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Hello everyone; Dave here. I was considering writing a book review of Guy P. Harrison’s “50 Reasons People Give For Believing in a God” for today’s post, but I haven’t quite finished digesting it yet, so I’m going to save that for my Saturday update. Today, I want to talk about something a little more topical: Why it’s important to advocate for separation of church & state. This is not a concern reserved for atheists, although in my experience it’s atheists & secular people who are the most vocal about this. It’s also not a concern reserved for Americans, and that’s really the purpose of my entry today.
Maggie wrote a great article earlier in the week about the Establishment Clause of the Constitution of the United States. In it, she called the Establishment Clause “the bane of the religious right’s existence.” By religious right, I’m sure she was referring to the Christian right; there are Muslim and other fundamentalists in this country, too. I’d venture a guess that fundamentalist Muslims in the USA, being so few in number (nota bene: PDF link), are probably grateful that the Establishment Clause exists, because if it didn’t, they would be persecuted just as much as atheists and other minority groups.
You may have heard about the proposed legislation in Uganda, Africa that would make homosexuality a capital crime. That’s right; statute was proposed by lawmakers that would make execution the penalty for homosexuality. It is already illegal to be homosexual in Uganda, but the death sentence is another matter entirely. I would like to point out that Uganda is about 0.9% atheist (2002 figures, the most recent available). The justification for this is ostensibly AIDS-related, but a careful reading of the bill makes it clear that public health is not the real reason: Aside for the crime of having homosexual sex if one is HIV-positive, the bill also extends the death penalty to “repeat offenders” of homosexual behavior in general (recall that homosexuality is illegal there, as it is in much of Africa; in other words, the death penalty would apply to people who have been convicted of having homosexual sex more than once, HIV-positive or not), and also to people who engage in homosexual behavior who are under 18 years old. There is also wording that extends these crimes, if you are a citizen of Uganda, to other lands – in other words, you can be extradited to Uganda if you have homosexual sex somewhere else, too, and then convicted and executed there. The motivations here are clearly not for the protection of Ugandans’ health, and I’m certain that it’s no coincidence that this is taking place in one of the most fundamentalist, religious countries in the entire world.
We, as peope, have bigger problems than consensual intercourse between healthy adults of the same sex. I do agree that it should be a crime to have sex without informing your partner of your diagnosis beforehand if you are HIV-positive, as a matter of public health (that is the law here in the USA), but it is no business of any government’s whether two consenting, healthy adults are the same biological sex or not. This doesn’t even count as a “victimless crime” – it’s truly no crime at all. If a government is worried about HIV transmission, it should focus on sex education, testing availability, etc. The only possible justification for this proposal is a religious one, and that is frankly bigoted and backward. We, as educated, compassionate people in the 21st century, should not tolerate this kind of thinking, let alone laws based on it.
Homosexuality isn’t the only reason church & state should be kept separate, but that’s all I have time for tonight. More to come!