Saturday, December 05, 2009

Theocons hijacking political system; time to turn up the heat

Harry Jackson is an outspoken bishop who has become a celebrity among right-wing groups for his dogmatic stance against same-sex marriage, including extensive lobbying in an effort to deny marriage to same-sex couples. He spent a great deal of time and effort trying to prevent any sort of recognition in Washington, D.C. of same-sex marriage, but recently failed in that endeavor.

He has since been virtually declaring war against politicians who do not uphold his theological views. A clear attempt to thwart our constitutional prohibition of church and state, I'm wondering when the feds are going to cut his religious organization's 501(c)(3) tax-exemption status...

Obviously our community is coming under increasing attack from bigots who have been thus far adept at using a tyranny of the majority to legislate away our civil rights; the ugly dark side of democracy — popular sovereignty.

Much of this is desperation from the fact that the anti-homosexual crowd have been losing ground. Even as same-sex marriage has been banned in over 30 states, and both California and Maine has stripped same-sex couples of an established right to civil marriage, the gay rights movement has won on many fronts, including legal protections against hate crimes, against discrimination in employment and housing, more recognition by the federal government, recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships, and polls indicate more support for same-sex marriage than ever before. Five states also currently do or soon will perform and recognize same-sex marriages.

At this point it seems clear that it is only a matter of time before they will have lost in their effort to codify theology into our government and deny equal protection and due process to homosexuals and same-sex couples. Nonetheless, we are really going to have to turn up the heat if we are to achieve justice. We're going to have to be smarter about our battles, more organized, and more focused on the issue. In fact, I think it is time for us to become single-issue voters on homosexual equality.

I would normally never support single-issue voting, but considering how small a minority we are and what we are fighting for and against, I think it would be in our best interest to mostly let this issue guide us in who wins our votes. Those who favor homosexual equality and vote accordingly should get our support, even if we disagree with them on most every other issue. Those who do not represent our interest should be ruthlessly opposed. Also, we need to demand that our government uphold I.R.S. statutes and have tax-exemption status removed from those churches and religious organizations who entangle themselves in politics.

In the meantime, we have to continue pressing our case in other ways. Organizing, educating, enlightening, countering prejudice and propaganda where we find it. My letter to Bishop Jackson, via his church website:

To: Harry Jackson

I am writing in regards to recent statements that you have made in regards to same-sex marriage. Especially those made after the decision in Washington D.C. to end discrimination against same-sex couples who had been legally married elsewhere.

First, I would like to remind you that our nation is not and never has been a theocracy. Furthermore, enshrined in our constitution, so sayeth repeated verdicts by the Supreme Court of the land and rightly so, is a separation of church and state. In practical terms this has meant that a church cannot force people to adhere to its religious doctrines. A church cannot use the government, particularly the federal government as a means for imposing its religious doctrine. It also has meant that those churches who wish to entangle themselves in politics—a very dangerous entanglement for a culturally and religiously pluralistic society I should add—is not permitted to also be exempt from paying federal taxes. 

To wit: "Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes."

In your recent comments you have made it clear that you and people in your religious community intend to do just this, however, to directly participate in and intervene in political campaigns to further your agenda of discrimination against homosexuals. You should know that this does not go unnoticed and if there is any justice in this country, will not go unpunished.

I would also like to remind you that your stance is on the wrong side of history.

Just as it was morally wrong to use "tradition", religion—the bible—as a justification to deny interracial couples the basic right of cohabitation, marriage, and procreation, it is equally as immoral and misguided to use religion as a justification to deny the same to same-sex couples. For your position, you and people like yourself will be remembered throughout history in the same regard as most of us now view those who supported segregation and anti-miscegenation. They, too, felt themselves just as you do. And they, too, have been judged for their prejudice and their advocacy of persecution as will you.

Homosexuals are citizens of this country. They pay taxes, they are productive, responsible members of their community, they get involved in charitable work and volunteerism, hold professional careers, vote in elections and even hold elective offices. If one is going to legally limit these people as second-class citizens, according to our constitution this cannot be done without applying equal protection of the law and due process. Laws which prohibit marriage on the basis of the genders of those involved withstand neither.

What you do in your church is your business. Who you marry in your church is your business. However, denying law-abiding minority citizens access to the same rights and privileges as those in the majority is beyond the scope of your church. Civil marriage is beyond the scope of your church. While your religious institution is free to discriminate in any way it sees fit, the government, which has a duty to uphold egalitarianism for all its citizens, cannot do the same.

You claim that you support "hope". I'd like to remind you that in disparaging the diverse group of people who just happen to be homosexually oriented, you are not encouraging hope, you are undermining it. If you know anything about the fairness of Jesus of Nazereth, you would judge people not for trivialities, not for appearances, and certainly not for whom they happen to love, but rather for the content of their character. And if you truly love and care for people, as I'm sure you would claim you do, then you should do so in practice even to the least among these. You should encourage love, care and understanding for each other, not spend your talents and efforts building walls. Good people who are trying to do the best they can need to be helped, not attacked.

Lastly, you claim to oppose broken families. So do I. As such, I encourage you to strengthen families of all kinds, including those families which are comprised of same-sex partners and same-sex parents. These families do exist, and they will continue to do so. The only question for us as a society, and for you, is will we give these families the support they need to be functional, encouraging them to be the best they can be or will we try to undermine them. Let true compassion by your guide.

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