You have to love the First Amendment.
It allows ordained ministers to argue over whom God wants our government to marginalize.
Right now it is homosexuals and trans-gendered persons. But at one time it was blacks.
A century and a half ago when a convention presided over by the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas voted to secede from the Union, the members wrote "A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union."
Lacking a Thomas Jefferson to craft it, the declaration was not exactly a rhetorical gem.
But it did have clarity, and it clearly declared a popular theology of the day.
It listed as "undeniable truths" a series of arguments in support of slavery, including this:
. . . That the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations.I have proposed before that Texas students be taught this document, but it remains buried in the archives.
Throughout history man has drafted God to justify wars, to kill people who refused to accept orthodoxy, to enslave Indians and Africans.
But the Texas Declaration is close to home and relatively recent.
It is painful to read when it declares that blacks are "rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race."
After all, that "inferior race" has produced the current president of the United States and the current chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, successor to the man who presided over that secessionist convention.
The vital lesson that this history and this Declaration teaches so powerfully is that we should be very humble about our ability to determine which creatures God wants us to treat as inferior.
Even Pope Francis, who presides over the church that gave us the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition, seems to have learned that lesson.
Speaking of gay priests recently, he said, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"
If the pope is comfortable leaving judging duties to God, who shouldn't be?
Some other preachers can argue that they have a special pipeline to the Almighty.
That’s their First Amendment right.
But our government, from city to federal, can’t.
That’s its First Amendment duty.
After all, they represent a range of people who hear very differing messages from above – or, hearing none at all, must act from the widely differing dictates of their own hearts.