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Scott Harris: Prop 8 and the Church

It's not a condemnation of the Bible, any more than acknowledging mistakes in the Constitution would be seen as an attack on democracy.

Since the release of my “No on 8” column, I have been inundated with e-mails questioning my belief in God, my sanity and my commitment to marriage and children. My oft-stated opinion is that the state should be in the civil-union business and churches should handle marriages.

With Proposition 8, churches throughout California have turned a civil issue into a religious one and are working tirelessly and passionately to codify their religious beliefs into civil law. For those who stand on the street corners or behind the pulpit with a Bible in one hand and a “Yes on 8” placard in the other, I raise the following three issues:

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Scott Harris
» Leviticus 20:13 says, “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.” For those who prefer the New Testament, Romans 1:26-27: “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence [sic] of their error which was meet.”

As we have been told over and over in the past few weeks, the Bible clearly states that homosexuality is wrong and, as a result, our society cannot condone the lifestyle. We are admonished that we can’t allow gays to marry without expecting catastrophic effects on marriage and family.

The Bible is an amazing work, and I would argue that, along with the U.S. Constitution, it is one of the two most important written documents in the history of mankind. However, brilliant but flawed men wrote them, though it should be noted that many believe the Bible to be divinely inspired. Both documents made women second-class citizens and slaves weren’t citizens at all. Both have portions that have had to be reinterpreted over time to reflect societal progress. Without the 14th Amendment, our constitution still might recognize slavery, and without the 19th Amendment, women in this country still would not be allowed to vote.

The Bible doesn’t have amendments, so churches simply choose to ignore those passages that time and progress have rendered antiquated. Do those who insist we follow a literal interpretation of the Bible really want to enforce the following?

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ,” Ephesians 6:5.

“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection,” I Timothy 2:11.

This is not a condemnation of the Bible, any more than acknowledging mistakes in the Constitution should be seen as an attack on democracy. However, blindly following passages written thousands of years ago without acknowledging that time has passed and people have changed is dangerous. One only has to look to the Middle East to see the dangers of unquestioned, unchallenged religious fanaticism.

» Theocracy: a government ruled by or subject to religious authority.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Since millions of Californians are secular and millions more (both religious and secular) do not share your beliefs regarding gay marriage, how is the effort to codify denominational beliefs into a constitutional amendment not a step toward theocracy? Isn’t forcing religious beliefs on those who do not share them a violation of the First Amendment?

» Why not the Quran?

We are a country built on Judeo-Christian beliefs, balanced with religious freedoms — including freedom from religion. However, if we are going to codify religion into law, whose religion and whose interpretation? Why the Christian interpretation of the New Testament? Why not a Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament? Why not the Quran? And if Christian, then which interpretation are we to use?

Within the Christian community, different churches and clergy have taken differing public opinions on this (and many other) issues. Who gets to decide which passages we ignore, which we take seriously and how we interpret the intent of any of them?

Proposition 8 is a difficult issue, made all the more challenging by the involvement of our religious institutions and leaders. We are asked to believe that beyond the Bible, the real issue is the family and, more directly, the children. Are we to believe that — in a nation filled with divorce, adultery and simply bad parenting — a few thousand homosexuals who want nothing more than for the state to acknowledge their commitments are going to destroy marriage and family?

Perhaps an institution that historically has accepted slavery, subjugated women and until recently refused to perform interracial marriages should take another look at itself and question whether it is on the wrong side of the issue — again.

Scott Harris is a political commentator. Read his columns and contact him through his Web site, www.scottharris.biz, or e-mail him at [email protected]

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