by Mary Griggs
When I was a kid, my family was stationed overseas in Germany. Back then, Armed Forces Radio and TV network provided the only English language programming. They were limited in the amount of children’s programming and only had two hours of cartoons on Saturday.
At the end of our tour, we flew back to the States and were on base in Ft. Dix, New Jersey. It was early on a Saturday when my sister and I snuck down to the common area of the visitor’s quarters and turned on the TV.
We were awestruck.
There was station after station of cartoons. More than any one kid could possibly watch. There were old style Looney Tunes, weird animations from Japan and sophisticated cartoons mixed with live action. There was even an entire network dedicated to cartoons.
And that is what freedom means to me: having more choices than I could possibly use with everything for any taste available and no parent telling me what to watch.
That is the how I look at religion, too. There is a faith smorgasbord out there and belief (or not) is a personal decision.
I’m not alone. The very foundation of our republic is based on religious freedom. The Declaration of Independence in 1776, stated unequivocally that “all men are created equal… endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Not a one of those basic rights and liberties that our Founders outlined came with a requirement to affirm any religion.
Further, the United States Constitution begins with the establishment clause. Not only is the government not allowed to force any religious organization to adhere to any particular theological, spiritual and moral convictions, no religious institution can use the government to impose its particular views on the American public by means of law. In the second part of that clause, the free exercise of religion requires that we respect the conscience and convictions and the many religious traditions and non-religious people across the nation.
The United States government recognizes marriage with a properly authorized, government-issued marriage license. No religious ceremony is necessary for the legitimacy and the legality of a marriage recognized by agencies of American government.
At heart, marriage equality is among the constitutional rights granted to all citizens. While particular scriptures can be used to condemn same-sex love, law, not scripture is the foundation of government regulations regarding marriage in the United States.
What many who use a religious argument against marriage equality do not realize is that the same First Amendment that protects their religious liberty protects everyone else’s as well.
Religious freedom matters. Marriage equality matters.