I grew up thinking there were a couple of ground rules to the sport of democracy as it is played in the United States. One is the separation of church and state, the other is the protection of minority rights.
If you’re a typical American, you don’t want your government taken over by a religious faction that’s going to outlaw birth control. If you’re a Jew, a Muslim, or an atheist, you don’t want a Christian majority telling you how you must live.
When religious busybodies try to impose church rules on everyone else, they break ground rule # 1: the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Or, as I put it a few months ago:
You want to pray to Jesus? Fine with me. Go to your house of worship and knock yourself out. Roll on the floor, speak in tongues, sing hallelujah. Just keep it off the street and out of my face. Which means: out of the public square, out of the schools, out of civil law. To paraphrase one of your favorite arguments, what is it about the separation of church and state you don’t understand?
The two ground rules are closely related. When you violate the separation of church and state by imposing religious rules on everyone, you also violate minority rights. Look at the thought process in the following Twitter post from Rick Santorum:
The majority of Californians (the majority who bothered to vote in the last election, that is) approved Proposition 8 and thereby banned same-sex marriage (previously legal in California). The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional, precisely because it took rights away from a minority for no good reason. Santorum says the court took rights away from the majority — by which he means the majority’s right to deny rights to a minority it doesn’t like.
Of course no one has the right to harm others. Too bad for you if you think murder should be legal. You don’t get a minority right to practice murder, because that will harm others and violate their rights.
But in the case of same-sex marriage, there’s no harm. Gay marriage doesn’t affect me, or you, or anyone. It’s none of our business what consenting adults do behind closed doors. In this case, the minority should be allowed to pursue life, liberty, and happiness in its own way.
The problem is that the Santorums reject the ground rules. They don’t believe the First Amendment means what it says. They actually argue that the founding fathers really intended America to be a theocracy. Equally dangerously, they think the majority should rule, period. They don’t buy into the concept of minority rights (unless, of course, the minority is them … and come to think of it, Santorum’s tribe is fast becoming a minority, though it’s not yet ready to face that fact).
Rules are worthless if only one side plays by them. I’m not saying we should abandon the ground rules. That would just make us them. I’m saying we have to play the game hard, and play to win … if we lose, we lose everything, and the religious busybodies will run our lives. And perhaps even decide our lives aren’t worth living:
Of course another good reason to keep these sorts of people suppressed is that they’re so goddamned stupid they’d unravel Western civilization within one generation and destroy us all, themselves included. Witness Congressman John Fleming, Republican of Louisiana:
Or (shudder) this guy:
A few years ago I had a driving job. Sometimes on those long lonely desert stretches I’d tune in AM talk radio just to hear what the haters were saying. I could never listen to Rush Limbaugh for more than five minutes. A smart man, clearly, but nasty to the bone and cynically insincere, making a killing off credulous rubes in trailer parks all across America. But there was this one guy who came on right after, and the minute he’d start talking I’d feel like a two-ton boulder of stupid had just dropped on my head. A man who made Doug Feith … famously described by General Tommy Franks as “the dumbest fucking guy on the planet” … look like Albert Einstein. That man, of course, was Sean Hannity. I knew it was time to turn the radio off when he came on.
Imagine being ruled by the likes of Rick Santorum, Congressman John Fleming, Sean Hannity. No. We can’t lose this game.
© 2012, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.