November 16th, 2011
Now I know that here at BTB we have readers from diverse places and a wide variety of beliefs. Some, like me, have a belief system that includes the divine while others are skeptical or dismissive about claims of supernatural beings that cannot be substantiated. From orthodoxy to atheism to skepticism and uncertainty, BTB accepts us all.
But let’s try a thought experiment. Let’s all suppose that there is one god, and that his name is “Fred”. (Fred either has six arms or two and is either inordinately fond of fried chicken livers or finds chicken repulsive – depending on which Order of Fred you ask. The ascetic monks of Outer Urboo even claim that Fred has tentacles and flies. But none of that is material to our story.)
We also assume that Fred is omniscient and that he has established a code of behavior. And, for sake of our experiment, let’s assume that within that code, Fred highlights ten specific things that humans are forbidden to do. And finally, let’s agree that in this hypothetical situation, that one of the ten forbidden behaviors is “bearing false witness”.
To be clear: often for simplicity’s sake, people talk about deities banning lying. But Fred is very specific. He forbids any instances in which you present yourself to others as a witness about a matter (as one who has information that others lack) and then give testimony about that matter that is false or intended to deceive. That is a really big no-no in Fred’s book.
With me so far?
Okay, now – within that context – consider a hypothetical email message sent out by Fred’s Followers in response to the effort to repeal the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (which prohibits the Federal Government from recognizing same sex marriages). They warn their readers, as FF tracks such things and are better informed, of what the consequences would be of this bill passing. They are, in the words of our deity, “bearing witness” about the bill.
The repercussions are enormous:
- States laws protecting marriage as between “one man, one woman” will become null and void – including the 31 states who have voted on constitutional amendments.
- The military will be thrown into complete chaos and disarray, as Department of Defense leaders try to figure out housing, benefits, and “same-sex spouse” sensitivity training regimens.
- Churches will come under fire from radical homosexual activists. Ministers and churches will be sued for “religious discrimination” for refusing to perform or allow gay “marriages.”
- Public schools will be forced to indoctrinate our children, teaching them that homosexual marriage is both natural and acceptable.
Let’s take a quick look at these claims to see if Fred would approve. The relevant language from S 598 is as follows:
Sec. 7. Marriage
(a) For the purposes of any Federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual’s marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State.
So how do the claims of Fred’s Followers match up to reality? How did FF do?
Claim 1. As we can see, nothing in S 598 addresses state laws at all. Not only are they not made “null and void”, they aren’t even up for consideration.
This bill only would define the federal government’s rules of recognition and further would actually recognize and honor the restrictions on marriage imposed by those 31 states. While a soldier in Alabama might have her marriage recognized on base, it must have been conducted in one of the states in which she could marry and there’s no requirement that the Fred-fearing people of Alabama not point at her and scream “single, single, single brazen hussy of the leeeeesbian variety” if they so choose.
Now it is possible, even likely, that the various state DOMA amendments will be found by the United States Supreme Court to be in violation of the US Constitution. But until such time as the Supreme Court steps in and reminds the states that “any person” does not have an asterisk, states will be free to continue to be as exclusionary and unfair as AFA’s readers wish them to be.
Conclusion: claim 1 has no truth whatsoever.
Claim 2. Currently the Department of Defense leaders are experiencing a small amount of disarray as they try and comply with the provisions of DOMA that prohibit them from treating gay service personnel the same as straight personnel. Like most employers, they would prefer to just have one set of rules that apply to everyone.
But recent efforts to simplify (e.g. applying chaplain marriage structure equally) resulted in outcry from folks like Fred’s Followers and congressional meddling and a lot of back-peddling to please those who do not wish for gay people to be accorded the same rights and privileges as heterosexuals. And Defense officials are still not entirely certain how to apply (or, actually, deny) benefits for gay soldiers. Ironically, rather than throw them into disarray, it would be a tremendous relief for the military if DOMA to no longer intruded into their obsession for procedure and order and equal application of rules.
Conclusion: not only is claim 2 false, the opposite is true.
Claim 3. This claim is deceptive in its wording and deliberately so.
The US Constitution provides churches with the freedom to conduct such rites as they choose and to set whatever parameters they like for refusal. That is not in question. So FF says that churches will be “under fire”. And, indeed, they will. From their own members.
Gay and Lesbian and equality-loving heterosexual Presbyterians will pressure the Presbyterian Church (USA) to allow clergy to conduct same-sex weddings and to establish standard language by which to do so. But that has nothing at all to do with S 598. They are already doing so. In denomination after denomination and congregation after congregation, churches are seeking wisdom and discernment over how same-sex attracted congregants fit into the body of faith and “radical activists” of all inclinations are telling their stories and sharing their insight.
And the idea of gay couples suing churches over “religious discrimination” is so obviously false as to be laughable. The whole point of denominational autonomy – and surely there is no one who does not acknowledge that the First Amendment protects denominational autonomy – is to discriminate between rites, beliefs, and practices. The Church of Fred has no obligation to provide a venue for marriage ceremonies to anyone and the Fredite priests have no obligation to perform them. And nothing in that will change with S 598.
Conclusion: claim 3 has no kernel of truth whatsoever.
Claim 4. This one is similar to Claim 1. Schools and their curriculum are under state and local control; nothing in S 598 will or could force public schools to teach anything at all about marriage – gay, straight, natural, acceptable, or in accordance with the Ancient and Most Holy Broom-Jumping, Hora Dancing, Egg Stomping, Henna Painting, Dowry Gifting Rites of Connubial Bliss established by the Good and Gracious Fred, himself.
Conclusion: not only is claim 4 a flat out lie, it’s a rather obvious one as well.
Fred’s followers may be fools who lack the intellectual capability of distinguishing between an apple and a pineapple. They may be so mind-numbingly stupid, so tragically impeded, or so hopped up on Delphic vapors that they actually believe what they wrote.
And Fred, being gracious, just might look at his followers sadly and wonder, “how did I end up as the god of a bunch of idiots?” Perhaps their simple-mindedness would incline Fred towards mercy. And being fictional, after all, Fred’s Followers aren’t hurting anyone.
But, as I’m sure you guessed, this story isn’t really fiction. And the American Family Association, the real organization who crafted the above email and sent it out to all of those on their email list, is hurting people. And they are not fools. The AFA knew that they were disseminating false witness. Those who receive and respond to an AFA Action Alert may be so divorced from the law and how it works that they could believe that S 598 will result in their pastors being sued or the Military devolving into chaos, but the Wildmon family and their employees are not.
So this raises a most peculiar conundrum.
The American Family Association claims that they believe in a deity. They state that they believe in God and promote virtue by upholding in culture that which is right, true and good. The god they talk about is a holy and righteous god that cannot abide sin. Their god has provided forgiveness but he also demands repentance and change. Their god intends to throw all liars into a lake of eternal punishment for willfully breaking his commandments.
And yet the American Family Association has borne false – blatantly, inarguably, false – witness. Again.
So how can this be? If the God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked, then how can you, one of his followers, flagrantly and repeatedly defy a commandment so important to God that it made it into his top ten list?
If Don and Tim Wildmon and the others who pay their bills though anti-gay activism at the American Family Association believe in the god they preach, why then don’t they fall on their knees in fear and trembling and beg their god for mercy? Why don’t they dedicate their remaining days to recanting their lies and healing the damage they have caused?
Because they don’t believe. They couldn’t. And that’s their biggest lie of all.
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