Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Good Rev. — Bad Rev Debate

See them! Hear them! Debating protestant ministers on gay rights, civil rights, and same-sex marriage!

They're both black, both married to white women and not a Unitarian to be seen.

The video of last week's righteousness bout (about 90 minutes from first to last hoot) draws far too clearly a picture of the authoritative personality who needs to impose his personal religious views on larger society as law. In the debate, one side wants a theocracy in which leaders legislate by the King James Bible and the other a constitutional democracy in which the majority are constrained from stifling the rights of any minority.

It is likely that no minds changed on stage or in the audience. The debaters were:
  • Rev. Ken Hutcherson, Antioch Bible Church minister and anti-gay crusader.
  • Ron Sims, King County (Seattle) Executive and a Baptist lay minister.
The iterative presentation and arguments are worth sampling. They give a clear indication of how far apart anti-gay fundies are from most Americans. I suspect that even those uncomfortable with the idea of SSM who heard this debate would then feel more uncomfortable with the anti-democratic, anti-liberty implications of the Hutcherson sorts.

Ostensibly, the debate was to kick around the question of whether gay rights are a form of civil rights. It was the perverse idea of the lefty, sexualized weekly The Stranger to stage the confrontation between two middle-aged black men who were Christian ministers with very differing views on the subject.

Links below are for the press and blog coverage, including much chatter. Nearly everyone agreed that the bused-in Antioch people left thinking and feeling as they came, as did the pro-civil-rights and pro-gay locals.
A couple days later, the PI ran an intellectually and politically crisp editorial. It addressed the church/state differences between los padres well, including:
Sims might have fared well fighting on a scriptural battlefield. One may divine biblical support for all sorts of abhorrent behavior, including slavery, the subjugation of women and even human sacrifice. But, again, the issue at hand was not liturgy but the law.

Hutcherson's mistake is to assume that religion is the only foundation for morality, for Sims or anyone else's, let alone the law.

Hutcherson speaks of the "sin" of homosexuality. So what other sins would he insist the law allow as grounds for discrimination in housing, employment and lending -- failure to honor one's parents, the making of graven images, coveting thy neighbor's ass?

Fundamental civil rights should not depend on the whims of either the pulpit or the polling place.

That brings us to our conclusions:
  1. No single religion should mandate and proscribe law, rights and behavior for our citizens.
  2. The rights of any minority should never be subject to a plebiscite.
Hutcherson was all too plain in repeating that he wanted his interpretation of the Bible to be the law of the land. He said several times that if he got enough votes "I'm going to push what I want on you" to Sims, and by implication, all gays and all citizens living in the state.

This perversion of our Constitution and federal and state laws is at the core of Hutcherson's bluster and threats. In contrast, Sims iterated that the nation and his state were governed to prevent the majority from trampling the rights of a minority.

Sims refused to play the scripture game. Hutcherson kept saying things like show him where the Bible said this or that. Sims returned each time to saying that these were issues of civil rights (gay) and constitutional rights (same-sex marriage).

Hutcherson would not buy any of that, any more than he would even consider the mounting evidence that virtually all homosexuals are born as such. That would undermine his refrain that you can be ex-gay, but not ex-black, so that this removed gay rights from civil rights to him.

However, he was spot on when he said "The biggest problem you and I have is that you can separate your private life from your Christian life." Sims admitted gladly several times that he pledged to uphold the U.S. and state constitutions and laws. He kept his religion out of his job and was positive that the nation had to continue to maintain that bright line between religion and governance.

Hutcherson's willingness to prevent homosexuals from receiving fair treatment and marriage rights under law hangs on the single thread that being gay is a choice. From there, gay rights are not civil rights to him. It is also okay to discriminate in employment, housing and so forth based on sexual preference, he said.

So, here we return to a horse we often ride. The ballot initiative process is widely abused throughout the nation in the half of states that have it for overturning laws and amending their constitutions.

The debate may not have changed minds, but it did shine a light on the dank evil of self-appointed theocrats who would strip civil rights from minorities they dislike and make their particular religious views law for all of us. Hutcherson needs a revelation of understanding and compassion. Until he gets it, he needs people to tell him to his face and at the ballot that he is wrong headed and wrong hearted.

Meanwhile in Olympia, Boston and elsewhere, activists need to ring and write and visit legislators. We must tweak ballot initiatives to prevent majorities from voting on minorities' rights.

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