Role of religion
Since the United States is a nation based on law, by constitutional extension so are all the 50 states. As we rely on individuals to create, revise and enforce laws, the system is fluid by design. Individuals bring their own perspective, experience and moral compass to legislative chambers, and whatever majority consensus emerges is what governs all of us.
What guides the thought process of elected leaders?
In many instances, it is the religious beliefs of the individual. Even though both the U.S. and Kansas constitutions prohibit laws favoring religious establishments or modes of worship, laws are crafted on a regular basis that appear to do just that.
Just this week, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed legislation that gives legal protection to health care providers who refuse to participate in abortions, make referrals for the procedure, or even participate in administering drugs that person believes could terminate a pregnancy. It matters not that abortions are legal in this country. So are birth-control measures. And if it results in even more unwanted children as access to birth control is legally diminished, it does not matter. Enough elected leaders found justification outside of legal doctrine to make the law happen.
It isn't even an unusual occurrence. Particularly in the Sunflower State. The majority of voters earlier this year voted for Rick Santorum in the GOP presidential contest. Four years ago, we voted for the ticket that had Sarah Palin in the vice-presidential slot. Both prominent national figures have been clear about their thoughts on laws.
"Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant," Palin has stated. "They're quite clear -- that we would create law based on the God of the bible and the Ten Commandments."
Santorum repeatedly emphasized that "our civil laws have to comport with a higher law: God's law."
While neither of these candidates will lead the country, their faith resonates with a sizable contingent in this country. As such, we can only imagine what America would look like under either of their leadership. Particularly when considering barely three of the Ten Commandments are against the law (thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not steal and, to a limited degree, thou shalt not bear false witness). The U.S. Constitution expressly prohibits the first four Commandments, but we would guess most people don't bother thinking about such inconvenient facts.
No, we would rather be guided by our conscience. And our God. Not just any God, but a Judeo-Christian trinitarian God. Bring somebody else's God into the picture, and we'll make laws about that as well.
Last week, the Kansas Legislature overwhelmingly passed legislation banning courts or government agencies from making decisions based on Islamic or other foreign legal codes. Even though no Kansas judge has ever based a ruling on Shariah law, nor has even suggested they might, it will be illegal as soon as the governor signs the bill.
Does it matter that all judges swear an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Kansas Constitution? No. Does it matter that in order for a lawyer to become eligible to practice law that must swear the same? Apparently not. What does matter is that many people believe Muslims are attempting to force Shariah law into our legal framework. It's an unfounded belief, but oft-repeated. And that's enough for our legislators.
"They stone women to death in countries that have Shariah law," said Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita.
"I want people of other cultures, when they come to the United States, to know the freedoms they have in regard to women's and children's rights," said Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia.
Our questions are simple, yet troubling. If our own constitutions cannot prevent such religiously inspired doctrines from becoming law, and we the people support them, how will we respond when Christianity is not the dominant religion?
Who will protect us from ourselves?
Editorial by Patrick Lowry