According to Tony Perkins, who says condom use leads to tyranny, the First Amendment is situational and therefore relativistic. In accordance with recent Religious Right thinking on the subject, it was written by the Founding Fathers to apply only to Christians, and not only that, but to Orthodox Christians. You know, the brand of Christianity that ruthlessly exterminated not only every alternative to Christianity, but every alternative to orthodoxy from within Christianity.
As reported by Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch, Perkins “implied…that Christians who support gay rights don’t have the same religious rights as conservative Christians because ‘true religious freedom’ only applies to ‘orthodox religious viewpoints.'”
Well, that leaves you out, Tony.
Let’s take another look at the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Nope, Tony. In fact, it says exactly the opposite of what you claim: “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” eliminates rather nicely any idea that certain religions (Christianity is not even specifically mentioned) have more rights than others.
Perkins told a caller on Monday’s Washington Watch:
I would use that term ‘Christian’ loosely. That title is — let’s talk biblical, here’s the deal, it’s like with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that we worked on in Mississippi and failed in Arizona and other places, here’s a test of what is a true religious freedom, a freedom that’s based on orthodox religious viewpoints. It has to have a track record, it has to come forth from religious orthodoxy.
Maybe Perkins knows about some “true religious freedoms” the rest of us have never heard of, but regardless, the only “true religious freedoms” come from the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Constitution says Tony Perkins is dead wrong.
The thing is, the so-called Christianity espoused by the Religious Right is a heresy, according to Christianity’s own terminology, and is about as far from orthodoxy as you can get, lacking, as it does, any real place for Jesus’ actual teachings, which are ignored in favor of Old Testament fire and brimstone, and then only selectively.
The only aspect of orthodoxy the Religious Right really rocks is the relentless pursuit of intolerance of all other viewpoints. Christianity’s 2000 year history is one of warring denominations but nobody did it better than orthodoxy. And we can imagine today that were it not for the First Amendment, orthodoxy would have suffocated the Religious Right in its metaphorical cradle and old Tony would have been crisping at the stake long since.
Perkins went on to claim:
You cannot point to the Christian faith and say that same-sex marriage has been a key teaching of the church. You can only point to the opposite, that the church has stood against sexual immorality in terms of sexual relations of those outside of marriage and in particular homosexual behavior. There is no place, there is nothing for them to stand on and say that same-sex marriage has standing in the orthodox Christian faith.
They’re playing games here, trying to turn the effort that so many Americans are now faced with of preserving religious freedom, they’re now trying to do a jujitsu move and say, ‘We’re going to use religious freedom to say we have a right to do same-sex marriage.’ Well, there is no foundation for that, there is no orthodox Christian holding that has ever said marriage is between people of the same sex.
All that’s between Christians. The government, according to the First Amendment, can have nothing to do with doctrinal squabbles. In fact, that is one of the things the First Amendment was meant to prohibit, because of the long history of Old World abuses.
In the end, it’s hard not to picture Jesus just laughing, because Jesus was a Jew, and he did not preach to Gentiles. He told his disciples not to teach to Gentiles, referring to Gentiles like Tony Perkins, in time honored conservative Jewish fashion, as dogs and swine.
Unfortunately, given that Perkins is trying to push his viewpoint on the rest of us, and that he has widespread support in the Republican Party for this position, it is no laughing matter. Perkins, as Tashman says, seems to positioning himself as the “final arbiter” of what defines Christianity. That’s fine, as long as lunatic Republicans don’t try to make it a legal definition. After all, various Christians groups have been playing THAT game for 2000 years.
The thing is, as you know very well, they will try. It’s not much of a step from saying the Constitution’s ban on religious tests (Article VI paragraph 3) is meaningless to saying that not only do you have to be a Christian to hold office, but you have to be the right kind of Christian.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.