Chicago tribune reporters wrote in an article published this morning, “The bishops and ministers from about 1,700 Illinois congregations and ministries said the attempt to alter the state’s definition of marriage threatens an institution that society counts on as the ideal environment for raising children and teaching men and women to depend on each other.”
The italicized emphasis on “ideal environment’ is my own because, frankly, it is utterly offensive. That is coming from a straight man.
Over 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson first used the phrase separation of church and state while referring to the first amendment of the United States Constitution. Apparently, over 10 scores later, the notion of separation of church and state is still muddled as the church repeatedly and deliberately continues to stick their noses in federal and state legislation procedures.
According to the article published in the Tribune, “A coalition of Catholics, Muslims, Mormons, Missouri Synod Lutherans, and conservative Anglicans wrote to Illinois lawmakers…Gay marriage, the letter, said degrades ‘the cultural understanding of marriage.’” Church leaders and representatives are completely out of line. They have no business using their religious prowess to influence the decisions of Illinois lawmakers who presumably are religious.
The LGBT community should be outraged and presumably, they are outraged over this equal rights battle. Religious leaders even warned that enacting this law of equal rights for LGBT citizens might force them to “provide health insurance to an employee’s same-sex spouse.” From my understanding of religiosity and theology, the church, no matter what congregation, should not be an institution of exclusion.
Whether it be exclusion from equal rights in the eyes of the law, exclusion from the institution of marriage, or exclusion from proper and affordable health care coverage, the church is over stepping its boundaries with its repeated interference with laws promoting equal rights to citizens. A complete overhaul and re-conceptualization is required for these churches, religious leaders, and congregations of exclusion promoting lawfully justified discrimination.
Religious leaders and congregations that do promote a culture of peace, equality, and inclusion need to step up to the plate ready to swing for the fences. They need to excommunicate members of the church like North Carolina pastor Charles Worley who urged a few months ago for lawmakers to, “Build a great big large fence 50 or 100 miles long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals. Have that fence electrified so they can’t get out. You know what, in a few years, they’ll die out. You know why? They can’t reproduce.”
Such messages of hatred and extreme measures of genocide are not what the institution of religion is all about and you don’t have to be a theology scholar to know that. Lawmakers and religious leaders need to recognize the separation of church and state more concretely because if they fail to do so, they’ll continue to alienate large portions of the country, compromise their legitimacy, and inevitably, lose their positions of influence.