Christianity, Proposition 8 and Separation of Church and State

The Associated Press reports that a recent poll shows that religion is the primary reason for the gay marriage ban in California.  Lisa Leff of the Associated Press wrote in her article:

The ban drew its strongest support from both evangelical Christians and voters who didn’t attend college, according to results released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Age and race, meanwhile, were not as strong factors as assumed. According to the poll, 56 percent of voters over age 55 and 57 percent of nonwhite voters cast a yes ballot for the gay marriage ban.

People who identified themselves as practicing Christians were highly likely to support the constitutional amendment, with 85 percent of evangelical Christians, 66 percent of Protestants and 60 percent of Roman Catholics favoring it.

On the Christianity Today political blog, one commentor wrote:

This poll offers the most solid evidence to date that Proposition 8 is an unconstitutional injection of a religious doctrine condemning homosexuality into the California Constitution, in clear violation of the federal constitutional ban on entanglement of government with religion.

What do you think?  Is this a violation of separation of Church and State?  Share your thoughts.  What place, if any, does religion have in the political arena?

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8 Responses to Christianity, Proposition 8 and Separation of Church and State

  1. I’m pagan, so just to kick that off. My belief systems are not yours, though I wager that they overlap in a few places. I would not think to impose my belief system on you, and yet this is what seems to have happened. There has been a religious belief system imposed upon a group that is not their own.

    I believe we have to look at it in a pragmatic way. How would one feel if another religion, not of their own, infiltrated the legal system and began writing the laws in their doctrine’s image? If the Hindu began imposing the sacred cattle concept? If the Jewish community declared a particular foodstuff as unclean and therefor illegal? If the Muslim began imposing the covering of the hair and beating of women? Those are all a question of religion.

  2. Curtis says:

    That’s an interesting question, and I heartily agree with danaofthebells to a large extent.

    The issue you raise is certainly important, but, to my mind, it somewhat misses the mark as to what is legally crucial in Prop 8. We need to ask questions about the role of religion in legislation such as this, but, more importantly, we need to inquire about the particulars of the legal process itself.

    The 14th Amendment features the famous “Equal Protection Clause,” which is supposed to guarantee that the federal government can require states to uphold equal protection under the law in the same way that the federal government ostensibly provides it through the Bill of Rights, etc.

    Saying that only the union of a man and a woman constitutes marriage is equivalent in form to saying that only the killing of a white person by a black person constitutes murder. We look to the laws to define what both marriage and murder are. Now we have a situation where a legal definition has been established through a referendum which has excluded an entire demographic—gays—from equal protection.

    The U.S. Supreme Court has been somewhat nebulous in the past in establishing how discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation fits into the compass of equal protection. If one good thing comes out of the passage of Prop 8, I hope it’s that the high court is forced to take a more concrete stand.

    Great post, thank you.

  3. Tim Farley says:


    The purpose for separation of Church and State is to keep the organization of the Church from running government and to keep the State from controlling what people can believe / worship. It is not to keep individual Christians from voting or speaking out based upon their religious convictions.

    I do not think Christians “infiltrated the legal system” by showing up at the polls and voting their convictions. I believe Christians, Muslims, Jews, pagans, atheists, etc. were all permitted to vote. My vote did not have any greater weight than yours.

    I guess what I am trying to get across is that we all have the right to vote based upon our convictions (even if they are religious in nature). So, really this is not an issue of separation of Church and State at all.

    Those who support gay marriage would be better served trying to convince me and others why we are wrong in our convictions against gay marriage rather than saying we somehow took took advantage of the system. We were simply exercising the same rights you have.

  4. Tim Farley says:


    Thank you for your comment. Let me just respond by saying that putting homosexuals into categories equivalent to whites, blacks, males, females, etc. is highly controversial and difficult to defend based upon current scientific evidence.

    Gays do not fall under the “Equal Protection Clause” because there are many people who are still not convinced that it is not simply a lifestyle choice unlike being black, white or other.

  5. Jon_York says:

    The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights that expressly prohibits the United States CONGRESS from making laws “respecting an establishment of religion” or that prohibit the free exercise of religion, laws that infringe the freedom of speech, infringe the freedom of the press, limit the right to peaceably assemble, or limit the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
    George Washington

    “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity…And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

    This great American experiment was founded by Christians with the presupposition that we would hold high our national motto “In God We Trust.”

    What does the phrase mean? It means we start our day with prayer and Bible reading. Do we do this? If our moral convictions don’t influence our government or our vote our nation will follow the pattern set by those nations who have fallen before to immorality. Homosexuality is the last step on the ladder to destruction.

  6. Ruben Dhoedt says:

    Marriage was invented by God in the creation account. That makes heterosexual marriage a religious issue. If the gay community wants to keep God out of this debate then they need to find another name for their unions.

  7. beetlebabee says:

    Have you seen this Demographic Winter video? I saw it over on Kingfisher Column, the decline of the family has huge economic impact. This thing is chilling.

  8. Bill N. says:

    Just a few somewhat random observatons:

    In Christian theology marriage has its primary foundation in creation. This is reflected in what C. S. Lewis called the “Tao”; that ethical commonality Christianity shares with non-Christian religions. The traditinal understanding of marriage is not not just a “Christian” thing.

    So you don’t want Christians to advocate their values in the public arena, but secularisim is allowed to aggressivly advocate in the public arena to force its values on Christians! What’s fair about that? All that does is discriminate against Christians on the basis of their religion; a gross violation of the Bill of Rights!


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