Bad Faith

BLAMING RELIGION FOR PROPOSITION 8

When we talk about religion and politics in this country, we tend to focus on how religious citizens engage the rest of the political community. A familiar maxim of our pluralist democracy holds that religious believers, in the interests of good citizenship, should translate their convictions into political arguments accessible to nonbelievers. But this effort needs to be a two-way street. Indeed, considering the turmoil of the recent campaign season, we might need to start paying more attention to how the political community engages religious citizens.

Surely the best way to nudge religious believers toward accessible political discourse is not by attacking their religious identities. Yet this is precisely what has been occurring. In California, where the passage of Proposition 8 brought an end to the state’s brief recognition of same-sex marriage, protesters immediately and vehemently targeted churches that supported the referendum. Such sentiments were openly incited during the run-up to the vote. One TV ad opposing Proposition 8 showed two Mormon missionaries entering a lesbian couple’s home and announcing their intention “to take away your rights.” The missionaries remove the couple’s wedding rings, ransack their house, and rip up their wedding certificate. “Members of the Mormon Church have given over $20 million to pass Proposition 8,” a narrator ominously intones. “Say ‘No!’ to a church taking over your...

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About the Author

Robert K. Vischer, a frequent contributor, is professor of law at the University of St. Thomas and the author of Conscience and the Common Good: Reclaiming the Space Between Person and State (Cambridge University Press).