William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Laws That We Disagree With Morally And the Articles of Faith

The question was put:
"If/when the law is changed to allow same-gender marriage, what attitude will you take as a church member with regards to the article of faith that states in part:

'...obey, honor and sustain the law.'

Personally, I will "deal" with it, but I can't honestly say I will honor it. My feelings on it will be an exception to the rule. What about you and do you think I am wrong to think/believe this?"

To which I responded:

The 12th article of faith is a principle, not an absolute rule. Individuals have a moral duty to give deference generally to laws duly enacted by a legitimate government. But we are perfectly at liberty morally to: (1) disagree with the propriety of the law; (2) advocate in a non-violent fashion for a change in the law through petitioning the government; and (3) refuse to comply with any law which unreasonably treads upon our own conscience and requires us to act against it. In extreme circumstances, when by any reasonably objective standard, individual liberty or lives are at stake, and the govnermnent is in effect engaging in oppression and abuses of human rights, even violent protest and revolution can be justified. The American Revolution and the French Revolution are examples of this.

In Joseph Smith's day, when he authored the articles of faith, he did so with the backdrop of mobs questioning Mormons' willingness to be subject to the United States' laws. Doctrine and Covenants Section 134 further elaborates on people's rights to rebel against oppressive regimes.

In the gay marriage context, because I believe the Government should get out of the marriage business altogether and grant civil unions to both heterosexual and homosexual couples, I do not agree with the recent federal district court decision out of San Francisco in which the judge ruled that gays be given the right to have government-sponsored "marriages." I believe the right result would have been to conclude that marriage is a term with a religious context which implicates the conscience and religious doctrines of individuals and religious faiths, and that, although the government has no rational basis to deny gays the right to have civil unions and all of the same rights as heterosexual unions (excepting, perhaps, equal adoption preference), neither does the government have the right to decide which unions are and are not sanctioned by God.

So I would disagree with a law that the state must recognize gay marriage (or heterosexual marriage). But such as law, as far as I can foresee, would not require me to act against my conscience (for instance, I am not an employee of the government required to give the stamp of approval on a homosexual marriage license), and I therefore do not see any conflict in my duty to comply with the 12th article of faith and my personal disagreement with government-sponsored gay marriage.

On a side note, on the question of gay relationships, taking out of the equation the issue of whether they should or should not be called "marriage" by the state, I believe they should be eligible for recognition and protection. My own speculation is that God will sort out the gender issues in the next life, and that for now, although gays should not be eligible for homosexual "marriages" or temple marriages, the Church should nevertheless allow them to have civil unions "for time." I do believe that homosexuality in many instances is inalterable during mortality, and for those individuals, only a cruel and capricious god would torture them with an injunction of absolute celibacy for the duration of mortality. Since I believe in a loving god, I believe that the people, in and out of the church, who claim that God prohibits all homosexual relationships, are simply wrong.

It would be very interesting to have a reliable statistical answer to the following question:

"Among people who believe that there should be government-sponsored heterosexual marriage, but not government-sponsored gay marriage, what percentage believes that homosexual intimacy is sinful in the eyes of God?"

My speculation is that the number would be well over 95%, at least among the Caucasion, Hispanic, African American, and predominantly-Islamic-country immigrant populations (there are probably other cultures which oppose homosexuality more on generalized bigotry grounds rather than religious grounds, such as some Asian cultures and African cultures).

Another interesting statistic would be to know what percentage of Christians, who believe that homosexual intimacy is NOT sinful in the eyes of God, also believe in government-sponsored gay marriage. I think it would be difficult to conclude that the mainstream debate about gay marriage is something other than a religious debate at its core.

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