Waymon Hudson

A Question of Religion

Filed By Waymon Hudson | February 06, 2009 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Catholic church, Christian beliefs, Mormon, religion, separation of church and state

I'll be the first to admit that I have a long and messy history with organized religion. Having been chased out of the Southern Pentecostal church I grew up in for at first asking too many questions, then for coming out, I have a few issues to say the least.

church-v-state.jpgThat being said, I also have respect for those that do work to build bridges within faith communities. I was moved by my dinner and long conversations with Bishop Gene Robinson. I have met and bonded with LGBT mormons, open-minded Christians, and other spiritual people.

I appreciate their beliefs and would fight to defend their right to have them. Yet I'm also a fierce advocate for the separation of church and state. Personal beliefs are just that- personal.

So my struggle comes with new laser-like focus on reaching out to faith voters to accomplish our political goals. When we come to them on their terms, are we really weakening ourselves in the future?

It was rather amazing to meet and get to know all the diverse people of faith in our community at the Creating Change Conference. Beyond a doubt, they are doing important work by changing hearts and minds by working within their own religious communities.

But this ramped up effort to go into churches to get them to vote for us, rather than bring them into the public debate outside of their religious beliefs, has me concerned. By reaffirming the idea that their personal religious views trump basic human and civil rights (and I'm not speaking just about marriage, but housing, employment, and other protections), we further blur the already thin line between church and government.

I know that after the defeats at the ballot box (Prop 8 in California, Amendment 2 in Florida, Arizona's 102, and the Arkansas Adoption Ban), we are looking at how to best move forward and again gain momentum. And these defeats were all at the hands of organized religious establishments- the Mormon Church, the Catholic Church, Baptists, even Focus on the Family. How do we defeat them the next round if we are reaffirming their rightful place in the civic political process?

Shouldn't we instead be trying to separate the freedom to have personal religious views from tyranny at the ballot box? Is that even possible?

I have no answer. I know in a perfect world people can do what they want in church, but leave me alone in the public square. But how do we separate the morals and beliefs from people's politics? Doesn't one shape the other?

It seems we are forced into this never ending cycle of decrying religious bigotry from some organized religions, while reaching out to others.

It's enough to make me almost believe in some sort of divine celestial comedy of errors... Almost.

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Rebekah Falkner | February 6, 2009 2:28 PM

In their most pure forms, organized religion and government have the same goal: the creation of a more perfect reality. Generally, highly involved members of organized religions cannot separate church and state as two distinct means to that end.

My personal religious preferences reinforce my belief that social change must be helped along--if not begun--in churches and meeting houses. I am a regular attender of a Quaker meeting. Quakers are best known historically for spurring the Abolitionist movement along. We feel morally compelled to bring our religious ideas of peace and social justice into the political arena.

As much as I abhor the hateful actions and rhetoric that stem from some religious groups, we cannot exclude them from attempting to influence matters of state. We cannot ask them to keep their personal beliefs private, anymore than we can keep our personal beliefs to ourselves. I am sure these groups would love to shut up, as long as the LGBTQ population kept quiet and out of sight. Not a good solution for anyone.

I second that motion. Gay-straight alliances are key to winning this. We need to educate the fear out of these groups instead of fighting them, we need to approach them to teach them that accepting us does not equate to Sodom & Gomorrah. Project YES in miami does just that. THeir angle is we need to educate teachers, police, churches to protect our LGBT youth from abuse, suicide, etc. It is an exemplary organization that is building bridges instead of battling these naive groups.


Gay-Straight alliances will help us win this from the inside out not the outside-in.

here's my blog if you are interested-

I have posted my views about religion on the Ricci Levi thread below. I appreciate Bishop Robinson speaking out to believers but he does not have any relevance to my life.
Bayard Rustin a Quaker was a hero. He went to prison for a cause.
Here is his story. We don't have many religious gay heros like this today.

Bill Vayens | February 6, 2009 2:52 PM

Waymon, we're going to have to change your name to Sisyphus (combine that with your husband's last name LOL - I digress) if you try and get your head around this issue.

Every poll and analysis, from Prop 8 in California to Amendment 2 in Florida has made it clear that our defeats at the ballot box are from the community of faith, who view our struggle for equal rights in much the same light they saw blacks 50 years ago.

We have made considerable inroads in the past couple of decades, but it is very difficult to affect change from the polling place when organized religion is able to turn out huge numbers opposed to our issues that allow the majority to define the rights of a minority.

Thirty years ago I could not have imagined the LGBT community would have come as far as we have, but it has only made me thirst for that which is yet to be.

As I'm much too rapidly approaching community "elder statesman" I'm afraid I don't have easy answers to your questions. Only the challenge to continue fighting for what you believe in, knowing that while the steps may seem small, when you look back over time you suddenly realize you've traversed quite a distance.

And those of us who have lead the way thus far are counting on you to realize that it is indeed a divine comedy, but not one of a single or even several acts. We all keep writing and adding chapters until our voices are much too strong and much too loud to be silenced any longer.

steve tabarez | February 6, 2009 2:56 PM

Whoa! Alot to consider and ponder with these questions you pose. I do believe in the seperation of church and state in governance, and in the establishment of laws. But politics is different than governance. We are all entitled to try to shape our government, religious groups included. BUT, establishing laws designed to exclude people based solely on 1 religious doctrine is wrong. And in some sense,
we have allowed that to happen- A CHRISTIAN NATION, as even Obama played into to get elected. As for engaging them to sway them to change their minds is probably a waste if we seek to devolve it into a tit for tat discussion of homosexuality and sin. That we even think of doing it on that level seems to say that we concede that their arguments are even valid. To me, they are not. Besides,
that also demonstrates that we concede that there is not a seperation of religious dogma and governance. It may be better to engage them on the virtues basic human compassion, dignity, and sense of fair play. It seems to work with many who kno that religious dogma isn't always applied as their GOD had intended. For the die hard, I pose a question: DO YOU BELIEVE GOD MAKES MISTAKES? IF YOU DON'T, THEN WHY,AS ANOTHER ONE OF GODS' CHILDREN, DO YOU THINK I DESERVE LESS THAN YOU? It usually leaves them thinking. Many times, that's the best we can do.

Waymon-Great article and I agree sometimes it feels like a Divine comedy. There are more balanced clerics than you think. The trick is to get them alone and find out what they really think. Many must follow the party line or they will be thrown out of house. In some cases, their vocation is all they have known and if their community releases them, they have no place to go. Yes, we definitely need a separation of church and state. But, where is the dividing line. For example, there was a Roman Catholic parish in Baltimore where the pastor told everyone at Sunday Mass after the elections, that if they voted for Obama, they needed to go to confession before they received communion - WRONG that pastor went way beyond his jurisdiction and his parish should loose their tax exempt status. We just need to work for the middle ground, and we can, one at a time. We need to keep beeting the streets and community meetings. We need to let the community know that they are guided by THEIR conscience and not be lead like sheep to the slauter. I know I spoke too much, but this communication media is great. By the way, my site is out for a while. Take Care from a priest in the Old Catholic Church where we are non judgmental and all inclusive. Peace & Love, Fr. Bernie,OSJB FatherBernieO[email protected]

"How do we defeat them the next round if we are reaffirming their rightful place in the civic political process?"

Tax 'em. Remove their tax exempt status, and tax them until they bleed.

All it will take is for the Obama Administration to enforce the law, as opposed to the previous administration, who, as we know, regulated nothing and cherry picked law enforcement. Churches are not permitted to tell their congregations how to vote if they want to remain tax exempt.

Tax-exempt status should be removed altogether. Let them compete on an equal footing with other businesses.

In their most pure forms, organized religion and government have the same goal: the creation of a more perfect reality. Generally, highly involved members of organized religions cannot separate church and state as two distinct means to that end.

My personal religious preferences reinforce my belief that social change must be helped along--if not begun--in churches and meeting houses. I am a regular attender of a Quaker meeting. Quakers are best known historically for spurring the Abolitionist movement along. We feel morally compelled to bring our religious ideas of peace and social justice into the political arena.

As much as I abhor the hateful actions and rhetoric that stem from some religious groups, we cannot exclude them from attempting to influence matters of state. We cannot ask them to keep their personal beliefs private, anymore than we can keep our personal beliefs to ourselves. I am sure these groups would love to shut up, as long as the LGBTQ population kept quiet and out of sight. Not a good solution for anyone.

Waymon it is yes a daunting task, but not the Sisyphean one many posit it to be. We'll never get there by engaging in a shouting match with conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists (it is also important to understand that there are differences between those two groups). We'll never win that match simply because of the numbers. The convincing argument comes from their history. Evangelicals hated Thomas Jefferson's theology, but were lock step with his politics of wall of separation.

We need to start speaking the language of Roger Williams. Government entanglement stifles free exercise. A forward thinking evangelical will understand that they won't always be on top. Don't think so, think back to colonial days. It was the evangelicals who were being disadvantaged and in some cases oppressed.

The conversation has to focus on the fact that their course of action is plotting their own downfall. The same line of thinking applies to conservative Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians (although they don't have the raw numbers right now to impact government a fundy takeover threatens their free exercise).

As someone who is both a Pastor and a political hack and social seer or Commentator, "Yes! Preach it brother! and Amen!", sorry I had to.

One of the reasons I identify as a Libertarian is the separation of politics from religion. Civil Rights a. should never be voted for or against if they are unaliable as defined in the Constitution and Declaration, b. neither should self evident truths of each man's equality created or evolved be ever debated in the public square, just preserved by the binding together of our Sacred honours one to another.

The problem comes down to the fact that We The People have forgotten that This country was "in no way founded on the Christian religion (Article 11, Treaty with Tripoli, 1797)"; and the Father of the Constitution, James Madison said, "The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians,...that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported.... A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity."

The arguments and dialouge that try to pacify religious versus secular jurisdictions and ethos or morals will always come up lacking in some way during a civil society discussion because they are two completely different paradigms of thought and actions. On the one hand you have principles that lead on the other you have ideas that guide, and the two are always going to be struggling for which one is in charge at all times, given the individual holding those principles and the organization promoting the moral and ethics. The question that our Community needs to ask is that a leading moral or a guiding moral and the same with ethics and principles, and those are distinct categories both for the religious and political landscapes.

My hope is that one day America will return to its understanding of what American principles, ethics, and morals are. And to usurp a common phrase attributed to Martin Luther:

"Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness and Equality! These are the words of our founding Fathers. We dont need new ones; we just need to live by the ones we already wrote down."

Sorry if I got preachy it sort of comes natural.

Respectfully MRev. White

Are you sure Martin Luther said that hundreds of years ago before John Locke's words and the Age of Enlightenment? Seems strange as his statements that "Jews' homes should be destroyed, their synagogues burned, money confiscated and liberty curtailed" were revived and used in propaganda by the Nazis in 1933–45.

Surely you meant to write Martin Luther King.

Actually the words I was refering to were not in reference to the Jews but the Eucharist.

In the 1500's the Reformers were meeting together, to plan and discern their next steps. They were having a discussion about theology and the Eucharist or Communion came up. Of course the Predestinationalist and the Anglicans were having a hay day with it and Martin Luther sat with his head slumped in his one hand as the conversation went back and forth between law and grace and symbolism versus sacrament. Everyone after taking a breath looked over at Martin Luther who they realized had remained quiet during the tirades, with inquiring mind, asked what he thought, he responded with throwing back the table cloth, and exclaimed with exhaustion, "These are the words of Scripture we do not need new ones!" And then he walked away in a slump. The words etched into the table by a knife were "This Is My Body" (in Latin), are the words of the Institution Narritive of the Eucharist in Corinthians, and the Gospels.

So yes, I was borrowing a phrase from Martin Luther, and not Dr. King. My apologies if that offends you, but it was and is still a valid usurption of the idea expressed.

It's too bad. But we can't go after their tax exempt status because the nation as a whole is too religious and won't allow it. But we can understand that religious people are a mixed bag, just like every other group. We don't need to worry about separating church and State to work with our friends in liberal Christianity.
We also can argue against the fundys, and point out their exteme hypocrisy. It's nonstop. They like lobster but hate queers. They want prayer in school despite Matt 6: 5-6. They've born false witness for sport, against the Clintons, all of us, and every other minority. The list goes on forever, and it's something we should be using big time.

Martin Luther (died 1546) may have called for freedom of conscience in religious matters he was still as deluded as the Catholic Church that he broke away from, believing in a god that isn't there. Should all taxpayers support "faith based" governmental programs. Hell no. I am all for helping the suffering but not through religion. A democracy is supported for the people by the people and not god. When elected leaders and Supreme Court Justices keep repeating "Under God" and "So help me God" then their god's laws are written into civil law and the constitution is meaningless.

Whether it be religious faith, secular patriotism, or the scientific method, all these philosophies or ways of thinking want the same goal: the ultimate control of each human being's ability to make independent moral decisions. But individuals each must select their own ultimate principles, because religion and nationalism and science are all at times mutually exclusive. Some choose religion as their ultimacy, others choose patriotism, and others choose science. And yet other people choose yet other things. But there is no integrating these different thought systems completely. There are places where they overlap, but there are also places where they indisputably collide.

We can hope for "separation of church and state" in the sense that we ca hope to keep our exercise of governance neutral, to not favor one faith tradition over another, and to not favor theism over atheism (and on this last point we have clearly failed here in America).

But separating church and state does not, and cannot, mean separating religious opinions from the mechanisms of political life. I can encourage a citizen to vote, but I cannot dictate the mental process he or she uses while deciding who to vote for. People who vote because of this or that religious viewpoint have a perfect right to do so --- and often this fact is sad, but true.

Similarly, there is no right for the religious to silence the unbeliever, nor any right for the unbeliever to silence the religious, for they both have an equal right to participate in the public debate. I doubt there will ever be a future time when they co-exist harmoniously, I expect they will forever be irked with each other to some extent or another. We can only hope to keep the conflict away from ugliness, inhumanity and violence.

The attempt to resolve this tension in a way that eliminates conflict is indeed Sisyphusian, because the conflict is intrinsic to the free will of the human mind itself, to choose to think this way or that way, whether it chooses consciously or unconsciously.

As much as people try, the Bible does not change, people do. If you grew up in Southern Pentecostal church Then you know what Christ said about your lifestyle and you are free to live that lifestyle. That will be between you and God to sort out. If you truly want separate church and state, then when will the church stop filling out those Federal forms? When will the goverment telling what is to be preached and what can not be preached, talking about canidates for office.

As much as people try, the Bible does not change, people do.

Really? Which version of the Bible- The King James? The Original Hebrew? The Apocryphal Books not included in some Bibles? The Book of Mormon?

But thanks for condemning my "lifestyle". I'm guessing that you don't eat shellfish or wear mixed blend clothing either, since the Bible is anti-that.

Must be nice up there on your moral high ground.

I dunno. Maybe we can think of church outreach as we'd think of any other community outreach - meeting people where they actually are instead of where we hope they'd be.

Although some of this "faith-based voters are more valuable than the rest of you" stuff is getting annoying....

steve tabarez | February 9, 2009 8:54 AM

Have to agree with you, Alex. Try to go where they are, if not their churches, then their neighborhoods. Cuz I like u, feel too much importance is placed on trying to target them and winning them over as a group. They deserve our respect, not our pandering nor the distinction of having some form of elevated status. Go to where they live and we also get to do outreach to those who are wavering,
or really haven't made up their minds one way or the other.

To add to the above: HERE is diary on AUTHORTARIANism....
reporting about his results re: Religious Fundamentalists...
They are absolutely just FOLLOWERS...couldn't have an honest thought of their own because they are raised not to.


Religious Folk and Authoritarianism (+)
by: Christine Johnson
Mon Feb 09, 2009 at 22:39:29 PM CST

Yesterday I came across a most interesting book, available on-line at The Authoritarians, which provides a significant body of scientific research that goes a long way to explaining why religious followers (and leaders) have such a hard time with us GLBT folk. The author is a professor of psychology at the University of Manitoba and has been studying authoritarian people for decades as a psychological researcher. His results are very pertinent to issues relating to GLBT liberation, and I highly recommend the book, especially since it's free :)
I took some notes, and a few really important paragraphs are instructive:
p. 139-140: This chapter has presented my main research findings on religious fundamentalists. The first thing I want to emphasize, in light of the rest of this book, is that they are highly likely to be authoritarian followers. They are highly submissive to established authority, aggressive in the name of that authority, and conventional to the point of insisting everyone should behave as their authorities decide. They are fearful and self-righteous and have a lot of hostility in them that they readily direct toward various out-groups. They are easily incited, easily led, rather un-inclined to think for themselves, largely impervious to facts and reason, and rely instead on social support to maintain their beliefs. They bring strong loyalty to their in-groups, have thick-walled, highly compartmentalized minds, use a lot of double standards in their judgments, are surprisingly unprincipled at times, and are often hypocrites.

But they are also Teflon-coated when it comes to guilt. They are blind to themselves, ethnocentric and prejudiced, and as closed-minded as they are narrowminded. They can be woefully uninformed about things they oppose, but they prefer ignorance and want to make others become as ignorant as they. They are also surprisingly uninformed about the things they say they believe in, and deep, deep, deep down inside many of them have secret doubts about their core belief. But they are very happy, highly giving, and quite zealous. In fact, they are about the only zealous people around nowadays in North America, which explains a lot of their success in their endless (and necessary) pursuit of converts.

He then goes on to examine "social dominators" or people who attempt to use whatever methods necessary to achieve their goals, which often involve manipulating the right wing authoritarians (RWA's) to do their bidding.
But beyond the social dominators, there is another smaller group, which he calls the "Double Highs," who are both social dominators and right-wing authoritarians. These people, not surprisingly, rise to the top of the political world. It is not difficult to surmise that people like James Dobson, and Kenneth Zucker fall into this category.He says (p. 178) that:

So who are these Double Highs? Simply put, they are “religious” social dominators. They usually had much more religious upbringings than social dominators typically had, or they may have “got religion” as adults. As a group their fervor does not quite reach the levels found among ordinary right-wing authoritarians. But they go to church much more than most people in my samples do. Ditto for being religious fundamentalists. Ditto for being religiously ethnocentric. They thus respond to the religious content on the RWA scale, which ordinary social dominators do not, and that helps make them Double Highs.

Dr. Altemeyer provides some suggestions at the end of the book to counter the effects of authoritarianism, and the consequent impact on our society, but I think it would be better if folks here read the book and drew their own conclusions. Still, I think the scientific evidence would be most useful for those fighting for LGBT rights. As Autumn has said: "Know your enemy."
That seems to me wise advice.

NOTE He does have some advice...so for those interested.