The God of the Heterosexual?
Reverend Nathan C. Walker is the minister of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia and co-editor of the forthcoming book “Whose God Rules a Theolegal Nation?” with foreword by Tony Blair and contributing chapters by Martha Nussbaum, Alan Dershowtiz, Robert George, Richard Cizik and two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Joseph Grieboski.
Whose God should rule the country? The God of the heterosexual or the God of the homosexual? I vote neither.
On February 11, 2008, Representative John Wright of the Oklahoma House of Representatives was offended when guest chaplain Pastor Scott Jones, an openly gay United Church of Christ minister, acknowledged his male partner in a prayer from the legislative floor.
Wright moved to strike the prayer from the record, a motion not affirmed by the majority of his colleagues: 64 voted to include the prayer, 20 opposed and 17 abstained. The very act of questioning the identity of a minister implies that legislators have the power to determine who is worthy of the Constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion. Although the religious beliefs of the 20 who opposed to were not used as public rationale to strike the prayer, legislators need not exercise one’s own beliefs explicitly to engage in theolegal practices.
Yes, “theolegal” practices: a new way to describe how public officials use theology to make, apply or administer law. The very act of denying a citizen the right to free expression of religion based on one’s identity is an example of theolegal behavior. Theolegal officials, such as Wright, use their power to fortify their own beliefs and erode the rights of those who do not meet those creedal tests. This is a dangerous and piercingly unpatriotic practice.
For Representative Wright and those who voted against the prayer, the intention was to legally establish the God-of-the-heterosexual as the only permissible expression of faith. In doing so, they stood on the side of fear and exclusion. Thankfully other officials responsibly stood on the side of love and inclusion.
I was pleased to hear that the majority of legislators did not support Wright’s motion, demonstrating that not all officials, many of them unabashedly religious, agreed with the proposed theolegal practices. More than ever, we need officials who will responsibly unify and advance our communities, not divide us because of our identities. My hope is that citizens of all walks of life, whether religious or not, will elect officials to serve all the people, not only their God.