Monday, October 8, 2012

Dean of National Cathedral Says Not Appropriate For One Tradition To Try To Impose Its Moral Point of View On Nation

The new Dean of the National Cathedral spoke with the Detroit Press last week. See  Cranbrook rector bound for D.C. talks religion, politics .

As he notes he is very much in the "progressive" camp on many things. He hits a number of topics but a few things caught my eye.

On religion and public policy: "I'm a believer in the separation of church and state. The First Amendment says: Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or the free exercise thereof. ... It's a very hard case to make that America ever was a Christian nation. I think it's naïve to say the founders were Christian, that biblical values are behind the Constitution. ... On the other hand, that doesn't mean (religious people) shouldn't have a voice in public policy. Faith communities taking positions on public policy matters is an important and established part of our public life.

"What I don't think is appropriate is for one tradition to try to impose its own moral point of view on the populace."

I am never sure what that last line means? What does impose mean? In reality its generally not one "tradition" that is trying to "impose" a view but a combination that are sometimes and often  aligned with other secular forces.

Take gay marriage as a example . One side says that one Faith tradition cannot impose it's view of what marriage is on society. In reality of course at the issue that is stake we are dealing with a ton of faith traditions Christian and non Christian that are in coalitions on this matter.

One reason for gay rights people the marriage debate is so important is the "moral" anchor a marriage right brings. We saw this in in the remarks the Federal Judge made in overturning Prop 8.

In California under state law same sex unions had the exact rights of heterosexual married couples. The Federal Judge said these couples had the right of society's affirmation on their unions. Of course when this happens all sort of other legal and cultural  machinery comes into too affirm that right. Including  sanctions on that those that disagree.

In this debate we had Faith communities trying to impose their moral vision. Catholics, Mormons , Southern Baptist on one side , and Episcopal, Jewish , and a combination of mainline Protestant groups on the other.
Both are trying to impose as it were a MORAL viewpoint. In fact one could argue under what the California State law at the time that this new moral viewpoint that has been imposed will have more sanctions on those that oppose it.

Gay marriage is just one example. From discrimination as to race and gender, to age of consent laws, to abortion, to birth control, to the social safety net ( Budgets are moral documents as they say) to aspects of the immigration debate a real battle over a moral viewpoint is happening.That moral viewpoint results in laws that are imposed.

Faith traditions were and will continue to be in the thick of it as well as other groups. In the end it's hard to escape the basic connections between  law and morals that we see in much of the debates in this country.


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