There was a time when all governments were theocracies. Theocratic governments exist in the present day, but they are no longer the only style of government. Today, there are secular governments, societies that relegate civil matters to a civil government, one which governs the country according to a set of civil laws and codes which are separate from the religious dogma of a particular religious sect.
In the secular model, religious law is separate from civil law. Proponents of the secular model say that the advantage of this separation of church and state is that it democratizes the services and protections that the government provides to its citizens while promoting unity, tolerance and cooperation. If the population is completely homogeneous in regard to religious belief, then a theocracy could probably represent all citizens equally.
However, in a multi-cultural, multi-racial society, enforcing religious law as if it were civil law would be extremely impractical and most probably met with much opposition and would promote ill-will. So we let the civil government run things, provide services and protection for all citizens, regardless of their cultural, racial, religious or political qualities. A multi-cultural government must be fair and transparent in dispensing its services and protections to all of its citizens.
For that reason, we give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, like fixing the roads, sweeping the streets, keeping the lights on and the water, power and sewage systems flowing freely, and maintaining traffic stoplights and the police officers to enforce them. These are some of the services that governments routinely provide, and are benefits that should be provided equally to all citizens. The intent behind the secular system of government is to ensure that all citizens will receive their fair share of the protections and services that a government provides for all of its citizens.
And so, one of the aims of the separation of church and state is to keep sectarian issues from influencing the fair and equitable distribution of the government’s services and protections. It is upon this point that I see California Proposition 8 as a clear violation of the principle of the separation of church and state.
First, the whole concept of the legality or illegality of being gay and of marrying gay is based on religious doctrine. The only place we find negative commentary on, or injunctions against homosexuality is in the various Holy Books that have come down to us through the ages. It is an easily observable fact that all opposition to and condemnation of homosexuality is based on religious doctrine.
If religious sects wish to ban gay marriage within their own institutions, that is their prerogative, but religious doctrine should not extend beyond the particular religion and its followers. It should not be imposed on members of other faiths or persons of no faith at all. It should not be transformed into civil law simply because it exists as religious doctrine. Turning church teachings into civil law clearly violates the principle of the separation of church and state. For that reason, Proposition 8 clearly violates the letter and the intent of the United States Constitution.
I believe it was clearly the intent of the authors of the Constitution to construct that document in such a way as to insure that the issue we are presently discussing here should never have come up. They never wanted us to have to say to one another, “Don’t force your religious laws on me.”
Furthermore, consider the consequences of setting such a precedent. If we allow this particular religious doctrine to pass into civil law, what’s next? Will it someday be unconstitutional to eat meat on Friday, eat shrimp cocktail, rock Maine lobster or pork chops on any day, or maybe to eat any meat at all? Could it be that someday it may be unconstitutional not to keep a kosher kitchen, or to answer the phone on the Sabbath? Those are matters for the individual religious institutions to deal with in their own way and within their own membership. They should not be made into civil law.
Religion belongs first in the hearts of individuals, not in civil code.