Hate Has No Place Here: The Separation of Church and State and This Country’s Blistery History

The last few weeks have been kind of a big deal and everyone seems to be on high alert of either a progressive revolution (being on the right side of history and keeping up the momentum, so if you want to sit and celebrate – for shame!) or the literal apocalypse because now this nation “has gone too far” and are persecuting Christians while flipping God off and saying, “Get the f*ck out of our country!” It’s so ridiculous that I’ve kept quiet about it. I have celebrated the victories and put away the guilt of not rushing onto the next cause. And when it comes to the people shouting about fire and brimstone, I just shake my head. Because the most frustrating part is I actually know my Bible better than they do. I mean if you’re going to push a cause to the extremes, at least be knowledgeable about it.

I’m talking about the legalization of same-sex marriage/marriage equality, but I’m not really talking about it, more like the fallout over it. And I’m not staying there long… somehow the aftermath of, “This is worse than 9/11 for Christians!” (Really? I am lucky to not know anyone who was directly affected by that terrible tragedy, but on their behalf I am seriously offended.) turned into something else. Very quickly, people seemed to compare same-sex marriage to recent calls for getting rid of confederate flags on government property. As if the two were inherently connected and horrible examples of crazy liberals going too far. The only way they are connected is that marriage equality and taking down confederate flags from government spaces both should have happened years ago. That. Is. All.

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And then taking down the confederate flag was being compared to taking down religious statues on government property. They’re the same thing, right? No, they’re really not. So, here is a look about the history of this country that most people don’t realize or seem to forget and how the confederate flag has nothing to do with this particular battle/debate, but something else entirely: being a decent human being. But what people are forgetting is what this country is founded on and what it is not founded on: the separation of church and state.

The United States is not a country that was built on the Bible, God or any other religion. In fact, it was only formed in the first place because people did not have the freedom to practice whatever religion they wanted. Unlike the people who are crying that no longer denying a group of people rights because it conflicts (but not really) with their beliefs are being persecuted – our founding fathers actually were. Persecution as in being jailed or put to death. That is persecution, none of this, “But I don’t like the gays, so you can’t give them the same human rights I have, because it’s nasty and they’re not human like me.” Um, yeah, I actually agree with the last part of this statement. Anyone who believes this is falling short on the humanity scale when compared to the general LGBT population.

Let’s get a few other things straight, the incorporation of God into different forms of government and official culture is actually a recent thing. For example, “In God We Trust,” was not what our currency said before 1957. Before that it was, “E pluribus enum” or “Out of Many, One.” Likewise, the Pledge of Allegiance did not add “under God,” to it until 1954, three decades after its author died. It’s only been in the last sixty years that Christianity has taken hold of this country and people seemed to forget what was what. This country does not serve or bow down to Christianity, Christianity is something that is allowed to take place in this country. Because again, freedom of religion.

So first, onto the same-sex marriage thing: This is about human rights. If you truly believe that your religion instructs you to discriminate against an entire group of people and deny them basic human rights, perhaps you need to take a long hard look at your religion or at least your interpretation of it. I’m not even going to get into what the Bible says and doesn’t except to say that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality and the Bible only references it six times. However, most of those six actually talk about other things like gang rape and prostitution but the stories center around two men. Finally, Leviticus, which the Christians I encounter like to quote the most also says eating shellfish, shaving and wearing more than one type of cloth at the same time are just as bad. But then they say these passages are outdated. Why? It’s from the same book. Anyway, I said I wasn’t going to get into that, but if you want to see what the Bible really has to say about homosexuality click here.

Luckily, for LGBT people, it doesn’t matter how people want to misinterpret the good book for their own hateful agendas: Separation of church and state – baby! I think this is one of the things that bothered me most about same-sex marriage bans – they were so obviously unconstitutional and serving religious agendas rather than actual law and order.

A few weeks after the Supreme Court’s long overdue decision and around the time of people calling for the confederate flag to be taken down, some people also called out religious monuments in government buildings like court houses. I actually agree with them, even though I don’t see religious monuments as the same as denying an entire population equal rights, but here is why. Again it’s about the separation of church and state. Having a religious monument in a courthouse or capitol building is sending a message that the religion in question is the favored or correct religion. I see it as all of nothing, either have all the religions that want to be represented where the monument is, or don’t display any.

Of course, a lot of Christians on social media saw this as a personal attack. Unlike same-sex marriage, I’m a lot more understanding to their point of view here. I mean these monuments aren’t hurting anyone and in many cases have been there for decades. I don’t see this as a personal attack, and I see my view as objective and fair (everyone or no one) and based on the actual concept this country was founded on, but I can also see how someone else can logically arrive at the conclusion that it is a personal attack.

The only time people offended me is when people compared removing religious monuments to removing the confederate flag. I saw people respond to articles or other people on social media platforms like Facebook saying, “Then give me my confederate flag back! I miss Dukes of Hazzard!” I was appalled at such statements because not only were they of the typical ignorant variety (not a slam, as in “not understanding or knowing any better”) but they took a perceived personal attack and made it something ugly. “If you take away my religious monument, then give me back a symbol of human slavery and persecution!” Admit it, phrased this way – it kind of sounds fucked up, doesn’t it?

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And this brings me to the subject of the Confederate Flag. Yes, the confederate flag is an important part of our country’s history, but in the same way the Holocaust is an important part of world history – so that we don’t forget. You don’t see a lot of swastikas decorating Europe, do you? Removing the confederate flag from government property, like marriage equality, was long overdue. The confederate flag is a symbol of hate, racism, slavery, discrimination… it is a symbol that has to hurt. I’m fortunate that it doesn’t hurt me the way I know it hurts some of my friends. And while I cannot understand that hurt fully, I can understand it on a basic human level.

Getting rid of the confederate flag on government property is the right thing to do, but it is not erasing that part of American history. It will still be in the history books, it will still be discussed – kids will still know what it was and what it meant. And I hope that the lesson passed down with the actual history is, “Never again.” It’s important not to forget, to learn and evolve from past experiences and mistakes, but that doesn’t mean it should be paraded around courthouses or capital buildings, because it shouldn’t.

And I’m all for businesses still retaining the right to hang it up in their shops and places of work. And the same goes for people’s homes. I would never do it, but it is a way to let me know that that is a business or company, I would not be interested it. It is a house I would never want to associate with. That person retains their individual right of freedom of expression, and I know that I don’t want to be around that person without having to waste any words on them. It’s just efficient.

In a nutshell, this country was founded on freedom of religion and the separation of church and state so making laws based on a book, open to many interpretations is not just stupid, it goes against the very reason this country was created in the first place. (That’s my real issue with the Supreme Court justices that voted against marriage equality, because they were not doing their jobs of defending our Constitution as much as they were worried about their own [misguided] personal/religious beliefs. Um, separation of church and state, you twits.)

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And the confederate flag only relates to this in the sense that it should have happened long ago. Having the confederate flag in government buildings may not be unconstitutional, but it is just as wrong. Hate has no place here – that is the message I have received the past month with all of these changes. Yes, there is still much to do. Homophobia and racism are still rampant in some areas of the law and many places in this large country. But the last few weeks also make me feel like we’ll eventually get there. We can’t give up, because hate has no place here.

-DMW

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