The free exercise clause is much broader than that. It applies not only to beliefs but also to practices. It has long been the case that laws have to accommodate religious beliefs and practices.

  6. A recent class at my church on homosexuality and the Bible summed up the issue this way:

    The old testament was filled with rules to obey to live a holy life – including avoidance of shell fish, not wearing two different fabrics at the same time, and many more.

    The new testament said forget the hundreds of old rules but remember these two: love God
    and love each other. It’s ironic that so many feel loving each other isn’t biblical.

  7. So, Paul, would you agree that we should ban shellfish to accommodate Jewish belief, ban alcohol to accommodate Muslim belief, ban divorce to accommodate Catholic belief, ban meat to accommodate Hindu belief, ban medicine to accommodate Christian Science belief, ban barbers to accommodate Sikh belief, and ban deities to accommodate ateheistic disbelief? (I’m not sure if Pastafarians want to ban the consumption of spaghetti…) Or is it only a subset of Christian belief that must be accommodated?

  8. Oh, I forgot. We’ll need to ban psychiatry to accommodate Scientology, environmentally am destructive practices to accommodate Native American belief, and the use of military force to accommodate pacifist religious beliefs. After all, failure to ban those things will trample on the religious freedom of those communities.

  9. Nancy: One of the recurring problems is the tendency of Christians to harken back to Old Testament prohibitions that they like while ignoring those the don’t (and even ignoring parts of the ones they do like, such as the final clause of the ban on homosexuality which requires that gay men be put to death). I suppose failing to execute gays also tramples the religious freedom of some. Anyway, they have to use the Old Testament because Jesus didn’t talk about homosexuality. And as I understand it, the discussion of homosexuality in the New Testament (if it even is a discussion of homosexuality) comes from the same author who also said that women should not be allowed to speak in church.

  10. If two adults want to be Married or have a Civil Union they should be allowed to do so. It is immaterial what the Bible or some other “Holy Book” says or does not say. According to the Bible after the walls came tumbling down at Jericho – “they utterly destroyed all in the city, both men, woman, young and old, oxen, sheep, asses, with the edge of the sword.” However, “silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are sacred to the Lord, they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.” Today we would call this a War Crime.

    Joshua at Jericho performed the same deed Alexander, the Romans, Crusaders, the Mongols and other conquerors in the Ancient World, that is if you resisted combatants and non-combatants alike could be killed and the items of value seized. The difference is the Bible confirms on Joshua his right to commit a War Crime. We do not need someone invoking the Bible to tell us what Marriage should be.

  11. I was at the hearing last week and I think it is pretty obvious that all of the opposing arguments were grounded in religious dogma. “My god” this, “chastity” that, even a mention of “sexual anarchy” slipped in there somewhere. It is clear that a majority of those supporting HJR-3 from a religious perspective forgot that many others believe in different gods, have a divergent perspective on Christ’s teachings, or believe in no supreme being whatsoever. It seems this always tends to be the problem of the close-minded, religious or not.

    Additionally, some members of the pro-amendment Family Institute contend that having a mother and father are critical to the successful upbringing of any child. However, I suppose they failed to do their due diligence or just ignored completely the breadth of literature that finds a 2 parent household to be the key factor in a child’s development, regardless of sex.

    No of what happens in Indiana the tide is too strong and eventually, I personally believe sooner rather than later (thanks, Utah!), the Supreme Court will be forced to make a definitive ruling on the matter. I suspect the 14th amendment might have something to do with their decision.

  12. Old testament interpretations also opine that sexual activity was exclusively for procreation.
    If that was added to HJR 3, how many voters would vote for that?

  13. I had a conversation with someone who told me that as a Christian he believes that marriage should be for only one man and one woman. We then entered into a conversation discussing various other reasons why he supports HJR-3. After each item he mentioned, I was able to knock it down. I got him so flustered that he finally resorted back to his original argument of “the bible says……” Seems to me that too many people use the bible to hide behind their homophobia.

    And speaking of “persecution” – a few months ago I attended a Town Hall Meeting held by my State Senator Mike Delph. A woman spoke up as we spoke about HJR-6 – she said, “I am a Christian and me and my family are being persecuted by the gays because we are Christian.” My mouth must have dropped open! This white, Christian woman is being persecuted by gays? Is she kidding? I doubt very seriously that she has the slightest clue of what discrimination really is! As I sat in that meeting, and later as I sat at the hearing this past Monday, I often thought that I had entered some sort of parallel universe. Our opponents seem to pull rabbits out of their hats quicker than any magician I’ve ever seen. It seems like they make it up as they go along. I have never seen such shabby testimony as I saw on Monday. I’d say one of the worst was when attorney Jim Bopp told State Rep. Ed Delaney that “the people need the constitution to protect them from people like you.” Again, my mouth dropped. Okay, time to get off my soapbox.

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