Opinion | Morgan Liddick: Uncivil unions, King Henry’s divorce and a wall of separation
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The king was in a listless marriage to an older woman, and had the hots for one of her personal assistants. A good Catholic, he wrote to the Pope requesting an annulment, which would allow him to pursue his libidinous desires – awkward, since the queen’s brother had militarily occupied the Vatican. And annoying, since the king previously pleaded with the Pope to allow the marriage he now wished to escape. The Pope demurred and the King, ever impetuous, seized his country’s church, granted himself a divorce and re-married. But there was a problem.
His chancellor, formerly a friend, refused to accept the king’s actions. Rather than create a scandal he resigned, but the king was not satisfied. He pursued the man, demanding that he publicly state he accepted the new marriage. When rebuffed, he had the former Chancellor arrested, tried for treason and executed. Thomas Moore eventually became a saint; his persecutor, Henry VIII Tudor, became a morally ambivalent figure, a historical benchmark for the excesses of philandering roguery.
What has this quaint English tale have to do with us? Ask Pat Steadman, Democrat senator for the good people of Denver; sponsor of SR 11 on “Civil Unions” and by his rhetoric a real hater.
Asked about protections in his bill for people and organizations who might have religious objections to the logical consequences of his resolution, Sen. Steadman went on a rant. “Go live a monastic life, away from modern society, away from people you can’t see as equals to yourself… go inside your church, establish separate water fountains if you like. But don’t tell me that your free exercise of religion requires the state of Colorado to establish separate water fountains…”
The first thing we should note is that the senator needs to brush up on his theology. Most flavors of Christianity are able to distinguish between behavior considered – to use a religious term of art – “seriously sinful” and the person who does it. Only the latter needs a water fountain, if the senator is confused. The objection of the community of believers to SR 11 lies in the state compelling actions in contravention of their beliefs regarding sin, not people.
Second, this shows the senator – and those who caterwaul about “separation of church and state” need a refresher in history. His “get out of our society” comment mirrors attitudes that so concerned the Baptist congregation of Danbury, Conn., in 1802 that they wrote to President Jefferson to get an opinion about the effect of the First Amendment on state interference in questions of religious practice and doctrine. His reply, vetted by lawyers and the New England political class, was a short, anodyne exposition on the unconstitutionality of such meddling, where the federal government was concerned.
The “wall of separation” familiar to us was created instead by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in the 1947 Everson v. Board of Education decision. In Everson and several subsequent cases, Justice Black resurrected Jefferson’s metaphor and radically extended it to protect us from that which liberals dread: any suggestion of religion in public life. Most of the founders, Jefferson included, would scratch their heads at this; they regarded virtue and morality as being essential to the survival of republican government, and they considered religion a foundation of these values.
Now, we have Sen. Steadman screaming “get out” at believers, a comment that inadvertently exposes the real agenda of liberals: to rid the public square of all those whose opinions differ from their own. They have apparently concluded they cannot win the war of ideas with conservatives and have therefore decided to howl, smear, misrepresent, cry and otherwise tantrumize until their opponents are driven from view – tactics also used in Illinois, Boston and the District of Columbia. So much for the party of tolerance and inclusion…
These are disreputable tactics, identified as false argument in the second century B.C.E. But they are often effective, particularly when used on the ill-informed and those with weak analytical skills. Fortunately, although Sen. Steadman’s acolytes may be both, his opponents are neither.
The senator apparently believes that Coloradans are all modern-day Thelemites, imbued with Balzac’s motto “Do as thou woulds’t.” He’s wrong. Many Colorado residents still value tradition and religious morality, and prefer to follow doctrines on humanity and behavior that have been thought out over millennia, rather than the politically correct flavor-of-the-month.
Sen. Steadman will eventually discover – undoubtedly to his chagrin – that like Thomas Moore, these people will neither bend to the will of the state, nor will they disappear. Instead, they will force the supporters of SR 11 and its principles to accept responsibility for the predictable consequences of their position.
Note: squealing about “fairness” won’t help.
Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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