A few weeks ago I wrote on here about the interaction between Christianity and political power. My personal view is that all faith systems should be treated equally by the state, so I have not been joining in with the seasonal complaints about how our country has lost its Christian heritage and we can't celebrate Christmas properly any more.
Well I've just read an article which so neatly illustrates the opposite view to my own that I feel I have to write something about it. Someone on a messageboard that I read posted this article about the repeal in the USA of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (or DADT) rule which currently allows homosexual people to join the armed forces as long as their sexual orientation remains secret. When the repeal of DADT is signed into law, openly homosexual people will be able to apply to the USA military. At the moment, they are not able to do so and apparently over 13,000 people have been dismissed from the armed forces in the USA after their sexual orientation became known.
If you read my previous post on Christianity and politics then you can probably guess where I stand on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'. I don't think the state should deny people certain opportunities or services because of their age, gender, faith, sexual orientation, etc. So I was pretty stunned when I read that article I just linked to. The author's view is that the DADT policy itself, which allowed gay people into the military as long as their sexuality remained secret, was 'a slippery slope down the slide of societal collapse' and 'a slick wink and a nod to homosexuality'. According to the writer, the new policy means that 'our once noble military is being used to conduct a social experiment in debauchery, ostensibly to prove the point that moral turpitude need not necessarily reduce the effectiveness of our fighting force'.
I know very little about how you sign up with the USA military but maybe someone can tell me whether there is a wide-ranging test of morality that you have to pass as part of the entrance procedures. Are you asked about how generous you are, how well you control your temper or about your faithfulness to your (opposite sex) partner (to whom you were married before you slept together)? Or is sexual orientation the only issue of morality (if it is an issue of morality – I won't go there in this post!) that ought to be considered? I can just possibly see the argument that allowing openly gay people into the military could lower morale and cause some people to leave or not sign up in the first place (the latter point is made in the article). But this argument could have been used – and probably was used – by those who argued against equal rights for black people, or for women, or for any other marginalised section of society. Too bad if some white people stopped using buses because they might have to sit next to a black person! Too bad if some straight people leave the armed forces because they might end up serving with someone who is gay! Government shouldn't pander to our prejudices, it should promote and enshrine in law equal rights and opportunities for all.
It's particularly odd to see the Founding Fathers of the USA invoked in an argument for faith-based restriction of people's rights, considering that the Declaration of Independence says this:
'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.'
I'm struggling to see how this can be squared with denying certain people the right to join the armed forces because of things those people do in the privacy of their own homes. And that leads on to my second issue with the article and the view it espouses: what gives the author, or me, or anyone else, the right to have our particular view of morality imposed on others by the law of the land? Who says my view is correct? And even if it is correct, why should I get to rob others of their right to live as they see fit? Focusing in on Christianity, what did Jesus say about enforcing your views on other people? He gave plenty of teaching about what his followers should be like but I can't find where he told his followers to compel non-Christians to also obey those ways. Indeed, the New Testament seems to show Jesus' followers respecting and obeying authority, apart from where it is in direct contradiction to the ways of Jesus.