Three unrelated apparently unrelated events have been swirling in my mind lately. Help me think through them?
First: The Texas State Supreme Court recently said that same-sex couples might be legally married in the state, but they don’t have a legal entitlement to the same benefits as same-sex couples. The all-Republican court was pressured by the state’s GOP to pick up the case, which centered on whether the city of Houston was right to grant spousal benefits to same-sex spouses of city employees if the couple was married out of state before same-sex marriage was legal there. Obergefell, the 2015 Supreme Court case that recognized the validity of same-sex marriages in all 50 states, should have easily answered this question, but here come folks from Texas Values, a Religious Right group, to weasily argue that
“The Supreme Court held … that the Constitution requires states to license and recognize same-sex marriages to the same extent that they license and recognize opposite-sex marriages, but it did not hold that states must provide the same publicly funded benefits to all married persons.
The Equal Protection Clause should take care of this, but Texas conservatives never like to miss an opportunity to whine about federal overreach, so here we are, with the poor conservatives of the Supreme Court going to have to decide if they can handle the pressure of siding with 14th Amendment.
Above, Jason Rapert, one of the worst state politicians in the US, stands in front of a Ten Commandments monument just installed at the capitol in Little Rock. TheIt’s
Second: Arkansas’ second-worst state politician, Jason Rapert (I leave the national award to Senator Tom Cotton.) made news this week when his beloved 10 Commandments, newly installed on the state capitol’s grounds, was smashed by a… well, I guess we’d call him a separation of church and state activist. Anyway, Rapert’s obnoxious desire to waste taxpayer money on the inevitable legal challenge to the display reminded me of a comment he made two years ago at about this time in response to the just-delivered Obergefell decision. On Facebook, he said,
“I urge every God fearing American to pray for our nation on their knees, but to rise to their feet in opposition of those who have gone too far by imposing unjust laws against our will.”
Not a theologian, a law scholar, or a historian by training or talent, he compared his cause to the American Revolution and the Civil Rights movement. When a more informed citizen reminded him that, uh, actually, that’s not how it works with rights, he struck back by saying that “We the majority, grant you rights by choice.”
Third: Among anti-Muslim Christians there circulates the argument that Muslims do not have a First Amendment right to practice Islam in the US. One angle in this argument, exhibited by this awful speech that Rebecca Bynum gave to the Memphis chapter of ACT for America, says that Islam is not a religion but a political ideology, and therefore it is not protected by the First Amendment. This is also sometimes used to justify a ban on entrance by Muslim immigrants and refugees to the US. A second angle says that it doesn’t matter if Islam is a religion because Muslims aren’t free to practice it in the US anyway since the right to the free exercise of religion, as articulated in the First Amendment, is derived from “our Creator”–that is, the Judeo-Christian (but NOT Judeo-Christian-Islamic) deity. Explains Jason Rapert’s spiritual mentor former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore:
“Muhammad didn’t create us. It’s the God of the Holy Scriptures.”
(Moore, by the way, was kicked off the bench for being a preening fool. He’s led efforts to install the 10 Commandments in Alabama courthouses, fought hard against recognizing the legality of same-sex marriage, and is generally an embarrassment to the intelligent people of Alabama. Oh, and he’s running for Senate now, and Christian media is reporting that he is in the lead.) The argument here is that–follow me closely through this slop–the right to practice (or not to practice) religion is only for Christians and Jews because they are the only people who recognize the authority of the God who gave them that right. Atheists have no right not be atheists because the right to be an atheist comes from a God atheists don’t believe in. Likewise for anyone who is not a Christian or Jew but who wants to practice religion.
On top, former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, standing with a Ten Commandment monument. Below, one of his supporters, part of a traveling anti-LGBT protest group, stands outside the Alabama Supreme Court courthouse last year. Inside, the court was hearing arguments about whether Moore should be booted off the court–a second time–for ethical violations. (Answer: Yes.)
These not-entirely-unrelated instances (all in the South, all efforts led by white Republican men) have been ringing in my head for a few days now, and what I see bringing them together is that the rights of minorities–same-sex couples and religious minorities–are consistently seen as in conflict with democracy rather than central to it. (But I also suspect that they don’t much care about the “will of the people.” Rapert, for example, is fighting Arkansas’ Amendment 6, legalizing medical marijuana, despite popular support for it.)
Am I imagining it?