Religion's role in shaping public policyIn their letter of...

the Forum

May 31, 1994

Religion's role in shaping public policy

In their letter of May 19, Ronald Hube and Fred Elburn accuse the Baltimore City Council of ignoring the constitutional separation of church and state when it defeated the city's domestic partnership bill, which was opposed by many Christians.

Messrs. Hube and Elburn are misguided in their appeal to the Constitution on this matter. Furthermore, their viewpoint is actually subversive of the very constitutional liberties they pretend to champion.

The letter states that council members "chose to ignore the clear mandate of our country's Constitution, which says church and state must be separate."

We are not told where in the Constitution this "clear mandate" lies, or how exactly the council ignored it. That is because the charge is vacuous, as a glance at the Constitution will show.

Article VI disallows any religious test as a requirement for holding public office. Surely the council didn't establish such a test. The First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Prohibiting a bill's passage can hardly be construed as an "establishment of religion."

The fact is that Hube and Elburn have an agenda that is a far cry from a defense of constitutional liberty. They are calling for a privatization of religion which would eliminate it altogether as an influence on public policy. It is not freedom of religion that they cherish but freedom from religion.

Such a viewpoint is subversive of the Constitution's protection of the free exercise of religion and freedom of speech.

For millions of Americans, the ideas of right and wrong are rooted in revealed religious imperatives and prohibitions. Many Christians believe homosexuality is wrong, for instance, precisely because God in the Bible declares it to be wrong. As good citizens they want the government to do what is right and to promote what is moral.

To suggest that such citizens not seek to influence public policy on religious grounds leaves them two alternatives. They must either abandon their sense of morality when they act politically, or they must be denied any political voice at all. Neither alternative is mandated by the Constitution, and I fear for our city and country should either alternative ever carry the day.

As a Christian, I applaud the City Council for defeating the domestic partnership bill. They did what was right.

Steven C. Wright

Freeland

Regarding Dale Marie Cate's letter on the gay partner law (May 23), she and others should consider there are homosexual couples raising children on one or two incomes. Don't they deserve a tax break too?

According to her letter, most gay unions are childless, two-income households that do not deserve a tax break.

What of heterosexual couples with no children and two incomes? Should any tax break they have be taken away since it gives them an "economic advantage"?

Don't homosexual and heterosexual couples deserve the same rights whether they are childless or not? Since the combined domestic partnership law and the two-income marriage tax penalty is unfair, the simplest solution would be to make gay marriages legal.

Ms. Cate also states this law would breed resentment because of its economic advantage. As a heterosexual mother of two in a two-income household, I feel differently. I would not feel resentment but happiness that gay discrimination would be partially eliminated.

She writes that she feels compassion for gay unions but she states this law would undermine the institution of marriage. Aren't the words union and marriage synonymous?

Dale Marie Cate says she is not into a "right-wing, holier-than-thou form of gay bashing." Then what kind of gay bashing is she into? Economic gay bashing?

Kim Prince-Shields

Glen Burnie

Use ships to serve the less fortunate

I was struck by the May 19 article which proclaims a committee has been established by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to raise $5 million to refurbish the "deteriorating" Constellation for the Inner Harbor.

It is my understanding that another worthy maritime vessel, the first post-World War II aircraft carrier, USS Forrestal, which was decommissioned in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, has been offered to Maryland.

I suggest that the $5 million would be better spent to utilize the Forrestal as a living memorial to all war dead.

With 5,000 bunks and over five galleys, the Forrestal could be established as a central homeless shelter and soup kitchen run by those organizations which now provide them across your city.

There would also be plenty of room to have classrooms to educate the homeless children and ample space to render many more worthy humanitarian endeavors.

What better use for that amount of money?

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