Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Prop 8 Facebook Conversation...

This is probably way more than you're interested in, but I posted this article on Facebook about the "strange charges" that Judge Walker made in the Prop 8 decision. This conversation followed:
‎Russ - "what about the violation of basic civil rights of the 52% of Californians to govern themselves?" We've never had that right, Chris. Or rather, we have that right until we use it to take away other peoples' rights. That's the job of the Judicial Branch: to ensure that the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, and the people don't enact laws that take away basic human rights.

Think about it this way: I live in Washington, a pretty darned liberal state. Would you think it okay if the liberal majority here voted on a proposition that would amend our state constitution to say that conservatives can't broadcast their views on television? No, obviously not, even though the majority wanted it: the Bill of Rights protects the conservative minority's right to free speech. We don't have the right to govern ourselves if it takes away another's human rights.

Similarly, the Supreme Court has ruled that the right to marry is a fundamental human right, and thus all citizens are entitled to it under the 14th Amendment--see Loving v. Virginia (1967), Zablocki v. Redhail (1978), etc.

As the Court said in Loving v. Virginia: "The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men. Marriage is one of the `basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival." It's really a pretty clear-cut issue. You can disagree with the Supreme Court's rulings if you want, but as it stands, marriage is classified as a fundamental human right and thus you can't vote to take it away from people.

And that's a good thing. Keep in mind that our religion is very much a minority in this country, and if the majority decides they don't like us, we'll be screaming for the court's protection against the majority's right to govern themselves.

Chris - We've never had the right govern ourselves? Do we not elect our own government officials from among the public populace? Do we not propose and vote on laws that the people have submitted or that our politicians have drawn up? We do go...vern ourselves. I think that's about as fundamental as it gets when you're talking about a DEMOCRACY. Isn't that inherent in, and apart of, the definition of the label most commonly ascribed to the type of government that we have?

I think if you really wanted to, you could find just as many, and maybe even more court decisions that have affirmed the traditional definition of marriage. In response to the court decisions that you have cited, what about the 1972 Baker v. Nelson decision that was appealed from the Minnesota State Supreme Court up to the US Supreme Court that was dismissed by the plaintiffs because the SCOTUS decided that marriage was not a federal issue, thus affirming the state's decision to leave marriage defined as between a man and a woman. Additionally, aside form the semantics of marriage v. civil unions being argued, what CA rights will same sex couples be gaining that they do not already have with this decision?

Do you really want to invoke our religion in this question? Because our leaders have unquestionably come out in support of the proposition, and against the most recent court decision. If you faithfully and honestly hold up your right hand every time you sustain the prophet, then aren't you also pledging your support of the direction that he has plotted for us as God's mouthpiece? I don't doubt that it's a difficult issue to understand, but as a member of the church, we all presumably also support his decision. That is as fundamental as it gets in our religion, in spite of whatever arguments you might have otherwise.

Russ - ‎"We do govern ourselves. I think that's about as fundamental as it gets when you're talking about a DEMOCRACY. Isn't that inherent in, and apart of, the definition of the label most commonly ascribed to the type of government that we have?..."

It doesn't matter how commonly that label is applied to our system of government: it's wrong. We're a federal constitutional republic. That means we're a collection of states that are overseen by a central authority, all of which are bound to follow the laws set out in a constitution. The people elect our representatives to make laws on specific issues not covered by the Constitution (under the guidance of the Constitution's principles, of course). But ultimately, the United States is governed by the Constitution, not the people.

That's it. That is the structure of our country's legal system. I don't care how many times people say we're a democracy; we're not, and that's one of the big misunderstandings that causes people to get upset when the legal system doesn't function the way they want it to.

"I think if you really wanted to, you could find just as many, and maybe even more court decisions that have affirmed the traditional definition of marriage."

Let's not get into the traditional definition of marriage, because if so, then individuals of different races couldn't marry. That's the traditional definition in this country, unless you restrict "traditional" to the last 50 years. And if you do THAT, then you admit and endorse the concept of changing marriage's "definition" based on changing social and legal culture--which is exactly what is happening.

"dismissed by the plaintiffs because the SCOTUS decided that marriage was not a federal issue"

No no no. You can't generalize. The Supreme Court ruled that the THAT particular case was not a federal issue, not the concept of marriage in general. Baker v. Nelson is a really hard case to apply. Because the Supreme Court refused to hear it but it came through the appellate process instead of through a writ of certiorari, that decision is binding but in a very confused way, since the Court didn't explain their decision. I wish Judge Walker had addressed it directly in his ruling, personally, since it is definitely a gray area. I don't disagree with that.

"Additionally, aside form the semantics of marriage v. civil unions being argued, what CA rights will same sex couples be gaining that they do not already have with this decision?"

Walker covers that explicitly in his decision (which you really should read, if you haven't, and read it a bit more closely if you've only skimmed). He says that "First, domestic partnerships are distinct from marriage and do not provide the same social meaning as marriage. Second, domestic partnerships were created specifically so that California could offer same-sex couples rights and benefits while explicitly withholding marriage from same-sex couples."

As for the religious issues: I'll have to get back to you after lunch. ;)

Post lunch - So here's my brain spew. If I'm out to dinner with the prophet and I'm trying to decide whether to have strawberry cheesecake or chocolate cake, I'm not going to take his recommendation as revelation directly from ...the mouth of God. Prophets are allowed to have opinions just as much as people are, and we're allowed to disagree with their opinions.

See this message, for instance:

An important quote: "Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church."

For example: Joseph Smith believed in a universal ether. The theory of the universal ether has been conclusively proven incorrect. Does that mean Joseph Smith wasn't a prophet? No, it just means that every word he said isn't doctrine. That's the beauty of the church--it's led by human beings, who are fallible, and allowed to have their own opinions and beliefs outside of those that are inspired. Sometimes when the people in charge have particular opinions, the church follows even though it's not the right thing to do.

See our history with blacks and the priesthood, for example. That is a horrible, shameful part of our history, and there's no way to see it as anything else. Brigham Young was racist--that's not really in question. He said on page 290 of the Journal of Discourses: "You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind." I don't necessarily hold it against him; he was a product of his time. But the people of the church confused personal opinion with revealed doctrine, and the church kept with that tradition for too many years. Many prophets supported his racist ideology, so it wasn't even just "a single leader on a single occasion", it was many leaders over many occasions that were wrong. I personally don't believe it says anything bad about me that I think the prophets who denied the priesthood to people based on the color of their skin were wrong, and that the members of the church would have been good people to disagree with their prophets on that point.

So what are we supposed to do if we know that prophets can sometimes be wrong? I do believe that a person would do well to follow everything the prophet says, and that God won't look harshly on them for doing so if that leads them to bad things (like uphold racist policies). But I also believe that sometimes, if moved by the Spirit otherwise, they would do even better to follow another path. For example, Nephi disobeyed every prophet before him when he murdered Laban, but it was a good thing, yes? Because he did it while following the dictates of the Spirit.

That's our job as followers: to use the Spirit to guide our actions. If you don't believe in personal revelation and the importance of following the Spirit's dictates, then I would suggest you reread the Book of Mormon and the teachings of Joseph Smith. That, frankly, was his whole schtick: find out for yourself. Do your own thinking. Follow the prophet, yeah, but only because you've had it confirmed by the Spirit.

I did a lot of research, prayer, and study when this proposition first was put on the ballot, and everything I read, every conclusion I came to, and everything I felt leads me to believe that Proposition 8 is a bad thing. It establishes a horrible precedent: that the rights of the minority can be withheld by a vote of the majority.

I know that the Founding Fathers were inspired when writing the Constitution (and many, many prophets have spoken to the same effect). They were led by the Spirit to write what they did, and to establish our country as a country that would NOT be ruled by one person or by the whim of the mob, but would instead protect the rights and freedoms of all of its people. I know that our church, as a strange minority--a "peculiar people"--could easily be the target of mob hatred as much as homosexuals are now, and in fact have been in the past (see Executive Order 44, obviously). I believe that the Constitution was written in part to let us freely do the work that we're doing now, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, protected by the establishment of a government that was not subject to the whims of the people, but was established to protect the freedom of all in order to safeguard our ability to do the work we're called to do. Being complicit in establishing a precedent that the rights of a minority could be taken away by majority vote is a sickening thought, contrary to the intent of the Framers as inspired by God, and would be tantamount to handing a loaded gun to the person who says "I want to kill you".

I do believe that marriage between a man and a woman, solemnized in the Temple, is ordained of God. But that doesn't mean that I believe others shouldn't be able to make their own choices just because we don't agree with them: that's the Savior's plan. Forcing people to do what they should is the Adversary's plan.

Also: if your neighbor has sex with his girlfriend outside of marriage, does that mean that suddenly your chastity is made meaningless? Not at all--it just means they made a bad choice. If a member married in the Temple commits adultery, does that invalidate any other member's Temple marriage? No. It doesn't affect you at all. So why would non-member dudes marrying other dudes or ladies marrying other ladies affect your ability to have an eternal marriage?

So yes. I believe in the prophet's guidance. I sustain him happily and lovingly, and I follow his words as the Spirit dictates. I believe in this particular case that the leaders of the church at this time are being swayed by their personal opinions, by the culture they grew up in, and are forgetting the divinely-inspired protection that the Constitution offers us as a people. As much as the metaphor is used, we're NOT supposed to be sheep--we're supposed to be active followers who research, pray, think for ourselves, and listen to the Spirit to determine our actions. That whole process led me to my conclusion, and if I'm wrong, I trust that the Lord will judge me justly based on that.

But finally: regardless of how I feel, this isn't a religious issue, it's a legal issue, in spite of whatever arguments you might have otherwise.

Chris - Before I respond to the other points, the church one is without argument. When the church mobilizes its members in an effort to support a particular issue, this is not a matter of opinion. When the church issues official statements such as ...this one - - then its not something at all comparable to whether President Monson decides to have chocolate cake or ice cream for dessert. It's not a matter of opinion when the church has an official proclamation on the family and it defines marriage as being specifically being between a man and a woman. I don't know how anyone can ever argue this point. Do you not think that the Prophet has received revelation when he has asked his consecrated members to donate their times, talents, and efforts to the support of this proposition? Or is that something he just decided to do on a whim? as if he felt like today he'd have steak, and oh, by the way, let's have our members do something that will force them to dig deep into their wallets, probably alienate many of our own members as well as the community around us, withstand ridicule and protests, just because it happened to strike him at that particular moment?

Yes, the Spirit IS the law, but this is a doctrine that is fundamental to our beliefs. I don't want to argue the finer points of your opinions on blacks and the priesthood, but don't you think that if God had really wanted that revelation to come sooner, than he would have found another way than let his apparently misguided prophets fumble their way along for 148 years after the founding of the church to finally change that doctrine? Whatever the reasons were for the way that unfolded, it was the way that God intended. If God had wanted otherwise, then it would have been son. Or was God somehow rendered impotent in that particular instance?

Whatever you want to call the government of the United States, it still approaches nearer democratic rule than any other nation. Yes, we have aspects of a republic. Yes, the constitution has great bearing on the formulation of our laws and the administration of our government, but ultimately, the people decide on the direction that this country goes. The constitution was implemented as a means of securing some fundamental rights. Never before has the SCOTUS ruled on this matter, which is why there is so much discrepancy between different state decisions because it has always been referred back to the state.

We elect representatives, those representatives (hopefully) carry out the will of the people, and (hopefully) appoint like-minded judges to rule on the matters of the law. If the constitution needs further revision, then those become amendments carried out by the will of the people.

This is about traditional marriage. Comparing homosexuality to racism is a specious claim that is often invoked in this discussion. You're talking about a protected class of citizen, which is not something that has applied to matters of sexual orientation, until now with the recent discussion of same sex marriage and these cases of judicial activism.

This is not about specific rights being afforded to same sex couples. Even in your own quotation of Judge Walker, he mentions that, "domestic partnerships are distinct from marriage and do not provide the same social meaning as marriage," but this is the point that I'm making: this is an argument over the "social meaning" of marriage." This is about semantics, and this is about the acceptance and embracing of a particular form of lifestyle that many people do not agree with. The second point of that same excerpt further validates my point, "domestic partnerships were created specifically so that
California could offer same-sex couples rights and benefits." It's the reclamation and validation of a traditional definition of marriage that we're after. The couples who enter into domestic partnerships are afforded those same rights and benefits that heterosexual couples also enjoy.

Please refrain from the claims that what someone else does in their own bedroom has no bearing on my life. Without getting into any kind of specifics, the way a person lives his life, however private his behavior, will always have an affect on other people, if only because we live in a community of citizens. What a person does in private will affect his comportment in public because we are the sum total of our thoughts, words, and deeds. This is why our church leaders have asked us to take a stand on this particular issue. There will be further reaching consequences than simply the allowance of same sex marriages, and that's why we have those watchmen on the tower to see those things that we don't. Apparently, there is something ahead that you and I cannot perceive at this time, and that is why our church leaders have asked its members to act on this particular issue.
He backed off after my last response, saying that he would end the discussion before anything too personally insulting might be said.

I have a follow up post on this coming!


The Meesh said...

You're studying the wrong thing. It should be law. Switch now while there's still time. :)

MikeReid said...

Alls i gots to say is: "Russ, you got burned, son."

That's unbelievable how he can justify not following explicit direction/revelation from the prophet. Sad story.

Good work silvs.