Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Spartanburg’s Pride Proclamation

The on-line edition of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal called GoUpstate had an editorial yesterday that I felt was wrong. The editorial argued that a mayor’s proclamation was a violation of freedom of religion.
White's proclamation shows uneven nature of morality debate
Published: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 3:15 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 6:38 p.m.

This nation and community are having a very one-sided discussion on the merits of religious faith in the public arena.

The truth is that every moral debate is at heart about religious faith. That faith dictates our sense of moral absolutes or our disbelief in any absolutes. That faith determines the moral authority we look to for our sense of right and wrong.

For instance, someone who believes in God may look to Scripture for the definition of right and wrong, while an atheist may have no higher moral authority than his own thoughts and sense of reason. But every moral position is at heart a matter of religious faith of some kind.
I object to the author’s saying that only faith determines “moral authority” and that atheist do not have a higher authority. I believe that our “moral authority” in each and every one of us comes from our parents, our community that we live in and our culture, which may included our religious beliefs. However, to say that only a religious person is moral is presumptuous.
For instance, Spartanburg Mayor Junie White has issued a proclamation on behalf of the city of Spartanburg, declaring June 19 to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Day.

The debate over sexual issues is fundamentally a moral and therefore religious one. Some people follow the Jewish and Christian Scriptures and see that authority as prohibiting homosexuality. Others adhere to a different moral authority that allows homosexuality.

If a mayor who believed the scriptural admonitions against homosexuality had issued a proclamation condemning the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Day, he would be vilified by all those who support White's decision. They would cry that this mayor is forcing his religious beliefs on everyone in the city. And they would be right.
I agree with part of the author’s argument in that there would be an outcry if the mayor issued a proclamation against the Pride day. I would say that the issuing of a proclamation depends upon if the mayor has issued other proclamations in the past for other organizations like Black History Month, Puerto Rican Day, St. Patrick’s Day (which celebrates the Protestants being driven out of Ireland) or Columbus Day. That if he has, then recognizing Pride Day is nothing more then recognizing another organization’s or ethnic day and does not show any particular bias. However, conversely if he wrote a proclamation against Pride Day and he has never done that to any other organization or ethnic group, then I would say that it showed bias against Pride Day.

In addition, other people follow the Jewish and Christian Scriptures and see that authority as accepting of all God’s people including homosexual. Are their beliefs no less important then the religious views of those who are intolerant? Further more, it presupposes that people who are LGBT are not religious and cannot be Christians or Jewish which is impertinent.
Why is this tolerated from one side when it would never be tolerated by the other? Why is one set of groups told that their religious beliefs have no place in the public arena, no business informing public policy or social evolution, but other groups are encouraged to bring their moral senses into the debate?
I think the whole idea of Pride Day is a celebration by people including people who have a different religious view about LGBT individuals. LGBT people have just as much right to have a day of celebration as any other community and if the mayor issues a proclamation for those group, he should be able to issue a proclamation for Pride Day
It [tolerated from one side] probably comes from the fallacy that moral views informed by a traditional religious faith are somehow less valid than moral views stemming from a lack of faith or a less traditional faith. In particular, if Scripture is treasured as the word of God and moral authority resides in that word, our social conventions dictate that this moral sense is personal, should be kept under wraps and has no business in public. But if moral absolutes are held only in personal thought, if someone recognizes no moral authority higher than his own mind, then that moral perspective is deemed to be nonreligious and is valued in the public arena.
Again I ask, why does the author only believe all people of “traditional religious faith” oppose homosexuality? There are other people of “traditional religious faith” that are inclusive, their religious beliefs are just as valid. Religious views should not be brought into this debate, the proclamation makes no mention of people’s religious beliefs, and the proclamation is only a celebration of a culture.

The author sees this as a religious issue; I see it as a culture issue, just as Puerto Rican Day, St. Patrick’s Day or Columbus Day are issued proclamation so should Pride Day be issues a proclamation.

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