Religious Persecution and The Tyranny of the Majority

I’ve been putting some syllabi together for some American history courses I want to eventually teach.  I find that I am very interested in the early U.S. history, from before the Revolution through the Civil War (I am an early church/Roman historian by trade).  And not surprisingly, I really like the religious history of the U.S.  I also like that many of things that I blog about currently are tying into what I am reading, especially on the formation of the new government and its laws against religious persecution and laws set up to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority.  These two issues, I believe, highlight the struggle that gays and lesbians are dealing with. 

All of these anti-gay laws are based on religious principles and when enacted into law, it breaks both of these founding-father principles:  no one is obligated to practice a particular religion, including even having a religion at all; and minorities need to be protected from a vicious majority.  The anti-gay marriage laws that are sweeping the country are good examples of this.  If you look at any of the anti-gay websites, what legislators have to say, or what people have to say about gay marriage, they quote the Bible as justification for their beliefs. I think the lawsuits against these anti-gay laws should all be abolished by the Supreme Court just for this reason.  I should not have to live under the religious law of anyone.  People who want to be religious can live their own lives according to the principles they choose, but when they force their religious beliefs on the whole population, then something is seriously wrong with our government and it goes against the very principles that created this government in the first place.  And this is especially the case when the federal government supports suppressing a minority–and this covers any minority.

Religious principles should be kept in religious institutions and those who follow these religions.  They should not be used to create laws.  I do, however, understand that some religious ideas are used to create good laws, such as "thou shall not kill."  However, when religious laws are used to condone the practice of slavery, or to continue the punishment of gays and lesbians, then there are serious problems.  And these are problems that gays and lesbians are facing today.  That is why the court system and the legislature, both state and federal, should be treating these anti-gay laws as both religious persecution, and as an example of the tyranny of the majority.  When the courts and the legislatures support these laws, then they are perverting the very principles upon which our country is founded.

 

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