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May 01, 2009


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Speaking as a homo, I usually assume that I'm going to be discriminated against by churchgoing folk. I have been proved wrong on occasion, and count some devout religious people among my friends, but I tend to regard religious folks I don't know yet as potentially dangerous to me or my well-being. And I think they should have the right to discriminate as much as they like on their own turf- it's what they do.

Joshua James

From an ethical sense, letting a child die from a disease that can easily be cured is most certainly neglect and criminally actionable ... mainly because while an adult is able to make certain choices for themselves (to seek medical help or not) a child is unable to do so ... therefore society steps in.

It's wrong ... I appreciate the children may not feel neglected (and I'd note, the feelings have little to do with it, many abused kids / spouses feel the love) but the reality is that if a kid is left to die, deliberately, that's wrong.

Imagine a child fell into a pool and couldn't swim ... if an adult stood by and just watched them sink, believe it's god's will if the child survives, we'd throw that adult in jail for not doing anything. Even more so if the adult threw them in.

Just my opinion, of course.


I think there's a distinct difference between behavior that's a part of your religious tradition, like a Christian Scientist, and behavior that's a part of your religious beliefs. It may be a fine point, but I do see a difference. In the case of being a Christian Scientist (and PLEASE stop me if I'm off-base), taking medical care would mean you weren't a Christian Scientist. It's part and parcel of the whole thing. In JJ's example, that's not really part of the tradition, if it's a random occurrence. I don't believe in the state prosecuting someone for their religious traditions and beliefs, up to the point of hurting someone. I guess, for me, there the distinction is about someone outside of the religion, how your actions impact someone outside of your religion. If we as a society don't make room for different faiths to act equally, then we're not allowing the freedom of religion. But where it stops for me is that you don't get to impose your religion on someone else. If a friend is visiting a Christian Scientist and they break their leg and the Christian Scientist refuses to call a doctor or even let a doctor be called for their non-Christian Scientist friend, that's actionable. If a Christian Scientist opens a restaurant and someone comes in, buys a meal and starts choking, and the Christian Scientist chef refuses to allow a doctor on the premises to attend, that's actionable. And that's how I see this Garden Grove issue. The Methodists are choosing to enter the public sphere and the rules are different.


The easiest way to fix the whole gay marriage thing is to separate the government from the idea of marriage. We should get civil unions that carry all of the legal privileges that married couples currently enjoy. Everyone who gets "married" would actually get a civil union.

The "marriage" part should be left in the hands of individual religious institutions. Christians don't want to marry two gays? Fine. That's a religious decision because there would be no legal implications to being "married".

In this scenario, you can't just go to a church and get married and enjoy the legal benefits. You'd be getting married in a ceremony that is recognized by the religious institution but not by the government. To get recognized by the government, you'd have to apply as a couple in a civil union.

That's separation of church and state, that fixes the line between infringing on religious beliefs and infringing on personal rights, and that clearly defines what's legal and what's illegal.


The whole "religious freedom will be threatened" argument against gay marriage is a ruse. Religious institutions should be (and ususally are) allowed to discriminate against us homos all they'd like.

Unless of course they're funded in part by the government or receive tax exempt status. The problem with the New Jersey gazebo case you mention is not that a church is having their "freedom of religion" impeded upon, but that said gazebo is state funded in a state where gay marriage is legal. Similarly, the Mormon church is largely responsible for funding Prop 8 in California and is now trying to hide exactly how much money they put into passing their religion based prop in a secular government. Their tax exempt status should go.

The churches can't have it both ways anymore. It's pitiful that these bigots would posture themselves as victims. Churches get more "special rights" than any other group in the United States.


Also: I'm sorry, but have zero respect for people who say their "religious beliefs" tell them discriminaton is okay. Because at least in Christianity, those presumptive beliefs are based on some extremely convenient interpretations of the Bible. So-called fundamentalists love to quote the one and only passage in the Old Testament that bolsters their homophobia, while the same people ignore dozens and dozens of other injunctions that would cramp their style.

Remember, 150 years ago a lot of Americans "believed" that the Bible said enslavement of other cultures was A-OK.


No question about it. You take care of your child's health. I realize that some people think that it's better for their child to maintain religion over health, but that's, well, ridiculous.


As an atheist who believes in everyone's freedom to believe as they wish, I am, however, getting extremely tired of concessions given to people because of what fantasy they subscribe to. Fantasies are fine, but they should be private, and not influence public policy. Whether your particular superstition tells you to love everyone, or to single out specific groups for hate and discrimination, laws should be enacted pragmatically, for the public good, not to placate you. Gay Marriage should and will happen everywhere, because it just makes more sense for everyone to have the same access to these rights. Equality among all people serves a pragmatic end, as well as a moral one. A more just society will be a more peaceful, well-adjusted society. Whether your scripture endorses this belief is beside the point. Your scripture doesn't mention television, video games, bubble gum, Diet Coke, or "Mega Millions" Lotto, but--guess what--they're here to stay.

And as for Christian Scientists endangering the health and lives of their children? Your ass goes to directly to jail! Religious belief is not and never should be a justification to hurt another human being.


OK, Isaac--you're starting to think like a lawyer! (Not necessarily a good thing, of course.)

Legally, the question is not "Should religious exemptions protect child neglect and.or abuse?" The first question is, "Does refusing to vaccinate your child against mumps child constitute child abuse?" Assuming the answer is "yes," the second question is, "If so, does the Constitution prohibit the legislature from enacting a law forcing everyone to get their child vaccinated?"

The commenters here address the issues involved, whether child abuse or SSM, in terms of what they think the law OUGHT to be. But those are arguments to be directed at the legislature. That's where proponents of different points of view go to slog it out. It's called politics.

Courts are there for different purposes, like interpreting laws (what did the legislature mean by the term "child abuse" when it enacted a law prohibiting it) and deciding whether the Constitution invalidates certain laws, regardless of whether they are smart laws or dumb ones.

Also, remember that the legislature can devise sneaky ways to get done what it can't do directly. Like--your state doesn't have to set the speed limit for driving at any particular level. BUT if they set it higher than the recommended federal limit, then they don't get federal tax dollars for highway funding. Universities and colleges don't have to allow military recruiters on campus. But, if they don't, they lose their federal funding. And parents won't be forced to vaccinate their children--but they can't enroll them in public schools if they don't.

A huge tactical issue for proponents of SSM is deciding whether to try to work through the legislature or through the courts. In particular, by seeking to have the federal courts declare SSM a constitutional right, one risks having them declare it is NOT--thus freeing up the states to do whatever they want, which might encourge conservative states to enact anti-SSM laws that are then hard to overturn. The political questions are as hard to answer as the legal ones.


Some facts re vaccinations and exemptions:

"While all 50 U.S. states have school-entry requirements for vaccines, 48 allow exemptions for religious reasons (West Virginia and Mississippi are the only exceptions) and 20 allow for philosophical objections. All states also include exemptions for medical reasons, such as an allergy to a vaccine component. While private schools are not directly subject to these requirements, most choose to require a similar vaccination schedule as their state’s public schools. Only North Carolina requires vaccination of home-schooled children.

While parents face no legal penalty for refusing to vaccinate their children, they may be liable in civil court if their child infects another. The exemption process differs from state to state."


I would not have guessed that West Virginia and Mississippi would be states without a religious exemption.


Here's a brain-twister: Suppose a person has drug-resistant tuberculosis. As a matter of social policy, should he be quarantined? What if the disease cannot be eradicated--does he have to be quarantined for the rest of his life? And, if that's the correct answer from the standpoint of public health, does law allowing life-long quarantine conflict with other laws already on the books (for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act--is this person being discriminated against because he had a disability?) If any conflict with existing laws can be reconciled, does the Constitution allow us to lock up a person for life who has commited no crime, just because he had the bad luck to get a communicable, life-threatening disease? Would you feel differently about it if the disease were AIDS?

There's huge temptation, when confronted with issues like this one, and like SSM, to avoid intellectual problems by assuming away any merit to the other side's position. (For example, saying "the views of atheists don't count" or "the views of religious people don't count.")But that can be intellectually dishonest. We sometimes have to face up to the face that valid moral principles conflict yet choices must be made.

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