You’re not the only one filing a brief before the CaliforniaSupreme Court in the Proposition 8 case this week, Jay. Americans United hasjoined with more than two dozen other civic groups to file our own brief. Notsurprisingly, our argument is quite a bit different than yours.
This dispute revolves in part around some fairly esoteric questionsof Californialaw. I won’t get into all of that. Suffice to say, I do not believe a slimmajority of Californians (or Pennsylvanians, Mississippians, Oregonians, etc.)should be able to strip a minority group of its basic rights by any vote.
Our brief makes this point. It reads in part, “IfProposition 8 were a proper subject for an initiative vote, then so would be ameasure seeking to amend the California Constitution to bar interracial orinterfaith marriages, to exclude women from certain occupations, to limitfreedom of speech only for certain racial or national groups, or to suspendprotections against unwarranted searches and seizures for members of certainnational groups. As this Court and its federal counterpart have recognized, noperson should have such fundamental rights – even one of them – subject to thevicissitudes of a bare majority of voters.”
As you know, Jay, there was a time in America whenmajorities were greatly offended by the idea of interracial marriage and soughtto curb it through laws. Had it been put to a vote as a constitutionalamendment in, say, Alabama,there’s no doubt it would have passed easily. That does not make it right. Itwas a grotesque violation of basic rights, and the U.S. Supreme Court was rightto nullify such bans in Loving v. Virginia. (I should point out that plenty of misguided clergysupported these bans, and even cited scripture in framing their argument.)
In short, majority rule is great for determining who sits onthe school board; it’s less effective in determining basic rights.
There is another issue here that deserves a hard look: therole of the Mormon Church and other religious groups in passing Prop. 8. TheMormons say they donated only a few thousand to the effort, but now reports aresurfacing that it might have been a good deal more. The church sponsored Websites, ran phone banks and undertook other activities to promote Prop. 8. Itdoes not appear that this activity was reported to state officials, as California law requires.
When well-heeled religious groups spend mega-bucks to writetheir pet theological notions into law for everyone else to follow, we have achurch-state problem on our hands – whether you recognize that or not.
Religious groups have the right to speak out on the socialissues of the day, but I believe they have no right to skirt neutralcampaign-reporting laws that their secular counterparts must follow to the letter.These groups are trying to effect public policy, and the people who would beaffected by that policy have a right to know about it. I discussed this issuerecently with the American News Project. Our readers can see the video here.