David Lampo tries to convince us that conservatives, Republicans, and libertarians should rally around in support of gay rights. Unfortunately, in order to make this case, he does not advance a new argument, but rather doubles down on an old confusion about the “wall of separation” between church and state. So this is not the next step in our upward evolutionary development, but is rather the point where a leper has one more finger fall off.
His second chapter of A Fundamental Freedom is entitled “Why the Religious Right Is Wrong About the Separation of Church and State.” So let’s talk about that, you and I.
I agree with Lampo that, for the most part, the Founders left religious language out of the Constitution (excepting the signing “in the year of our Lord,” referring to Jesus). So they left Jesus out of it, except where they didn’t, and the standard reaction to this observation shows what would have happened if the Apostles Creed had been written into the Preamble. We would then be told that they “had to say things like that back then,” and besides “nobody meant it.” The secularists argue from that mythical wall of separation, erected in Thomas Jefferson’s personal correspondence, but their ingenuity would be fully capable of working around established state churches, and a monarch who is a “Defender of the Faith.”
Where we differ is why the Founders did this and, regardless of motive, whether it was wise or prudent to do so. When the Constitution was ratified, 9 of the 13 states were explicit Christian republics. Establishing a Church of the United States was problematic when the varying states had established varying denominations as their state churches. At the time, it was a federalism thing, not a secularism thing. But I have written on this enough elsewhere (e.g. here).
So allow me to get to Lampo’s central confusion, which is his inability to articulate why the heck we should do anything.
“To insert one’s personal religious beliefs into our laws is to abandon the highest political value of this country, which is individual liberty” (p. 11).
Statements like this are honeycombed with assumptions, and anybody who would write about “a fundamental freedom” should be able to answer a few questions about them. Right?
What is a “personal religous belief.” Is there any other kind? Or are all religious beliefs personal? Or is this in contrast to public religious beliefs? Is a personal religious belief a conviction about the number of sacraments, or disagreement with supralapsarianism? And then a public religious belief could be something like belief in the dignity of every human individual, created in the image of God. Hey? Like when the Founders said that we were endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights — or is that a personal religious belief?
And individual liberty? Liberty to do what? By what standard?
Once homosexuals are marrying and given in marriage (après moi, le déluge), do you think perhaps that polygamists will approach us with the demand to be able to exercise their individual liberty? If you think, as I do, that this will most certainly happen, please tell me why they should not be able to exercise their individual liberty, the very highest value in your system, in this way. If you think they should not, then explain to me why the magic number two trumps individual liberty. Isn’t your belief that marriage consists of two, no more no less, a personal religious belief? Aren’t there competing religions and belief systems that let the number go higher?
It will not do to scoff and say that “nobody is fighting for polygamy.” I am not saying you are. I am saying that you want us to open the door to homosexuals for certain specified reasons. Those reasons are the ones you are advancing, and they apply to more people than just you, whether it is convenient for you to admit it or not. If you leave the key under the mat, more people than you can use it. If you want us to listen to you, but not to them, you have to tell us why. So why does homosexual individual liberty outrank polygamist individual liberty? Are not polygamists individuals?
And last, why should our highest political value be individual liberty? Answer the question please, and do so without reference to any personal religious opinions, or opinions derived from somebody else’s personal religious opinions. There are political systems out there which do not value individual liberty as the highest political value (Obama, Pelosi, and Reid come to mind), and so why are they wrong? If they win another couple elections, will individual liberty no longer be our highest political value? When that happens, should we just roll over?
Remember to exclude religion and ultimate worldview issues from the discussion (away with all priestcraft!), and please tell us why individual man outranks corporate man.