I was far from pleased when my brother called this past week to ask if I was watching the Republican debate on CNN. In fact, I let out an audible groan. I’ve long harbored a negative opinion of politics, but I still feel compelled to be an informed citizen before heading to the polls.

With that in mind, I turned on my television to see a large host of presidential hopefuls standing before a crowd all too eager to applaud each rehearsed line spewed out before them. And applaud they did.

I noticed a few things as I listened to these talking heads. Aside from Ron Paul, the candidates gave indirect and like-minded answers. I also noticed how much I disagreed with. Each time the audience cheered my desire to flip the channel grew.

And then the breaking point came. This nearly happened during the 2007 Republican debates when the candidates were asked to raise their hands if they did not believe in evolution. Three of them did.

As a registered member of the GOP, I knew I had a problem at that point. Most Republicans have a “wall of separation” in their mind between religious beliefs and what logic and science tells them is true. And when it comes to several key issues, they tend to go with faith.

The official break for me came this past Monday as the seven candidates debated. I sat back, head shaking, as each Republican candidate responded to a question concerning their opinion of gay marriage.

Religious beliefs aside, I wonder how many of these candidates could give you a good reason for opposing gay marriage. Would they even be able to state one? Why can a reporter never ask, “Mrs. Bachmann, can you give us a secular reason for opposing gay marriage?”

If you asked the question in another manner, and once again excluded faith, I predict you would get a completely different response. “Mrs. Bachmann, would you support the government going out of its way to discriminate against a particular group of people?” Or, “Do you think it’s ever okay to deny a law abiding American a right that is enjoyed by the rest of the population, including our felons, sex offenders, and non-citizens?”

Their answer would have to be no or they would be un-electable. Yet each Republican candidate harbors this belief about an entire group of Americans. Why do the vast majority of Republicans hold these beliefs? Their faith tells them to.

It is an oddity that five states allow gay couples to wed while forty-five do not. The Constitution states that all citizens are to be considered equal in the eyes of the law, so it is a bit un-American for citizens to have a right in one state and not another.

As I think back to our nation’s history, several major issues have shared this characteristic. Prior to the Civil War the U.S. Government literally drew a line across the center of the country and told the people living south of it that they could own slaves while the people in the north lived in states that did not allow the institution. In the Dred Scott case the Supreme Court ruled that this was not legal and that slaves could be taken anywhere and they were still slaves.

Prior to the passage of the 19th amendment many western states allowed women to vote in state and local elections while others did not. Again, it seems un-American that women in some states had more rights than women in others when they all had equal rights and protection under U.S. law.

So why should gays have more rights in five states than in the others? Why should heterosexual citizens have more rights than gay citizens? Well, they shouldn’t. And the U.S. Constitution says they shouldn’t as well.

Speaking of the Constitution, several candidates stated that they support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a male and a female. To me, this is no different than if a Southern senator had stood up in the 1850s and proposed a constitutional amendment protecting slavery. I say that for two reasons.

First is the fact that public opinion at the time was beginning to shift against slavery, and polls today indicate that more and more Americans are beginning to support gay marriage. Secondly, Southerners justified their ownership of slaves with scripture, just as modern conservatives use their faith to back arguments against gay marriage.

I am in no way indicating that the burdens gays face today are even close to that of a slave in the 1850s, but the concept I am portraying is very similar. Denying someone else a basic liberty because of YOUR religious belief is as wretched of a reason as I can imagine.

Please tell me what the difference is between this and Islamic sharia law? There seems to be only two; the religions involved and the groups discriminated against.

Under sharia the people discriminated against are women. They are denied basic rights because of religious faith. Muslims have a Holy Quran to back up their treatment of women.

In the United States the people being discriminated against are gays. They are denied some rights because of the faith of the nation’s majority. Christians have a Holy Bible to back up their treatment of homosexuals.

As a lover of history and world cultures I notice these similarities and injustices. I am all too aware of the struggles various groups have had to endure to attain basic freedoms. I’m also aware of a major obstacle that stood in their paths.

Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst

Slavery existed in the United States for 91 years and 155 years in the Colonies before that. Slave owners had a slew of Biblical quotes from Leviticus, Exodus, Timothy, Ephesians, Luke, and many others to back up their treatment of and holding of slaves.

For the greater part of our nation’s history, women could not vote or sit on juries. Men could easily refer to their Bible for justification of their treatment of women. Both the Old and New Testaments are laden with passages that made it quite clear to the oppressors that women were to be considered second class citizens.

As I watched this debate, the defiance of simple logic displayed by these candidates brought to mind other examples of Republican stances stemming from this “wall of separation” between their faith and common reason. The insistence of “Teach the Controversy” that proposes the insertion of intelligent design alongside evolution, the opposition to stem cell research, the threatening of women’s privacy and abortion rights, their overall support of measures to limit freedom of speech through excessive censorship in the name of morality, and their lack of understanding of our Founding Father’s intentions of keeping the church and the state separate. For all their love of the 2nd amendment, the arguments above demonstrate that they do not understand the basic principles of the 1st.

These stances lean toward what one could claim border on theocracy. Yet it is the Republicans who push to eliminate or greatly limit programs to help the poorest Americans while benefiting the wealthiest. Most people are aware of a Bible passage stating that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it would be for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. For the Republicans, this must be one giant needle and one tiny camel.

Somehow modern Republicans do not notice these contradictions. Nor do they see contradictions when they point to faith as justification for restricting the rights of gay Americans. How would Michele Bachmann feel if one of her opponents quoted this Bible verse as a reason she should not receive the Republican nomination?

* 1st Timothy 2:12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

How would Herman Cain feel if an opponent stated that slavery was okay because the Bible said so?

*Leviticus 25:44-46 However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance.

These verses disappeared from Bible study classes long ago because our standards of morality have surpassed those of the Bronze Age they were written in. If a candidate even suggested that blacks or women should be denied a right because of scripture it’s safe to say their political career would be over. We should do the same for anyone who attempts that argument as a justification for denying rights to a person because of who they happen to love.


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