I'll be the first to admit that I have a long and messy history with organized religion. Having been chased out of the Southern Pentecostal church I grew up in for at first asking too many questions, then for coming out, I have a few issues to say the least.
That being said, I also have respect for those that do work to build bridges within faith communities. I was moved by my dinner and long conversations with Bishop Gene Robinson. I have met and bonded with LGBT mormons, open-minded Christians, and other spiritual people.
I appreciate their beliefs and would fight to defend their right to have them. Yet I'm also a fierce advocate for the separation of church and state. Personal beliefs are just that- personal.
So my struggle comes with new laser-like focus on reaching out to faith voters to accomplish our political goals. When we come to them on their terms, are we really weakening ourselves in the future?
It was rather amazing to meet and get to know all the diverse people of faith in our community at the Creating Change Conference. Beyond a doubt, they are doing important work by changing hearts and minds by working within their own religious communities.
But this ramped up effort to go into churches to get them to vote for us, rather than bring them into the public debate outside of their religious beliefs, has me concerned. By reaffirming the idea that their personal religious views trump basic human and civil rights (and I'm not speaking just about marriage, but housing, employment, and other protections), we further blur the already thin line between church and government.
I know that after the defeats at the ballot box (Prop 8 in California, Amendment 2 in Florida, Arizona's 102, and the Arkansas Adoption Ban), we are looking at how to best move forward and again gain momentum. And these defeats were all at the hands of organized religious establishments- the Mormon Church, the Catholic Church, Baptists, even Focus on the Family. How do we defeat them the next round if we are reaffirming their rightful place in the civic political process?
Shouldn't we instead be trying to separate the freedom to have personal religious views from tyranny at the ballot box? Is that even possible?
I have no answer. I know in a perfect world people can do what they want in church, but leave me alone in the public square. But how do we separate the morals and beliefs from people's politics? Doesn't one shape the other?
It seems we are forced into this never ending cycle of decrying religious bigotry from some organized religions, while reaching out to others.
It's enough to make me almost believe in some sort of divine celestial comedy of errors... Almost.