Sunday, February 28, 2010

Faith-Based Discrimination

     In his op-ed column in today's New York Times, Nicholas Kristof derided the snobby, sneering, snooty, secular liberals who dare to criticize faith-based organizations that provide extensive aid to poor and suffering people around the globe. Kristof is impressed that the largest U.S.-based international relief and development organization is now a Christian evangelical organization rather than any secular group. He generously forgives conservative Christian groups their late arrival on the social aid scene after years of over-focusing on sexual morality and homophobia rather than the needy.
     Kristof's piece coincides with the recent release of a report by President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships about the new administration's attitude toward faith-based organizations. Kristof, President Obama and the Council all ignored the most important topic, namely the constitutionality of religion-based employment decisions regarding jobs partially or fully subsidized by federal funds. Kristof is satisfied with federal funding of evangelical organizations because they no longer offer aid to entice converts
     The First Amendment requires much more than Kristof's minimal standard. Tax dollars should not be given to religious groups that, by hiring on religious grounds, are free to discriminate on the basis of race, gender and sexual orientation. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Texas Needs Gay Divorce...and Marriage

After a state district judge granted a divorce to a lesbian couple, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott went to court last week to try to stop the divorce decree from taking effect. The women were legally married in Massachusetts and now desire to end their union. Abbott argued that because gay marriage is illegal in Texas gay divorce is also prohibited. Abbott’s actions confirm the need for gay marriage to become legal in all states under federal constitutional law.
Opposition to gay marriage is usually expressed in religious terms. Even President Obama says he opposes gay marriage for religious reasons: “for me as a Christian ... it is also a sacred union. God's in the mix.” The president’s religious argument against marriage equality is surprising, given that his own parents’ interracial marriage was illegal in many states until the Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment protect the right to marry across races.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Christian Framers Were Too Smart to Found a Christian Nation

Our Texas debates about the place of religion in the public school curriculum were featured in the cover story of Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. Some Christian Texans want the public schools to teach that the Christian Founders established a Christian nation and to rebut the aggressive, secular, liberal agenda that claims otherwise.

If the Founders really intended to create a Christian nation, they went about it in a strangely ineffective and incoherent way. First they wrote Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, stating “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” That idea was radical for its time. It explicitly rejected the old model of the Christian states of Europe from which so many early American had fled. Later the Framers added the antiestablishment clause to the First Amendment, which begins “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The brilliant drafters of the Constitution could easily have chosen different language if they intended to create a Christian nation. Instead they chose to build a political and legal system that was not based on religion.

The Texas Christian activists want schoolchildren to learn that because the Founders were Christians, they founded a Christian nation. Instead the activists should emulate the Founders, many of whom were devout Christians who recognized that liberty is best served by keeping religion out of government.