The Mormon Church came under attack for their involvement and support of Proposition 8 in the state of California. Prop. 8 was constructed as defining legal marriage between a man and a woman; decidedly a stance against gay marriage. Ironically, the Mormon Church took this stance in defense of marriage between one man and one woman – an issue with other implications historically. If the constitution were fully adhered to, no laws governing marriage would be in place unless a marriage occurred civilly, or outside of a religious ceremony. One could argue that Mormon’s were simply acting, with respect to Proposition 8, in defense of or in “honoring and sustaining the law.” Others say that separation of church and state requires the church to remain silent on the issue.
Under the 14th amendment to the constitution, otherwise known as the equal protection clause, is stated, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” A reading of the first portion of that amendment gives credence to the argument that gays should not be prohibited from marrying. Accordingly then, the Mormon’s should not have been prohibited from practicing polygamy either. However, the amendment must be interpreted in its entirety.
The phrase “without due process of law” allows for the voting process to take place, for a proposition like prop. 8 to be constitutionally valid. Additionally, equal protection does not mean equal rights or unlimited rights. For a society to have truly embraced all constitutional rights, including the 1st and the 14th, the government must be out of defining or restricting marriage entirely. That would mean the abolishment of marriage tax breaks, but would allow people of all persuasions to operate in a valid religious context to marry each other.
Understanding that religious freedom was one of the foundational principles that inspired independence from Great Brittan, the very first right in the Constitutional Bill of Rights states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” This would imply that government would stay out of the operation of a religion, it does not say that religion is to not have a place or opinion on government operation. Many have assumed and interpreted the phrase “separation of church and state” as a practical way of summing the effective way this right is legally applied - I think that phrase is misleading.
Because many religions consider the matter of homosexuality a moral
issue, as well as marriage, due to the fact that the government is
now imposed on marriage, there is no real way to achieve separation of the
An individual cannot embrace a core set of moral and religious beliefs and separate those in public office without offense to those beliefs. It is my theory that the 1st amendment to the constitution was designed simply to not establish a national religion or theocratic form of government – not that religion has no place in society or in governance. The balance is achieved when we as citizens assume and respect the idea that individuals can come from a religious and inherently moral paradigm, and that those ideas, like those of non-religious individuals, can differ. To sever church and state completely is to divide an individual in their loyalties. One cannot place country over God without offending God. Conversely, one cannot place God over country without offending country. Some even see dedication to God over country as a sign of terrorism or treason.