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Truce in State's Religious Wars

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

The following article first appeared in the May 1, 2005, edition of Grand Junction's Daily Sentinel, under the title, "It's time to call a truce in the state's religious wars."

Colorado's religious wars are heating up, though thankfully the combat remains strictly political. Here are some recent examples, pulled from various regional newspapers:

Grand Junction state Sen. Ron Teck, while arguing against a bill to prohibit employers from discriminating against gay people, said, "I am very uncomfortable when the law is now going to dictate that I and my family may have to accept things that are an abomination in God's eyes." This prompted another senator, Abel Tapia, a Democrat from Pueblo, to reveal that his son is gay. Tapia affirmed he loved his son and added, "So don't be talking about abomination because I don't believe that's true."

Rep. Betty Boyd sponsored a bill to require hospitals to provide information to rape victims about emergency contraception. But Catholic hospitals believe that treatments such as the "morning after" pill are morally wrong. Gov. Bill Owens vetoed the bill, arguing that it "does not protect the right of institutions, founded on deeply held moral and religious values, to decline to provide treatment options that violate those values."

Focus on the Family, a religious organization from Colorado Springs, ran advertisements criticizing various Democrats for defending the filibuster rule, which makes it harder for Republicans in the Senate to confirm Bush-appointed judges. Sen. Ken Salazar, a Catholic, argued in a letter to James Dobson that Focus on the Family was wrong to accuse some senators of "anti-Catholicism."Salazar added, "I understand you are helping lead the effort on a national telecast against Democrats in the United States Senate with Dr. Al Mohler, among others. In March of 2000, Dr. Mohler said 'I believe that the Roman church is a false church and it teaches a false gospel...' My faith is the cornerstone of my values, as I am sure it is with you as well. I call on you to repudiate Dr. Mohler's comments..."

At Everitt Middle School in Jefferson County a guidance counselor led the Pledge of Allegiance, only the counselor changed the phrase "under God" to "under your belief system." Various parents and officials complained and the principal apologized.

We suggest a truce to these hostilities.

Yes, it is true that most of the founders of this nation were religious men, and the First Amendment protects the "free exercise" of religion. It is also true that Thomas Jefferson called for a "wall of separation between church and state," and the First Amendment also prohibits the state "establishment of religion."

How can Coloradans of various faiths, and those of no faith, find common ground? The goal should be to simultaneously protect politics from religion and protect religion from politics.

We believe it is wrong for business owners to discriminate against gay people in hiring. Furthermore, irrational discrimination is bad for business. Those who refuse to hire gays thereby reduce the average competence of their work force and they also invite boycotts, public censure and other social pressures.

At the same time, the Christian Old Testament does call homosexuality (at least for men) an "abomination." (The same passage, Leviticus 20:13, also calls for the death penalty for homosexual acts by men, though Teck didn't mention that part.) Likewise, in Romans, Paul condemns homosexuality. We disagree with these passages, but we're not convinced the state should force people who believe homosexuality is a sin to hire homosexuals. Not hiring somebody just because he or she is gay is stupid, but in such cases stupidity shouldn't be outlawed.

Rape victims should be provided with the best medical care and advice available. It's perfectly understandable if rape victims don't want to bring a pregnancy to term. But why should it be the business of politicians?

If hospitals and doctors believe emergency contraception is wrong, why should they be forced to administer it? True enough, when patients pay for medical services, they deserve complete treatment, so hospitals should at least offer a disclaimer if they don't provide certain information or care. The larger problem is that politicians have strictly limited the provision of emergency contraception, so the answer is to deregulate such medicine so that it's more widely available.

It's pointless for either side to add religion to the filibuster debate.

Concerning religion in schools, parents should be allowed greater freedom in choosing their schools. We understand that religious people don't want secular ideas crammed down their throats. At the same time, the government ought not promote religion. Isn't that a reasonable compromise under which all sides can live and let live?


Linn Armstrong is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son, Ari, edits FreeColorado.com from the Denver area.

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