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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JULY 11, 2014
BY BOB FRANKEN
Sex. There, I’ve said it. And yes, I want to talk about it. Trust me, though, this is not your standard titillation. Instead, it’s about the motives of those who wish to impose their restrictions on the rest of us. And, yes, that’s what so much of the debate is about these days. No matter how the issue is framed, a lot of the argument is between those who wish to make their own choices about what they do, when and with whom, and those who cling to the view that sex is supposed to be conducted only between husbands and wives of opposite genders for the purpose of having children.
That latter point of view clearly influenced the fuddy-duddy Supreme Court justices who decided that Hobby Lobby could impose on its employees its views on reproduction. It certainly excites the fever-pitch frenzy among those who oppose gay marriage and frankly anything other than the rigid straight model. (I’ve always gotten a kick out of the word “straight.” Are those who aren’t he-and-she “crooked”? Actually, the word “gay” also is puzzling: Are heteros unhappy?)
It’s amazing how many of those who would oppress make the same argument: Their faith forbids gay sex or even sex outside of marriage, as it did the rights of minorities or women. To legally require that those individuals receive the Constitution’s “equal protection of the laws” offends their religious rights. Of course, they don’t just seek exemptions from the 14th Amendment, they’re running afoul of the first one, too, which forbids the imposition of any religion on the rest of us.
So when President Barack Obama ponders an executive order requiring federal contractors to not discriminate against lesbians, gays and others who embrace an alternative lifestyle, a coalition of faith-based organizations writes a letter asking that their ancillary organizations who do business with the feds be granted a waiver so “an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identity and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need.” In other words, their missionary position on who among us qualify to be “those in need” excludes those who adhere to their literally straight and narrow morality.
Certainly, those who worship are entitled to follow whatever path they want. I personally honor them and the comfort they find in their certainty. Sadly, one person’s certainty is another’s uncertainty, and that’s why a free society must limit the influence that any one religion has over the rest of us.
The politicians who pander to extremist believers should be ashamed of themselves. And religious fervor is not just a problem here. Arguably, it is a primary cause, if not THE cause, of so many of the world’s brutal conflicts. I’m speaking of the Mideast, for instance, whether it be the Israelis versus the Palestinians or Iraq, and of Nigeria, India, Afghanistan, in the relatively recent past Northern Ireland, the breakup of Yugoslavia, to say nothing of history’s most horrific and bloody campaigns of annihilation that provide lessons we never learn.
Obviously, the extremism in the United States has not reached that level, and those who call religious conservatives here “Taliban” are guilty of gross hyperbole. One of the reasons it’s not as vicious in the U.S. is our tradition of tolerance as outlined in the Constitution.
The underlying principle is freedom -- freedom to choose how to live, how to think as one chooses, as long as it’s not harmful to others, without disapproving interference. That’s fundamental, and the fundamentalists must know that they cannot force their fellow citizens here to adhere to their codes of conduct. That certainly would include sexual choices and efforts, like contraception, to protect against the consequences of those choices.
You know, I was nervous about this sex talk. But I’m sure you’ll agree, it wasn’t very sexy.
© 2014 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.