A few quick news notes for you on this Wednesday. About That Wall of Separation: This election cycle in the United States has brought forward an old argument, is there a “wall of separation” between religion (“church”) and our government (“state”)? While many argue that the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution decreeing that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”, and years of subsequent legal precedent, make such a separation very plain, certain factions of Christian conservatives claim that the Establishment Clause was only meant to prevent denominational favoritism among Christians, and that ours is a Christian country. This division in understandings was in full display in a recent debate between Delaware Senate candidates Christine O’Donnell (who has gotten too much coverage from me already) and Chris Coons. In a debate at the Widener University Law School, Ms. O’Donnell interrupted her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons, as he argued that the Constitution does not allow public schools to teach religious doctrine. “Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” Ms. O’Donnell asked him, according to audio posted on the Web site of WDEL 1150 AM radio, which co-sponsored the debate. The audience at the law school can be heard breaking out in laughter. But Ms. O’Donnell refuses to be dissuaded and pushes forward. “Let me just clarify,” she says.
Today is Columbus Day , which marks the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas. While often seen and celebrated as a day for Italian-American or Catholic pride, for several years it has been protested and criticized by indigenous peoples as glorifying a man who triggered genocide, the slave trade, and committed numerous atrocities (which were so horrific that even the Spanish government were moved to arrest him and extradite him for trial).
One of Columbus’ men, Bartolome De Las Casas, was so mortified by Columbus’ brutal atrocities against the native peoples, that he quit working for Columbus and became a Catholic priest. He described how the Spaniards under Columbus’ command cut off the legs of children who ran from them, to test the sharpness of their blades. According to De Las Casas, the men made bets as to who, with one sweep of his sword, could cut a person in half.
As the increasingly grim and tragic suicide numbers continue to climb, as children suspected of being gay have their arms broken, and upstanding gay college students are bizarrely singled out by city officials, we inevitably have to ask, again, where is all this hate and fear coming from? Why do we have to start a campaign to remind young people that there will come a time when the hell and torments of their youth will end? Why is our culture killing these kids? Baptist minister Cody J. Sanders thinks he has the answer, the root of this hateful and tragic crop. “Anti-gay bullying is a theological issue because it has a theological base.
On Wednesday, California District Court judge Vaughn R. Walker issued a ruling that overturned California’s Proposition 8, which prohibited same-sex marriages within the state. Reaction from across the political and religious spectrum was swift, and many are seeing this as just a first step in a battle that’s heading straight for the United States Supreme Court. Modern Pagan faiths, many of which acknowledge and solemnize same-sex marriage rites, have been on the front lines of these battles. Indeed, while mainstream coverage over same-sex marriage has largely focused on various Christian attitudes, Pagan clergy from a number of different faiths and traditions have been performing same-sex rites across the United States, and in the case of Kathryn and Jeani Kyair, were themselves legally married in California before Prop. 8 won passage in 2008.
In light of today’s groundbreaking ruling from Judge Vaughn Walker overturning California’s Prop. 8, which banned same-sex marriage, I’m putting together a lengthy piece highlighting reactions from Pagan organizations, Pagan clergy, and Pagan same-sex couples living in California. I’m hoping to have that finished and up by Friday. In the meantime, consider this an open thread on the issue. You may also want to peruse some of The Wild Hunt’s past coverage concerning modern Paganism and the fight over legalizing same-sex marriage.