Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hypocrites, gay marriage and polygamy

There is a lot of disinformation being spread by the religious lobby that is promoting California’s Prop 8 to remove marriage rights of gay couples.

I’m of two mind as to why the falsehoods. I concede that some of these people are just deluded and actually believe the crap that is being spread. But others, particularly those who put together these propaganda pieces, must know better.

One television commercial, paid for by the out-of-state money poured into California by the Mormons and Catholics, is basically a string of lies from start to finish. For the most part the ad is actually focusing on laws totally unrelated to marriage -- anti-discrimination laws in particular. And these laws will remain in effect whether or not gay marriage is allowed. Yet they give the viewer the impression that gay marriage is causing these things.

Prof. Dale Carpenter has done a good analysis of the commercial and the lies that are told over at the conservative-libertarian legal site, Volokh Conspiracy. And I will synopsize what he said. If you find it interesting you should read his original report.

Lie #1

The Christians claimed that “People are being sued over personal beliefs.” That is not true. There is a case when a medical care group was sued because a physician refused to offer services to a woman who was a lesbian. But the suit had nothing to do with marriage and was based on the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which was passed long before gay marriage was an issue.

Normally I argue that any individual has the right to discriminate on any basis they wish. But there is one big exception and one likely exception. A public servant has no such right when acting in a governmental role. For instance, a fire fighter can’t stand aside and let a house burn just because he harbors prejudices against the inhabitants. Clerks in offices can’t refuse to serve people based on their religious beliefs. Government employees do not, and can not, have the rights of private employees in competitive markets because the public does not have other alternatives. If the employees don’t wish to serve all the public then they should find private employment.

There is a second category which is a difficult one because it is semiprivate and semi-public. These are the professions which are cartelized by government edict protecting the workers from a truly competitive market. This would include physicians for instance. Since the medical profession has worked heavily to regulate the free market out of existence they enjoy higher wages than they would in a truly competitive market. I am not unsympathetic to laws which treat such legal cartelized professions as if they were public enterprises similar to the state.

In some areas the market has a limited number of pharmacists or physicians who are legally allowed to offer services. If these individuals indulge every prejudice they have they can literally leave people without options except to travel long distances. In other areas, especially in some urban areas, their are numerous options for the same service. The limitation of options is something these professions and their professional organizations have lobbied for and work hard to maintain. Since they work to cartelize their profession I’m not adverse to laws forbidden them to indulge their own prejudices. I don’t think I’d introduce such a law if I were a legislator but I would hesitatingly vote for it. And there is enough ambiguity here that I would leave the matter to the individual states to regulate and wouldn’t get too upset regardless of which way the vote went.

But the claim that people are being sued for their personal beliefs is false. The law suit was over conduct not belief and it was in a cartelized profession with competition limited by law. But, most importantly, the issue of gay marriage had absolutely nothing to do with the matter. Abolish gay marriage and the same law suit could take place tomorrow. It is a lie to imply this situation is about gay marriage.

I noticed that some commentators on Volokh, who are anti equality, pointed to other cases in other states to prove the ad is correct. Yet, none of the cases, had anything to do with gay marriage. In fact, some of the states in question don’t allow gay marriage or civil unions.

Lie #2

The Christians claim that churches could lose their tax exemption.

Again this isn’t over gay marriage. The Christian television ad cites an article that mentions how churches using their tax-exempt status to promote legislation could lose their tax exemption. But this is true about any legislation. The position that government has long taken is that if one wants to act as a political lobbyist you are free to do so but not free to collect income on a tax-exempt basis. Churches pay for none of the services they receive from the state yet few of them eschew those services. They want garbage collection, sewers, water, police protection, fire protection and often want special services offered to them because they attract crowds. But they don’t want to pay for them.

There is a case to be made that they should pay full costs like everyone else instead of being government welfare cases. But they can avoid taxes all they want provided they aren’t using their religious status as a cover for political activity. This is true about any issue and not just gay marriage. Again the evidence they cite has nothing to do with gay marriage.

Lie #3

The Christians claimed that if gay are allowed to marry that gay marriage will be taught in the schools. They are a bit vague as to what this means. I doubt, for instance, that there will be classes on how to be gay or how to marry a gay person, etc. They point to a law, which I suspect they helped pass in the first place, requiring schools to teach respect for marriage. Try to repeal this requirement and the Christians will howl and argue that you are anti-marriage and anti-Christian. Keep the law and they will use it to beat gay marriage over the head. I don’t see how they can have it both ways. I’d repeal the law and leave views of marriage up to the parents not the schools. But I assure you that the Christians want it the other way.

However, Carpenter points out that gay marriage wouldn’t change this law in any way. The law also now includes a provision saying the schools should teach respect for “all committed relationships”. That would include non-married couples as well. He also points out that no school actually has to teach anything about marriage and can avoid the topic. And where it comes up in sex education classes California law allows any parent to remove their child from that class. As Prof. Carpenter notes: “whether or not gay marriage continues, and whether or not Prop 8 passes, individual school districts and parents will retain ultimate control over whether and what children are taught about gay relationships and marriages. If they fail to exercise that authority in conformity with their beliefs, that failure can hardly be blamed on gay couples who want to be married.”

Some thoughts:

The first thing that strikes me about the ad is that they entirely avoid their actual motivation for their crusade against equality for gay couples. They are motivated by religion not by the alleged secondary affects of gay marriage. But they know that the majority of Californians are not religious fanatics swayed by quotes out of the Bible or the Book of Mormon. So they invent claims that make them appear to be the victim while they push for legislation that gives their religious views a privileged status in the law.

Secondly, it is curious to see the Mormons and Catholics banning together for this. I can’t think of two Christian sects which have had more sexual pathology attached to them than these two. Mormonism has never been able to full shake off its polygamous nature and their prophet invented a divine revelation to justify his philandering behind his wife’s back.

Included in his repertoire of many wives were several teenaged girls. Considering we are talking about the mid 1800s we should recognize that girls entered puberty much later in life than today. Smith’s 14-year-old wife may have been the modern equivalent of a 12 year old or younger. Smith married eight teenage brides. Of course he kept the polygamy secret for many years after he started cheating on the side. Joe Smith had 33 wives including five sets of sisters. His successor, Brigham Young, had 55 wives, ten of whom divorced him. The third LDS leader, Wilford Woodruff had 15 wives, three of whom left him. The fourth church leader had 10 wives at a minimum. The fifth church leader had at lest six wives.

One could argue that the LDS church is making much to do about “one man, one woman, for life” marriage precisely because their history is so filled with the contrary. Many Utah Mormons practiced polygamy well into the 20th century. And even today it is well known that the practice has not died out completely among LDS faithful. Of course there are well known Mormon off-shoos which continue the practice to this day.

Historically Mormon leaders have had nothing but contempt for monogamy. Brigham Young preached:
Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire....Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers.... Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord's servants have always practiced it.
Prophet John Taylor said the “one-wife system not only degenerates the human family, both physically and intellectually, but it is entirely incompatible with philosophical notions of immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always proved a curse to a people.”

Mormon leaders today promote the false claim that the Roman empire fell because of homosexuality. “Prophet” Spencer Kimball called homosexuality a “heinous” sin and claimed, “Many cities and civilizations have gone out of existence because of it.” Included in his alleged litany of civilizations destroyed by gay people was Rome. But earlier Mormon “Apostle” George Cannon claimed that Rome fell because it promoted monogamy. "It is a fact worthy of note that the shortest lived nations of which we have record have been monogamic. Rome...was a monogamic nation and the numerous evils attending that system early laid the foundation for that ruin which eventually overtook her."

Could this zealous crusade to protect the “one-man, one woman” marriage concept be over compensation for their own history of condemning the very practice they now seek to defend?

As for the Catholic Church their sexual pathologies are so well known that it is a waste of time to outline them here. But they ought to be the last in line when it comes to attacking the sexuality of others.

It is certainly a well-known phenomenon that religious leaders who are obsessed with the alleged “sexual sins” of others are very often guilty of similar activities themselves. If this is true it might go a long way to explain why two of the Christian sects, most riddled with sexual problems, are in the forefront of a campaign against gay people.

Photo: Mormon leader and prophet Brigham Young and some of his many wives.

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