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Church and State

By Sheila Suess Kennedy on January 21, 2014 in Civic Blog
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Here in Indiana, we’re used to religious warfare. We aren’t called the buckle of the bible belt for nothing.

Those battles generally pit people who understand religious liberty to require state neutrality in matters of belief against folks who want government to make everyone live in accordance with the “correct” beliefs (which just happen to be theirs).

That, in a nutshell (no pun intended) is what the current fight about HJR 3 is all about. Proponents can pontificate all they want about what’s best for children or society, but opposition to same-sex marriage (and the desire to send a message to GLBT folks that they really aren’t welcome here) is entirely based upon religious dogma.

Given the visibility and mean-spiritedness of so many self-identified “Godly” people, we sometimes forget that plenty of religious believers “get it.” They not only understand their God to require love and inclusion, but they also–importantly–recognize the threat to authentic belief posed by those who would use government to impose their doctrines on others.

religious-group-400x252Matt Boulton is President of Christian Theological Seminary. He testified at the legislative hearing against HJR 3, and although he made many other good points, his compelling closing observation deserves to be widely shared:

Now, my position as president of CTS puts me in relationship with a dazzling variety of Indiana religions and denominations and congregations and theological points of view.  Indeed, questions of human sexuality are matters of passionate debate within Christian circles; we have a good dose of that diversity at CTS.

You’ll hear later today from the other side that civil unions would threaten the “traditional view of marriage” allegedly demanded by Christian faith, and so on.  I respect that perspective, even as I disagree with it.  But here’s the point I want to underline:  despite what those on the other side may say, there is no one Christian view of HJR-3.  Many Christians, even those who disagree on the underlying human sexuality issues, oppose HJR-3 because their Christian faith calls them to be open, hospitable, fair, and loving toward their neighbors.  And the role of the State, we respectfully suggest, is not to take sides in this theological debate, much less enshrine one side or the other in the Indiana state constitution.  Rather, the State’s role is to respect the religious diversity of our community on this question, and to allow freedom of religion – faith’s freedom – to flourish in Indiana by setting aside HJR-3 once and for all. (Emphasis supplied)

And let us all say, “Amen.”

Sheila Suess Kennedy, J.D. is Director of the Center for Civic Literacy and Professor of Law and Public Policy in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis. Her scholarly publications include six books and numerous law review and journal articles. Professor Kennedy is a columnist for the Indianapolis Business Journal and a frequent lecturer, public speaker and contributor to popular periodicals. This post was originally published at sheilakennedy.net on January 18, 2014 and is republished here with the author’s permission.

Image Credit: NUVO

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