"Fresh news items" from the webmaster
2014-APR: News topics that have been
discussed on this web site's home page
about disasters, and marriage definition.
2014-APR: About natural and human-made disasters, and the role of God:
Major natural or human-made disasters continue to happen, like the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, still another mass murder in a school or shopping center, the South Asian Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the 9/11 attack on New York City and Washington, etc. Many people ask what the role of God was during these events.
Much more often, individual disasters happen, like Rabbi Harold Kushner's son being born with a degenerative disease that caused rapid ageing and his death during his early teen years. Rabbi Kushner's pain inspired him to write a famous book: "When bad things happen to good people." More than 3 decades later, it is still in print and in the top 0.02% of all books sold on Amazon.com
If God can do anything, then why does he not prevent such tragedies? That question has a whole area of study associated with it, called Theodicy. It centers around the four attributes commonly associated with God:
- omnibeneficient (all-loving),
- omnipotent (all-powerful),
- omnipresent (all-present), and
- omniscient (all-knowing).
If God is omniscient and omnipresent, then he would know about these disasters long before they happened. If he is omnipotent, he could intervene and prevent them from happening. If he is omnibeneficient, then he would choose to prevent them from happening. Alternately, he could open up a channel of communication to warn people in advance so that they could either prevent the disaster or reduce its death toll. But he allows the disasters to occur. Why?
To resolve the conflict, Kushner suggested that we drop belief in one of the four attributes of God. He selected omnipotence as the least awful attribute to abandon. There are at least three other ways to resolve the conflict:
- Adopt the Deistic belief: that God created the Earth and the rest of the universe, established its natural laws, started it up, left the scene, and hasn't been heard of or hasn't taken any interest in his creation since.
- Adopt Agnosticism (indecision about the existence of God), Atheism (no belief in God) or strong Atheism (active denial of God's existence).
- Assume that the Theodicy cannot be resolved at this time, but may be resolved in the future.
None of these options are particularly acceptable to most believers in God. And so, theologians continue to search.
2014-APR: Are there limits on how a state can define marriage?
Everyone agrees that it is up to the individual states to define who can marry and who can't. The U.S. Constitution's 10th Amendment clearly states this. But there is disagreement about:
- Whether the individual states have complete freedom to define marriage in any way that the voters or lawmakers want, or
- Whether a state's marriage laws and Constitution must first meet the requirements of the U.S. Constitution.
In other words: is the U.S. a simple democracy or a constitutional democracy. Or: who is the ultimate authority -- the people in a state or the U.S. Constitution?
Utah is one of many states where the question is being actively debated:
- The government of Utah believes that states have the right to define marriage eligibility in any way that its voters wish. The voters amended Utah's constitution in 2004 to ban same-sex marriage, and any other recognition of same-sex relationships. The state considers the 1,300 same-sex marriages solemnized in late 2013-DEC-20 and early 2014-JAN-06 as invalid. These couples will continue to be considered "legal strangers" to each other. Their relationships will be ignored, They and their children will be without elementary state benefits and protections.
- Federal District Court Judge Robert Shelby in Utah determined that the Amendment 3 to the state constitution violates both the equal access and the equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Thus he considers the amendment as unconstitutional and regards the 1.300 same-sex marriages which were solemnized to be valid and to remain valid today.
Both sides in the conflict are absolutely confident that their interpretation is correct and that the other side is in error. The matter has been appealed to the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. They will probably rule sometime in 2014 and might offer some clarification.
Unfortunately, this conflict continues to be debated. There is little or no dialogue underway between the two sides, so there is little possibility of a resolution. Sadly, this often happens with important conflicts.
More information on the Utah situation can be found here.
Planned for later in 2014-APR: The core conflict over same-sex marriage:
The core conflict doesn't have that much to do with marriage equality. It is over a disagreement about the basic nature of the United State's political structure and its federal and state constitutions.
Consider the situation in Oklahoma as an example. However, the same dynamics can be seen in many other states.
Many religious, social and political conservatives in Oklahoma were outraged over a ruling during 2014-JAN by District Court Judge Kern which legalized marriage by same-sex couples within the state. They demonstrated -- both in Oklahoma and in many other states in recent months --a major split between the pro-equality movement and political conservatives about marriage by same-sex couples. The core conflict is caused by the two groups having opposing belief systems about the basic structure of the country:
- Belief 1: The United States is not a pure democracy; it is a constitutional democracy. That is, ultimate power in the country lies with the federal Constitution.
Supporters of marriage equality noted that Judge Kern's ruling -- and similar rulings by many other recent District Court judges on this topic -- is based on the equal protection and and due process clauses of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. These clauses require that federal and state governments treat all Americans equally, unless there is some overwhelming reason why this should not be so. Thus:
- Since loving, committed opposite-sex couples are able to marry, the 14th Amendment to the federal Constitution requires that loving, committed same-sex couples must also be able to marry.
- Any state statute or state constitutional amendment that prohibits same-sex marriage thus violates the U.S. Constitution. The state constitutional amendment passed in 2004 by Oklahoma voters bans same-sex marriage. It is unconstitutional because it violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It is void and unenforceable.
- Belief 2: The United States is not constitutional democracy; it is a pure democracy. That is, ultimate power in the country lies with the people.
In Oklahoma, those who oppose marriage equality frequently cite Article I Section 8 and the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. One of the matters that these clauses guarantee is that the individual states have the authority to define who is eligible to marry and who is not. The wishes of the people, as expressed in the 2004 amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution rule.
- As U.S. Representative Jim Bridenstine (R) commented: "The State Constitution overrides a federal judge’s personal opinion." 9
- Any court ruling in Oklahoma that allows same-sex marriage is thus void and unenforceable. The 2004 constitutional amendment bans same-sex marriage. It was, and remains, binding unless and until it is repealed by a vote of the people. Any federal judge's ruling to the contrary is void and unenforceable.
The solution to the conflict is obvious: a group of constitutional experts and scholars who promote both of the above belief systems could gather, engage in dialogue, and attempt to reach a concensus on whether the United States is a pure democracy or a constitutional democracy. This would not be an easy task, because when a person engages in a true dialogue, they have to suspend promotion of their initial belief system. They have to listen to arguments from both sides, and actively seek the truth. Unfortunately, we are unaware of such a dialog even having being proposed. We do not expect one in the future.
Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally posted: 2014-APR-17
Latest update: 2014-JUL-29
Author: B.A. Robinson