2016-04-20 / Editorial


Michael N. Searles

In an earlier article, we were reminded of the dangers of walking into dark cellars where monsters lurk, even when it’s tempting to do so. The state’s takeover of failing schools is but one of the issues that will likely have us acting in haste and repenting at leisure. There are many opportunities to seek solutions for non-existent or manufactured problems. How many Jewish Rabbis have been required by law to marry Christians? How many Muslim Imams have been required by law to marry a non-Muslim? How many Christian ministers have been required by law to marry anyone? Churches and ministers determine who they will marry for various reasons. Some churches/ministers will not marry divorced persons, some churches/ministers will not marry people who are living together, some churches will not marry persons of different races, some churches/ministers will not marry persons they deem unready for marriage, and some churches/ministers will not marry individuals of different faiths. These denials occur daily and couples desiring to marry either find another church/minister willing to conduct the nuptials or they elect a civil marriage. No state in the United States has ever ordered or required a church or minister to conduct a marriage. Yet the fear is raging across the land that ministers will be forced to do what no minister or church has ever been forced to do - marry someone. In Louisiana, the legislation is called the Pastor Protection Act and in Georgia it is referred to as the Religious Liberty bill. The legislation was so popular that just 10 of 157 Georgia Republican lawmakers voted against it. It’s interesting that ten Representatives refused to pander to popular sentiment and fear. Those who voted for the bill could go back to their districts triumphant that they had stood up for religious liberty. The bill prompted a threat from the NFL, technology firms, the Walt Disney Company, and Marvel Studios to take their business elsewhere if the legislation was signed into law. The result could cost Georgia millions of dollars with even greater financial and business losses looming. Governor Deal argued that the First Amendment gave all the protection needed for religious liberty and vetoed the legislation. Apparently, some political and religious leaders believe that the First Amendment is not strong enough.

In a state where you cannot force a Baptist minister to marry a heterosexual Baptist couple, there is the great fear that you can make that minister marry a gay couple. Would the minster who would not marry a heterosexual Baptist couple be sued or imprisoned for refusing to marry a gay couple? Where has reason gone? When fear and reason are sown together, fear sprouts up like kudzu. There is a growing concern that Sharia Law will be introduced into federal courts. Sharia law is an Islamic legal system that many have argued does not reflect U. S. legal principles or beliefs. The fear is that Muslims are trying to introduce Sharia law into the American legal system. North Carolina along with Oklahoma, Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Tennessee already have passed “foreign laws” bills to keep this from happening. The citizens of those states can sleep soundly with the knowledge that no one in the state will ever be judged under Sharia Law. Maybe it’s part of human nature to set aside a group to fear or hate.

In seventeenth century New England, the fear was witches. In the nineteenth century, the fear was slaves, in the 1840s the fear was Catholics, from 1920 to 1950 the fear was communists, and most recently the fear is Islam. In October 2014, House and Senate candidates ran over 700 ads citing the threat of Ebola. While there were only four cases of Ebola in the United States and one fatality, 39 percent of Americans believed that there would be a large-scale Ebola epidemic, and 25 percent believed that someone in their immediate family would get it. Seizing on fears and using them to make money, gain popularity or win political office still seems to be a winning strategy.

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