As a Christian pastor, I am guided by the teachings of Jesus that call me first and foremost to love. I stand with my friends of multiple religious traditions who have different deeply held beliefs, but who carry a common vision for our humanity, and our commitment as Americans: our laws should assure all are treated equally under the law.
Our religious doctrines should never be used to harm, discriminate, or limit a person’s fundamental freedom. This is a commitment grounded in both our faith and our shared humanity.
The role of the U.S. Supreme Court is to uphold our constitutional freedoms, not to impose any religious view onto others. This principle is currently under threat with the nomination of a person who has a long record that illustrates a willingness to impose her religious beliefs through legal rulings.
Five years ago, the landmark civil rights case of Obergefell v. Hodges decided a question that has long vexed our great nation. Do two loving and committed people who happen to be of the same gender have the right to be married under the law, with all the rights and responsibilities that accompany that sacred and legal covenant?
The answer, said a 5-4 majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, was yes: all people have basic rights to due process and equal protection before the law, and those rights allow all Americans to marry the person they choose — and have that contract honored throughout this country.
This decision affirmed rights that Americans sought with the same keen sense of justice and morality that guided the movement for racial equality 70 years ago.
The rights upheld in the Obergefell decision count for every one of us, just as equality of every person before the law ultimately is a benefit to all people whether they have personally experienced prejudicial discrimination or not.
The wisdom of this 2015 decision is consistent with both doctrine and the law, and is ready to stand the test of time alongside many other landmark decisions enshrining and defining essential human rights in the modern era like Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia — the similarly landmark decision that struck down laws against interracial marriage.
But will it survive the appointment of another activist conservative Supreme Court Justice? Reversal of the Obergefell decision is the official platform of the Republican Party, and just this month two conservative justices expressed their desire to overturn the decision.
Throughout history, oppressed people have been forced to overcome majority presumptions about their lives, their role in society, and whether their contributions to the common good outweighed their “different-ness.” Equality before the law means pushing past our personal comfort zone to understand the common struggles faced by all people.
Struggles to overcome racial inequality, patriarchal discrimination that has held back women from achieving their potential, and the fight for marriage equality for LGBTQ Americans all share the same underlying basis: humanity created equal, seeking dignity and acceptance within the society they were born into.
Old Testament laws handed down to the children of Israel reinforced social cohesion appropriate for the Israelites. Christ’s New Covenant of redemption for all people allowed for the export of a Gospel of peace and brotherhood across the globe.
But in the name of God and of Christ the Redeemer, unfortunately, many forms of injustice were promulgated along with our faith — a complicated legacy that honest Christians continue to reckon with even today.
What we know from the history of Christianity is that men cannot presume to know the mind of God, and those who invoke their faith to justify any form of oppression have forsaken the essential point of Christ’s teachings.
In 1 Corinthians 12:13, the Apostle Paul wrote that “we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”
The inclusionary truth of these words has guided our nation at our very best: from ending slavery to extending the voting rights to every American regardless of race, creed or gender. Marriage equality validates another great truth from 1 Corinthians, 13:13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
In this moment, when we are faced with a pandemic and a deeply divisive political climate, we must not allow someone to be nominated to the Supreme Court who has a long history of allowing religious freedom to be used as a justification to allow discrimination and harm.
This goes against everything we believe as Americans who are people of faith, committed to the principles of freedom and equality for all.
Rev. Amanda Henderson is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister and the executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, an organization with Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and other members promoting justice, religious liberty and interfaith understanding in order to educate, advocate and catalyze social change.
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