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Taking a stand in one of the great civil rights battles

Heath Haussamen

Heath Haussamen

Our government and too many churches contribute to the culture of discrimination against gay people that exists in America. I’m taking a stand because it’s time that we put an end to that discrimination.

From the moment the pastor of Albuquerque’s Legacy Church, Steve Smothermon, told me in January that Gov. Susana Martinez had embraced the “homosexual agenda” by appointing a gay man to the Public Regulation Commission, I’ve been wrestling with this column.

In Smothermon we have a pastor who probably believes passionately in what he preaches and cares about people. And yet, with his belief that Christians are battling for souls driving him to fight a culture war, Smothermon has advocated for discrimination and fostered a culture of hate.

This is evident in his recent public criticism of Martinez for selecting a supremely qualified but gay man to serve on the Public Regulation Commission.

As someone who has been plugged into evangelical culture for more than 12 years, I’ve watched kind-hearted people on both sides of this issue struggle with it. I’ve wrestled with the arguments that come from all sides.

When it comes down to it, I don’t think discrimination is ever appropriate, whether it be in government or a church that preaches the teachings of the loving, personal God in whom I believe.

In that context, there are two issues I want to address: how our churches treat gay people and how our government treats gay people. Both contribute to the culture of discrimination that exists today in America.

Commanded to love everyone

I’ll start with the first: During a recent Facebook discussion with others who attend my church, I shared a personal hope that is a radical idea in some corners of Christianity.

I want to be part of a faith community where people don’t all look and think the same, I told them – a church where “gay people and conservative evangelicals who don’t approve of their lifestyle worship side by side.”

“For people on all sides it’s a radical idea, but if we’re all committed to loving each other, shouldn’t we be able to do that?” I asked. “To work through those other issues, to disagree, to struggle, but to still come together on Sunday to worship God together as one community? Isn’t that love?”

After all, Jesus commanded us to love everyone – even our enemies. And love, for Jesus, is not a passive word that lets us sit back and proclaim affection from afar. It’s a verb that requires action. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” he said. Then he died for everyone – his friends, his enemies, gay people, those who protest in front of funerals holding “God hates fags” signs, and everyone else.

What about statements condemning homosexuality in the Bible, you ask? This column is already too long for me to get into the complexities of that and other tough theological issues here, but the short answer is that, when I come across a specific passage that seems to contradict the primary command to love, my conscience tells me I should go with my understanding of what it means to love, and that’s what I do.

Most Christians – even those who say they believe the Bible is inerrant – choose to reject at least some statements in the Bible. They eat shrimp. They get tattoos.

Churches are free to interpret the Bible to say homosexuality – or at least acting on it – is a sin, even if I do not. But, in my opinion, they should still welcome gay people and treat them with respect.

A social contract to work together

The question of how government should treat gay people is simpler.

Being an American citizen, in my view, is entering into a social contract to work for the betterment of every single one of us. It’s a commitment to work together in spite of our various backgrounds and views to find common ground for the good of all.

Government has a duty to intercede on behalf of the minority when the majority shirks that responsibility. It’s never appropriate for the government to sponsor discrimination.


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That’s why I believe, if government is going to be in the business of marriage, that it should allow gay people to marry. Or it should get out of the business of marriage and instead sanction civil unions for all.

And I don’t believe people should ever be passed over for appointments to important government jobs simply because they are gay.

Pastor Smothermon has a different view.

Doug Howe, the gay man Martinez appointed to the PRC, is part of a culture of “militant homosexuality” that uses prominent positions in government to push the “homosexual agenda,” Smothermon told me. But Howe hasn’t made a public issue of the fact that he’s gay. In fact, Smothermon didn’t even know Howe was gay until I told him.

I asked how that was militant and didn’t get much of a response. It didn’t seem to matter to Smothermon.

It also didn’t seem to matter to him that Howe is quite possibly the most qualified PRC member in the state’s history. The man has advised governments and companies in the United States, Europe, Africa and Asia on energy issues. He led a project to design the regulatory agency for the Emirate of Dubai. Could he help clean up a scandal-plagued agency and redesign it so it better serves New Mexicans? You bet.

But this is what Smothermon thinks is important. This is what he told me:

“With a governor who looked me in the eye personally and said she’s socially conservative, she believes that marriage is between one man and one woman, who said she wouldn’t espouse the homosexual agenda, I think this goes against that. These aren’t the people we voted for you to appoint. We voted for you to appoint people who think like we do.”

The pastor added that he’s “not against the human being, but the lifestyle and the political power that the homosexual agenda has today, as a lobbying agenda, that’s what I begin to come against.”

‘Not against the human being,’ but still discriminating

Smothermon has an apparent belief that gay people, no matter how qualified, shouldn’t hold government jobs. There’s another example involving City of Albuquerque staffers whose hiring Smothermon allegedly opposed because they are gay.

Smothermon also told me he opposes domestic partner benefits and has been lobbying Martinez to rescind the previous governor’s executive order granting them to state employees. Through his words and actions, Smothermon is trying to push gay people to the fringes of society.

One has only to look at any ethnic minority group living in America today to understand the ways in which such discrimination does unconscionable harm to people.

Smothermon can say – and might actually believe – that he’s “not against the human being,” but when he advocates policies that make it difficult for gay people to get jobs and benefits, he’s discriminating against human beings. He’s also contributing to the climate of hate that makes America unsafe for people like Matthew Shepard.

I recently heard Shepard’s mother talk about his 1998 murder. She was in Las Cruces to rally gay-rights supporters. Listening to her speak, I was struck by how far we’ve come since her son was murdered in 1998. I was also saddened by how far we still have to go.

‘The church is complicit… in anti-gay bullying’

The more I’ve thought about this issue in recent months, the more I’ve come to believe it is one of the great civil rights battles of our time. Author and blogger Rachel Held Evans wrote this recently about people she’s spoken with after giving talks at Christian colleges:

“Most feel that the Church’s response to homosexuality is partly responsible for high rates of depression and suicide among their gay and lesbian friends, particularly those who are gay and Christian.

“Most are highly suspicious of ‘ex-gay’ ministries that encourage men and women with same-sex attractions to marry members of the opposite sex in spite of their feelings.

“Most feel that the church is complicit, at least at some level, in anti-gay bullying.”

It isn’t just the deceived (or deceiving) pastors who call for gay people to be rounded up and put behind electric fences until they die who are guilty of bulling. Every church that fights against people in committed same-sex relationships having the right to share benefits or make end-of-life decisions for each other contributes to bullying, depression and suicide. Every pastor who oversees a church that doesn’t welcome gay people to worship as they are does as well.

A core evangelical belief is that people who don’t accept Jesus as their personal savior before they die are going to hell – in other words, will spend eternity separated from God. Following that line of thought, anti-gay bullying that leads to increased depression and suicide can actually contribute to people – in the common evangelical view – spending eternity separated from God.

And yet, in spite of the eternal consequences they preach, too many churches bully anyway. How tragic.

Equally tragic are efforts by Smothermon and others to teach the next generation the same way of thinking and acting.

Times are changing

The good news is that times are changing. More of us personally know gay people, and that connection makes a difference. Evans also found this in talking with students at Christian colleges:

“And most…I daresay all…have expressed to me passionate opposition to legislative action against gays and lesbians.

“‘When evangelicals turn their anti-gay sentiments into a political campaign,’ one college senior on her way to graduate school told me, ‘all it does is confirm to my gay friends that they will never be welcome in the church. It makes them bitter, and it makes me mad too. This is why I never refer to myself as an evangelical. Ugh. I’m embarrassed to be part of that group.’”

I’ve found at my own church that there’s division on this issue. Some agree with me. Some share Smothermon’s views. Many are in between and conflicted. But there’s at least a conversation happening, and attitudes are shifting.

I’m still not sure what my church thinks about my hope for my faith community – that it would be a church where “gay people and conservative evangelicals who don’t approve of their lifestyle worship side by side.” But I’m at least working on sparking a conversation. And speaking out.

It’s in taking a stand – with our words and actions – that we can help change a cultural belief that is deeply held by many in America. It must change. And now, in this generation, is the time.

That’s why it’s so important that Martinez appointed Howe to office. It’s why it is important that President Barack Obama ended the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and came out in favor of gay marriage.

It’s why I’m speaking out today.

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32 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. Another bit of evidence that some people are trying to write their particular religious view into our civil law:
     
    From the platform of the Republican party of Texas (1):
     
    “We, the 2012 Republican Party of Texas, believe in this platform and expect our elected leaders to uphold these truths through acknowledgement and action. We believe in: …
     
    - The sanctity of human life, created in the image of God,  …
     
    - “The laws of nature and nature’s God” as our Founding Fathers believed. …
     
    - We oppose any governmental action to restrict, prohibit, or remove public display of the Decalogue or other religious symbols. …
     
    -  We support the definition of marriage as a God-ordained, legal and moral commitment only between a natural man and a natural woman …
     
    - We support the affirmation of traditional Judeo-Christian family values  …
     
    - Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans …
     
    - We pledge our influence toward a return to the original intent of the First Amendment and toward dispelling the myth of separation of church and state.  … ”
     
    (1) http://s3.amazonaws.com/texasgop_pre/assets/original/2012-Platform-Final.pdf
    h/t to Digby http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2012/06/getting-government-our-of-our-lives.html

  2. Great column, Heath.  Thanks for writing something this thoughtful on such a challenging topic.

    Bill Moyers has done a stellar job showing the good that people of advanced faith can do in this world, as did the abolitionist movement and the civil rights movement that were both largely led by people of advanced faith.

    I hope that your column will prove thought-provoking to some people of faith who haven’t yet chosen the path of love and inclusion, nor even acknowledged yet that we live not in a theocracy but in a modern pluralistic democracy.  

     

  3. I think it is disheartening, rude, abusive, ironic and hypocritical that while Churches and religious doctrine go to great lengths to deny gays and lesbians their constitutional rights in regard to pursuit happiness visa vie marriage, the same Churches and no religious doctrine seem to take a stand against what some see as a complete mockery of marriage which is The Bachelor and Bachelorette television game shows. For many the show is an aggressive slap in the face, just as is the US divorce rate in which people lie to and break an oath to God and where the citizenry’s church going society has made certain that marriage is exclusive — and used taxpayers dollars to do so.

    The subtle battery of gays and lesbians continue in the United States, but luckily the Constitutional right to free speech has not been completely dismantled. And although attempts to deny Freedom of Speech have been made and some illegally successful, in the end the truth and the justice for all shall certainly prevail.

  4. I very much hope you are right, Stever. However, when I hear someone say they intend to roll back Griswold v Connecticut, I tend to infer that they want to roll back Griswold v Connecticut.


    MS, I really believe your concerns here are misplaced.  …  I am inclined to believe campaign rhetoric is just that.
     
    While Mitt Romney has so far ducked the question, despite being pressed by some conservatives to oppose Griswold (1),  Santorum has clearly said that the case was wrongly decided (2) and a prominent Romney advisor has said that Griswold is “utterly specious” (3). Perhaps they are lying. I certainly won’t claim that no candidate has ever lied. But I can’t read their minds, I can only read their words and acts, and those scare me.
     
    I’m also seeing a great increase in religious intolerance, some of which is reflected in official enactments. Things like the following make me worry:
     
    - the rounding up of thousand(s) of Muslims after 9/11 by the Federal government without any particular suspicion of any indivual ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2604805.stm  and  http://www.ccrjustice.org/newsroom/press-releases/former-detainees-join-federal-court-challenge-post-9-11-racial-profiling-and-abuse-of-muslim-arabs )
     
    - profiling of Muslims by the TSA and other police agencies (e.g. NY; see http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/02/26/10512092-candidates-debate-whether-nypd-should-infiltrate-muslim-student-groups?lite )
     
    - anti abortion rhetoric that’s explicitly religious
     
    - the opposition to the “ground zero mosque” (e.g. http://aclj.org/ground-zero-mosque )
     
    - the continuing efforts to put explicitly Christian symbols on federal property (e.g. http://www.hidesertstar.com/news/article_d428ac92-8f1a-11e1-b84f-001a4bcf887a.html )
     
    - the claim by a sitting US Supreme Court Justice that the cross as a war memorial is not a Christian symbol but honors all the dead (see http://religionvirus.blogspot.com/2009/10/christian-cross-to-honor-jewish.html )
     
    - federal “faith based initiatives” that have channelled a lot of federal taxpayer moneys to religious groups who are, I believe, almost entirely Christian (see http://www.theocracywatch.org/faith_base.htm which doesn’t exactly support my claim, but has relevant info)
     
    These sorts of things worry me, and other than standing up and saying “whoa!” I can’t think of much I can do.
     
    (1) http://www.nysun.com/editorials/mr-romney-and-mrs-griswold/87642/
    (2) http://cnsnews.com/news/article/santorum-court-ruled-wrongly-griswold-v-connecticut-pre-roe-right-privacy-decision
    (3) http://www.alan.com/2011/08/03/does-mitt-romney-agree-with-advisor-robert-bork-that-civil-rights-act-was-unsurpassed-ugliness/
     

  5. However, I also don’t want to go back to the early 1960s when Catholic objections to contraception meant that nobody of any religion could buy condoms in certain states. And that’s what I see as the possible result of individuals or political parties assuming “we’re all Catholics here so of course we’ll open our convention with a Catholic prayer” – or assuming that we should decide whether the government should discriminate against gays based on our understanding of what Jesus said.

    MS, I really believe your concerns here are misplaced.  I understand them and in some respects share them.  When I was younger, they actually influenced my vote without regard to issues.  I am inclined to believe campaign rhetoric is just that.

      

  6. Sorry for being unclear. It takes real skill to write clearly, and sometimes I fail.
     
    OK, now I understand what you’re saying, but what do you propose to do about it?
     
    Criticize. It’s all I can do. As I tried to do here. When someone assumes that ‘God told me so’ is a good argument I try to stand up and say “no, it’s not”. Maybe I can encourage people to question their assumption that everyone agrees with their religious beliefs. Maybe not.  I may be wasting my time, but that’s the nature of speech. People aren’t obliged to listen, or to heed.
     
    I do try to be non-partisan about it. In 2005 the Democratic Party of Bernalillo County opened its convention with someone at the podium telling us to “stand up, bow your heads, and pray in the name of Jesus”. I wasn’t as outspoken on the spot as I should have been (I was so shocked and surprised that I was speechless) but I did criticize publicly afterwards.
     
    other points:
     
    QT: if you think I’m not taking this seriously, you’re misreading me terribly. Both sexual orientation and religion are often literally matters of life and death.
     
    EW: First, Just what does MS think “my religion” is? I was intending to address Heath Haussamen, who chose to disclose his religious orientation. Second: address specifically whether an individual is able to separate his or her religious thinking from political thinking. If a person can’t ask themselves “might a person who followed a different religion believe differently about this?” without answering “they might believe differently, but they’d be wrong, so who cares?” then I think they’ve got a problem with the basic tenets of American politics. If a person can’t make a distinction between “God tells me I should do this” and “God tells me I should use force to make everyone do this” then they’ve missed something important.
     
    stever: God forbid (pardon my reference to God) that anyone voicing an opinion offend your sense of fairness, Michael.  And YHWH forbid that my insistence that we shouldn’t enact any particular religious belief into law offends your sense of privilege. I don’t believe that Christians are, in your phase, knuckle draggers. However, I also don’t want to go back to the early 1960s when Catholic objections to contraception meant that nobody of any religion could buy condoms in certain states. And that’s what I see as the possible result of individuals or political parties assuming “we’re all Catholics here so of course we’ll open our convention with a Catholic prayer” – or assuming that we should decide whether the government should discriminate against gays based on our understanding of what Jesus said.

  7. OK, now I understand what you’re saying, but what do you propose to do about it? Limit people’s free speech rights? Something else?

  8. Not all religions agree on what is positive, so allowing any particular religion to define ‘positive’ or ‘betterment’ disenfrachises many citizens.
     
    However, many Americans are personally religious and driven by those convictions to want to affect change they believe will be positive.
     
    Take a simple and comparatively trivial (1) example: a day of rest. Several religions enjoin a day of rest. The result has been laws forbidding shopping on Sunday (2). The problem is that even among religions that require a day without shopping there’s no agreement on which day. Some forbid shopping on Sunday, some on Saturday. Obviously choosing any day will favor the followers of some religions, and inconvenience followers of other religions and the irreligious. Which is most positive: forbidding shopping on Saturday, forbidding shopping on Sunday, or not forbidding shopping on any particular day of the week?
     
    We’ve got the same problem with “betterment”.
     
    Being an American citizen, in my view, is entering into a social contract to work for the betterment of every single one of us.
     
    I agree with this, but we’ve got a problem is deciding what constitutes ‘betterment’. You say:
     
    Every church that fights against people in committed same-sex relationships having the right to share benefits or make end-of-life decisions for each other contributes to bullying, depression and suicide.
     
    That looks like an argument that fighting against gay marriage is not ‘betterment’ because it causes harm to people – it causes depression and suicide. Fair enough, and I agree with you.
     
    But then we get the response (this is my  understanding of the response of some Christians): But practicing homosexuals are going to burn in hell for all eternity. It’s better that some (few?) people suffer depression and suicide, as terrible as that is, if we can bring others to renounce their sin and spend eternity in heaven.
     
    So which is better: some suicide and depression and fewer people burning in hell for all eternity, or less suicide and depression and more people burning in hell for all eternity?
     
    That’s precisely the question that I don’t want to become the basis for arguments about public policy and legislation. Nor do I want public policy and legislation to depend on arguments about whether the Bible really said homosexuality is a sin. Those are questions about what Christians believe, or should believe, and they are questions that don’t affect non-Christians. When laws that do affect non-Christians are decided by questions that only Christians can answer, we’ve got a problem. Whenever we’re having a discussion about legislation and public policy that excludes people because of their religion, we’ve diminished America.
     
    We’ve got to find a way of talking about betterment and ‘positive’ that doesn’t depend on which religion a person follows.
     
    There are examples throughout history of people so motivated who enacted change that was positive and change that was negative. That’s true of anyone who tries to affect change, regardless of whether they are religious or not.
     
    Yes, certainly. For example, there are people who have argued that a centrally planned economy will make everyone richer and happier than a well regulated market economy. That argument has won the day in some places at some times, with rather unfortunate results.
     
    But everyone can argue about economics. Everyone gets to participate in the discussion of which is better, central planning or regulated market. Nobody is arguing “God told me we must have central planning, and my God is better than your God, and that’s why you’re wrong.” Nobody is shut out of the political process, as they are when the argument is about whether God declared homosexuality is a sin.
     
    That gets us back to my basic disagreement with your column: a major part of your argument about government policy depends on your second section, the one titled “Commanded to Love Everyone”, which is a discussion that excludes a lot of people.
     
    I’m not trying to shut out people, I’m trying to shut out certain forms of argument.
     
    … people who are motivated by religious beliefs should not be excluded from participating in and seeking to change their government
     
    I agree. But if they are arguing that we shouldn’t discriminate against gay people because Jesus said we should love one another, I think that’s an argument that’s out of bounds because it excludes people who don’t follow Jesus. If they are arguing that we shouldn’t discriminate against gay people because the goal of society to to allow every individual to fulfill their potential and maximize total happiness, and such discrimination reduces happiness and keeps people from fulfilling their potential and deprives society of the talents and abilities of many of its members – then that’s a discussion that everyone can participate in.
     
    If you want to argue that your church should not discriminate against gay people because Jesus said we should love one another, then more power to you. It’s when you are saying that our Governor should do because of your belief about what Jesus said, that’s what I think you are out of bounds.
     
     
    (1) I’ve chosen a trivial example to try to clarify the issue. Obviously there are examples of religious groups promoting changes I think are good, and doing it from religious motivations. The example of abolition of slavery springs to mind, but that brings in a lot of other considerations that muddy the waters.
    (2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_law

  9. First– thanks, IP for the clarification about the KJV of the Bible.

    MS states, “… in which people of your religion thought that killing people of their religion was good politics …”  This assumes that everyone who reads these comments has the same religious views?  ”your” religion?  Just what does MS think “my religion” is?

    MS finally gets to his point, which seems to be summed up as:

    “You seem to think that the answer is to change the church. I think that the answer is to keep religion far, far from politics.”

    I suggest that MS write his own column on just this subject, without all the other verbage, and address specifically whether an individual is able to separate his or her religious thinking from political thinking.  

     

  10. This is my country too, and I really don’t want to see it move any further towards becoming “a Christian nation”, where the default assumption is that we’re all Christians and that doctrinal differences within and among Christian sects should be on political interest to all of us.

    Gee I always thought this was Heath’s site, not run by the government nor forced upon anyone to read.  God forbid (pardon my reference to God) that anyone voicing an opinion offend your sense of fairness, Michael.  I really doubt you are that thin skinned nor worried about the knuckle dragging Christians. 

  11. I’m terribly sorry about what happened to your grandparents. That should not ever happen. Religion can do so much harm, it’s outrageous. It can also do incredible good.Like it or not, religion and politics do intersect, and Smothermon’s attempts to affect how government treats gay people based on his religious beliefs are such an intersection.

    Nowhere do I assume or state that majorities have the right to enact religious beliefs into laws. In fact, my criticism of Smothermon for doing that is the heart of this column, and about halfway through it, I state this:

    Being an American citizen, in my view, is entering into a social contract to work for the betterment of every single one of us. It’s a commitment to work together in spite of our various backgrounds and views to find common ground for the good of all.

    Government has a duty to intercede on behalf of the minority when the majority shirks that responsibility. It’s never appropriate for the government to sponsor discrimination.

    As for keeping religion far, far from politics: The tone of this column is that religious groups with great influence should not use that influence to discriminate against minorities. However, many Americans are personally religious and driven by those convictions to want to affect change they believe will be positive. There are examples throughout history of people so motivated who enacted change that was positive and change that was negative. That’s true of anyone who tries to affect change, regardless of whether they are religious or not.

    While I do not believe government should enact policies based on, for example, the Ten Commandments, people who are motivated by religious beliefs should not be excluded from participating in and seeking to change their government.

    Nor should anyone else who is part of our society.

  12. My grandparents fled from a political system in which people of your religion thought that killing people of their religion was good politics and great sport. Perhaps that affects my views.
     
    As for me, I think there’s a frequent and interesting intersection between politics and religion, and I explore it in commentaries from time to time.
     
    If you were to actually explore the intersection I’d agree that it could be an interesting and useful discussion.
     
    Instead you seem to simply assume that majorities have the right to enact their religious beliefs into laws. You seem to accept religous leaders who try to turn this country into a theocracy by enacting their particular beliefs into law. You don’t seem to even admit the possibility that they are doing something that’s very, very bad even if the particular religious beliefs in question are good.
     
    In that context, there are two issues I want to address: how our churches treat gay people and how our government treats gay people. Both contribute to the culture of discrimination that exists today in America.
     
    You seem comfortable with the point that the reason that government has discriminated against gay people is (largely) because certain religious groups believed it was proper to discriminate against gay people – and voted that belief into law: “Most feel that the church is complicit, at least at some level, in anti-gay bullying.”
     
    Now you and I agree that this situation is bad – but we disagree very much on what to do about it.
     
    You seem to think that the answer is to change the church.
     
    I think that the answer is to keep religion far, far from politics.
     
    I have several thousand years of history, and several hundred years of US history on my side (as I see it). Including the history of my family. My reading of that history is that absolute political neutrality towards all religions is the only successful basis for a free and prosperous society. My ancestors had a lot of experience dealing with societies in which the intersection between religion and politics encompassed much of societal rules, and it was not a happy or peaceful history.
     
    Tell my why, please, you think there’s any system in which an intersection between religion and politics can be a good thing.
     
    you’re welcome to not read posts about religion in the future.
     
    This is my country too, and I really don’t want to see it move any further towards becoming “a Christian nation”, where the default assumption is that we’re all Christians and that doctrinal differences within and among Christian sects should be on political interest to all of us.

  13. Michael Schneider – I am shocked by your comment. You would squelch free speech? May I remind you that it is religious doctrine which has decidedly denied the right for gays to pursue happiness via marriage? And that, specifically violates United States citizens a constitutional right.

    Now I understand why this example of Haussamen’s unique and intellectual honesty hasn’t been made before. Either no one else had the life experience or no one else had the guts to state them. Too bad more Americans don’t fear those that would attempt to silence them.  

    Oh and for the record, to ease whatever feeling that compelled you to write the last paragragh, I get that you are straight Mr. Schneider. And all of your joking(?) aside; this is a very real, very serious topic to many whose lives remain in peril.

  14. Michael H Schneider,

    This post is labeled a commentary. As for your complaint that this discussion does not belong on this site, you’re welcome to not read posts about religion in the future. As for me, I think there’s a frequent and interesting intersection between politics and religion, and I explore it in commentaries from time to time.

  15. [our moderator rejected the first attempt to post this, without explanation. I can only see one phrase and one adjective that could possibly be considered to violate the policy. I've modified those, and am trying it again)
     
    Demanding special right for certain people is un-American.

    I want to be part of a faith community where people don’t all look and think the same, I told them – a church where “gay people and conservative evangelicals who don’t approve of their lifestyle worship side by side.”

    So what? Why should anyone else care about this? Why isn't this solely a matter between you, your conscience, and your co-religionists?

    These aren’t the people we voted for you to appoint. We voted for you to appoint people who think like we do.”

    The problem isn't that this guy is a [adjectival phrase removed] (which he is). The problem is that he thinks he elected the Governor of New Mexico in order to put his religious ideas into practice, to force everyone in the state to follow his beliefs.

    There are a lot of religions, and they seem to have a lot of different ideas about how other people should behave.

    Some religions believe that women shouldn’t wear scoop neck tank tops (1).

    The Jain think that all life is sacred, and that nothing should be killed, even in order to eat. No hamburgers. No Lobster.

    Some people believe that it’s okay to eat beans, but not hamburger, so they eat veggie burgers.

    Some people believe that you shouldn’t mix meat and dairy in the same meal, so no cheeseburgers.

    No problem so far – but when followers of a particular religion want to enact their beliefs into the civil law, then we suddenly have a very big problem. I’ll stop eating cheeseburgers when you pry the last cold french fry from my fingers, thank you.

    Enacting religious beliefs into law has been a disaster down through history. From Henry the 8th to the 30 years’ war to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to the Troubles of Northern Ireland to the Crusades to Ferdinand and Isabella’s big mistake of 1492, we should know by now that religion and politics should be kept far, far apart. Remember the famous phrase “Congress shall make no law respecting … ”

    Whether it’s the Catholics on condoms, the Evangelicals on evolution and sex education, the Muslim on dress codes, the Jain on hamburgers, or whatever, demanding the right to force others to follow your religious beliefs is un-American. It’s asking for special rights for your religion, and that’s intolerable.

    addendum: I can respect the desire to change the beliefs and attitudes of one’s own church. Especially in this case, where I abhor the stated beliefs. However, that’s really not a discussion which I, or other non-members, should participate in. Your church is your church, and non-members should have no say in church doctrines.
     
    In other words, to the extent that this is a blog concerning politics, that discussion is inappropriate. You shouldn’t be talking about which religious doctines are good on a political blog any more than you should be talking about which political positions  are good on a religious blog. Especially since it was in the news column and not the commentary column.

    (1) personally, I’ve always thought that we should embrace women in scoop neck tank tops, but that’s not something I’d do in public.

  16. Thanks for taking a stand and stating it so well.

  17. comment = commend

  18. IcarusPhoenix – as you were not a witness to any of the events you describe, wouldn’t you find conjoining factual evidence interesting! And that comment, expression of free speech if you will, is not a question. I think it would be exhilarating to actually find a box, dating back to the times, filled with evidence which proves truths. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone had the forethought to protect truths! The bottom line in today’s world, evidence factually existing, is that gays and lesbians are still being falsely, hatefully, and inhumanely prosecuted.

    I comment the citizenry which takes a stand whether they are victim or not.

  19. Ms. Wedum:
     
    You’re four centuries off there; the King James Bible was commissioned at the beginning of the seventeenth century (though the current version of the text actually dates from 1768), and its political bias is unfortunately still very relevant, as it was not only mistranslated, but mistranslated on purpose.  At the behest of James I (then still James VI of Scotland), all footnotes giving alternative meanings were removed (they were common – even copious – in most mass-produced bibles of the time, particularly the most common vulgar bible, the Geneva Bible, but James felt that it was unacceptable for commoners to be given the opportunity to examine the vagaries of translation), and he also ordered the complete removal of any references to tyranny.  That people use an intentionally-mistranslated version of the Bible to justify their own willingness to engage in a form of religious persecution that this country has specific protections against merely serves to amplify the preexisting travesty.
     
    Incidentally, Qui Tam, your interpretation of the Mayflower colonists is also more than a bit mythologized; they were Puritans, and they were hardly searching for “religious freedom”.  While they were fleeing religious persecution by the Church of England, they were perfectly willing to be equally despotic in enforcing their own religious mandates once they got to the New World; free expression was hardly one of their goals.  You of all people should probably familiarize yourself with the many inherent metaphors linked to the Salem Witch Trials…

  20. Very impressive, Heath.

  21. QT, There are a rather astonishing number of versions of the Bible floating around.  The version that many of us grew up with is the King James Version (KJV).  You are correct about the political slant in many of the versions, KJV as well.  But the political slant in the KJV (written about 1200) is so outdated that it is irrelevant (I hope).  

    The Old Testament story about King Solomon is NOT found in the “Song of Solomon,” but in the first book of Kings (“I Kings”)  Chapter 3, verses 16-25 or so.

  22. Well said Heath.  This is the one Liberal cause being propagated which albeit a good thing, is another wedge issue serving to distract from our economic, ecological and civil liberty issues.  The Gay issue is being cravenly used to throw a bone to the Left as all other progressive causes and values are violated and ignored.  Still, it is a good thing as Gays and their loved ones have laid the groundwork to win over the majority hearts of Americans.  Hence, supporting Gay rights is no longer politically costly for the Democratic cowards.  This has been a cheap and easy Democratic strategy to pacify the otherwise cheated base.

  23. David Stocum  – very wise words.

    Powakee – Is Solomon a Bible tale? Who wrote the Bible? I am not sure about the tales told in the Bible as they seem to have changed from century to century according to the politics of the day. I guess the absolute truth would require having actually witnessed it. In today’s modern world, actual physical recordings make undisbutable truths available. And today, one might find it more difficult to threaten a witness. In any case, I wanted to point out that many of the Mayflower passengers sought religious freedom and now only find their ancestors bound by that which they inhumanly suffered. If hypocritical Christians want to bound anyone, perhaps it is they who should be bound.

    Yes times are a changin.

  24. Heath,
    Thank you for an excellent commentary, you have thoughtfully discussed the unnecessarily complicated issue of LGBT equality in a way few allies have been able to do.
    I would like to acknowledge Las Cruces for being a leader in terms of respect and support of its LGBT citizens. Las Cruces has more open, welcoming and affirming faith communities than many cities this size. The city and county governments are interested in our concerns and support efforts to end the bullying and discrimination we face.  A growing number of businesses support our organizations and events.
    Even with these bright spots there is still work to do and columns like this one advance that work.
    Thank you,
    David Stocum
    Executive Director
    New Mexico GLBTQ Centers, Inc.
     
     

  25. Powakee, You have somewhat incorrectly interpreted that example of Solomon.  He THREATENED to cut the baby in half.  One mother protested that she would give up her right to the child to save its life.  Solomon correctly identified her as the child’s true mother.

  26. “The good news is that times are changing”

    The even better news is that the moral zeitgeist is pushing for progress on an issue that lots of houses of worship have absolutely no willingness to progress forward on. Just as the equality of races was an issue some churches refused to acknowledge for decades, even centuries, LGBT equality provides bigoted churches another human rights issue they can be on the wrong side of. In time they will either change their supposedly unchangeable dogma, or go extinct as church attendance bleeds away. Either scenario is a win.

  27. When President Obama decided to change his position on gay marriage I posted something on Facebook about how proud I am that he did that. I’m equally happy to read this from you, Heath. This conversation needs to take place, and in these words.

    Your statement about our government is exactly right: “That’s why I believe, if government is going to be in the business of marriage, that it should allow gay people to marry. Or it should get out of the business of marriage and instead sanction civil unions for all.” “For all” is key here. Our government shouldn’t be in the business of deciding which loving relationships matter and which are natural or right. 

    The government decided to grant the right of marriage a long time ago when it started licensing marriage. I personally think it should get completely out of the marriage business. That probably won’t happen because it’s too ingrained in our system. So gay people are being denied something by the govt. because of who they love and what their family looks like. I think that’s wrong. 

    I don’t think your church should be forced to accept it, or anyone for that matter. Just like we can’t force someone to not use the N word, or call women derogatory names. That conversation needs to take place as you outlined it above. And it needs to take place in all corners of society. But the govt shouldn’t be in the business of treating gay people different. 

    Thank you for starting the conversation.

  28. Thank you, Heath, for a thoughtful column on a subject I also feel passionately about. Having two wonderful nephews who are gay, who are intelligent, productive members of society, makes me wonder at the hate generated against gays by people who profess to be Christian. My two nephews’ lives have not been easy because of their orientation but they have bravely accepted their true selves and are much happier because of their open acceptance. Yes, it is a civil rights issue and I see more and more signs of acceptance in the general public.

    What I disagree with is those who call themselves “Christian”, then use Old Testament judgments to back up their hateful viewpoint.  The New Testament teachings of Jesus Christ are to replace the Old Testament rules.  Do they not believe their own church covenants in this regard?

  29. I think Leviticus also forbids wearing clothes made of “mixed’ materials, like polyester-cotton.   I think your statement about more and more people personally knowing gays and lesbians is one of the key factors.  The change is coming!

  30. The Times, they are still a’changing
    This past Friday the NM Supreme Court released an opinion in the matter of Chattergee v. King.  (http://www.nmcompcomm.us/nmcases/nmsc/slips/SC32,789.pdf)  It is, FINALLY, a clear and well thought out opinion on the topic of who can and who cannot be a parent.  Chattergee is about two people, both who love a small child and call themselves ‘parents’ to that child but they could not sustain their relationship with each other.  Both of these parents are women.  The Supreme Court looked at their situation and agreed that both were parents to the child whom they both love.  I am sure it is not the last word on the topic and that is because our definitions of what constitutes right and wrong changes as our society grows and learns.  One of my thoughts when I was reading the opinion was, “Thank God!  Finally, we can quit talking about the “wisdom” of Solomon in taking a knife and cutting a child in half in order to satisfy the question and the issue of ‘who gets to love this baby?’ 
    The story of Solomon “splitting the baby” represents such an old, black and white, binary, outdated way of thinking that it has done nothing but hold the advancement of human beings back in our struggle with the question ‘how can we get along with each other?’  These United States, many people say, were founded on Christian principals and then those very same people say that we are bound to stay living and thinking in the same model as that upon which we were found.  However, when it comes to advancing that model and including ideas such as liberty and justice for all some Christian advocates draw the line.  They voice their opinion, some even screaming at the top of their lungs 1/2 an inch from an advocates face, that God never meant that women were extended the same liberties and justice that God ‘gave’ to men.  To that end, those same people hold to the position that the idea that marriage is a ‘religious covenant’ between men and women and that it must be protected from any and all other definitions.  Add to that mix the story of Solomon’s supposed wisdom and to some religious zealots the story is complete:  God created Man; God made a woman and gave her to Man; Man makes the rules about how to deal with women.  One, two, three the story is complete, succinct and rock solid.  Until we get to the United States. 
    The US government has over 1,100 laws that draw the line and create benefits for people who are married.  To that end, the idea supported by the US government is that marriage is much like a business.  We allow some business to flourish and by supporting them with various law and we drive other business into the underground by denying to them the safeguards of various laws.  There was a time in our society where we punished people if they were of a different race and they either had sexual relations with each other or if they got (or tried) to get married.  There was a time in our society when we drove all of the original inhabitants of this country into stockades, forcing them to walk to the stockade, not even allowing them to bury their dead along the way and then we put them on trains and moved them to other geographical locations and dumped them out onto the ground and walked away.  We did this.  We thought that such behavior was okay.  Many people in these United States – to this very day – believe that using the government to discriminate against other people, to make laws that criminalize a person’s ability to love another person is why we have government in the first place. 
    Marriage is not a business.  Discrimination by the government is not sanctioned by the people who call themselves United States citizens.  We do not believe we should be governed by kings.  We do not believe we should have laws that make it permissible for one person to kill another just because that other person loves someone that the killer does not like.  We believe and we stand for the idea that living in the United States, being a citizen of this country, affords the human being the greatest opportunity that has ever existed on this planet to grow, learn and enjoy freedom in a manner that has not ever existed before.  We call this thing we are doing “an experiment.” 
    There are some who believe the experiment has run it course and should be stopped.  There are others, like the NM Supreme Court, that recognize that we do not have to kill children in order to answer the question “who gets to love this baby.”  Solomon worked when there were kings and when men ruled and when women coward to that rule or faced unimaginable inhumane treatment.  The experiment we all have entered into, now, today, has taken us past a milestone in the road.  We have entered into a different part of the experiment.  We have started to listen to and give voice to the women who make up ‘about’ one half of our society.  In a few short years we will all proudly boast that we have women voting for 100 years.  There will likely even be a new debate arise at that time about whether we citizens of these United States did the right thing or not.  Regardless of the debate outcome we know today that by listening to the women in our society we have learned that we do not have to rely on Solomon’s thinking style and kill a baby when two people profess their love for the child. 
    One of the overriding lessons we have learned in this experiment is that when we do not discriminate against other members of this experiment life simply gets better for all of us.  It’s sort of like not smoking – when you don’t smoke or put tobacco into your body – you just feel better.  The potential for humanity rests in this experiment of which we are participating.  Let’s not blow it.

  31. I would like to state my appreciation to Mr. Haussamen for writing this commentary. In it, you have expressed the gay condition in the United States as none other have to my knowledge. If more people would honestly and boldly come forth with expressions gleaned from their life experiences, the education of the hateful and fearful may lead to a healthier and safer life for gays and lesbians across the Nation.

    For example, personally, I have witnessed an individual repeatedly attack gays and lesbians in a Court of law using them in the most horrid of fashions in an effort to hide the truth of her own criminal actions. Mortifying actions such as these leave individuals with personal scars that never heal. I think it is important for more people to understand the sickest deviant behaviours of the haters against Gays and Lesbians so the reality is apparent when it occurs, otherwise unrecognized, in their own lives.

    The worst bullys should be prosecuted. Unfortunately, just weeks ago the Nation witnessed one of them receive only thirty days in jail for a crime that resulted in death. That sent the wrong message and enabled or perhaps encouraged more thugs to do the same with the knowledge that it is all right.

    Yes, the times are changing. And with commentaries such as these perhaps the Churches of the Nation, the Government, and the Courts of the Nation may one day take the complicity of their actions seriously. 
     
    Mr. Haussamen, thank you for the hope and the lesson.

  32. Thank you. Maybe that’s all that needs to be said. 

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