The good news is that Alabama’s chief justice Roy Moore is suspended. The suspension comes after Moore ordered probate judges to refuse marriage licenses to same sex couples. The bad news is that Moore’s suspension will likely trigger many misleading claims about the law and role of Christianity in our society.
Let’s start with the obvious: Moore’s defiance of the federal law fails to uphold the law. The Supreme Court ruled that states must recognize marriages without discriminating based on sex. The Supreme Court based its ruling on the Constitution which is the highest law of the United States. And our Constitution demands equality under the law offering some protection from arbitrary discrimination. Moore lacks the legal authority for his order.
A similar situation has already come through the courts. Bob Jones University had a discriminatory policy forbidding interracial dating and marriage. When threatened with the loss of tax exempt status, the University attempted to excuse the racially discriminatory policy with verses from The Bible. In spite of the religious excuse, the Supreme Court held that Bob Jones University could lose the privilege of its tax exempt status. Ending the harm of discrimination outweighed the religious freedom claim. Religious freedom is not a permission to break laws, to interfere in the lives of others, or to practice discrimination.
It may be shocking to see The Bible used as an excuse for racist interference in the relationships. But throughout history, The Bible has been cited as support for many conflicting positions. In contrast to Moore, there are people who would use The Bible as a reason to be in a relationship or to perform marriages for same sex couples. The conflicts suggest that things taken from The Bible are more debatable than people would like to admit.
It’s harder to debate the principle that we should avoid unnecessary harm. It’s unlikely that someone would agree to being on the receiving end of unnecessary harm. But when people discriminate on the basis of race and sex in marriage licensing, unnecessary harm is the result. People are put down without good reason. It’s an injustice. Suspending Roy Moore not only helps to uphold our laws but keeps Moore’s bigotry from causing unnecessary harm and injustice.
Humanists support the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Those rights depend on a willingness to respect the dignity of all and to act “in a spirit of brotherhood.” We remain committed to the “well being of all” and “respect those of differing yet humane views.”
More information about Roy Moore’s suspension is available here:
Featured image via Ted Eytan / Flickr
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