Wednesday, July 1, 2009

So-Called "Oklahoma Citizen's Proclamation for Morality" Is Irresponsiible and Arrogant

The controversial Oklahoma state legislator, Sally Kern, known for her fiery rhetoric against gays and lesbians, her disdain for the separation of church and state, and for her childish attempt to carry a gun into the Oklahoma State Capitol, is again injecting her religious views into politics in a manner that would have disgusted Thomas Jefferson.

Representative Kern and several of her supporters are gathering at the Oklahoma State Capitol to sign the so-called "Oklahoma Citizen's Proclamation for Morality." This document makes the curious assertion that the current economic troubles facing America are the fault of homosexuals, divorcees, people who have children out of wedlock, and (just in case she missed anything) "other forms of debauchery." The document also goes on to say that the hope of the United States "rests upon the principles and morality as put forth in the Holy Bible." It concludes by calling upon God to "grant a national awakening of righteousness and Christian renewal as we repent of our great sin."

This kind of behavior is the purest lunacy, and any politician who indulges in it should be kicked out of office by his or her constituents at the next election.

It was Thomas Jefferson who coined the phrase "a wall of separation between church and state". He, along with James Madison, is the framer of the key concept that government and religion should essentially act as though the other didn't exist. Modern attempts to portray him as a man who would be friendly to the Religious Right (as Rep. Kern attempts to do in this proclamation) would be amusing if so many people didn't actually believe them.

The government has no right, and should have no desire, to pass judgment on purely moral issues. To adopt a phrase from Jefferson, if an action does not "pick my pocket [or] break my leg", it is none of the government's business. Government has no right to interfere in the acts of a citizen if they do not cause harm to another person, so it has no right to pass judgment on the morality of homosexuality, divorce, or children being born out of wedlock.

In the proclamation, Kern also blames President Obama for the economic crisis, not because he has made bad economic policy decision but because he has downplayed his involvement in the National Day of Prayer (he signed a the traditional proclamation, but declined to hold a ceremony). Obama's failing in this was not in doing too little, but in doing too much, for he should not ignored the National Day of Prayer altogether. As Jefferson said, in an 1808 letter to Samuel Miller:

I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines; nor of the religious societies, that the General Government should be invested with the power of affecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting and prayer are religious exercises. The enjoining them, an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises and the objects proper for them according to their particular tenets. . . Everyone must act according to the dictates of his own reason, and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.
If religious groups across the country want to celebrate a National Day of Prayer, they should obviously feel free to do so. But they shouldn't involve the government. It's the government's job to run the post office, not to publicly take sides in religious matters.

Sally Kern and the many political figures who think and act as she does are enemies of 21st Century Jeffersonians. Whenever they get the chance, 21st Century Jeffersonians should contribute to the defeat of these people at the ballot box.

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