Governor of Hawaii gives undue respect to rabbis

Governor Linda Lingle has a serious issue facing her. She has been given the opportunity to increase the rights of the gay citizens of Hawaii by approving civil unions. They will still be separate, which is never equal, but their lives will be improved by some degree. Unfortunately, she is seeking advice from two wholly unqualified individuals.

Rabbis Itchel Krasnjansky and Peter Schaktman hail from different branches of Judaism and hold starkly contrasting views on whether same-sex couples should be permitted to form civil unions in Hawaii.

What they have in common is the ear of Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, who has until June 21 to announce whether she may veto the only pending civil unions legislation in the nation.

Neither of these rabbis deserve to be consulted on this issue. Lingle is herself Jewish, but she’s also the head of a secular state in a secular country that is premised in secular notions and secular law. But even if the U.S. government was religious, no justification has been given that shows any theologian of any flavor has done anything to address any important issues. Theology is merely for those who already agree on a given premise – if A is true, then B. But no one has given any evidence for A. We’re all still waiting.

But Schaktman, who leads the Reform Temple Emanu-El, insists Judaism teaches that all people regardless of sexual orientation are and should be treated as “children of God,” and thus should not face discrimination.

“Civil unions are a legal arrangement,” he said. “Therefore, anyone who uses religion to oppose civil unions is purely using religion to further homophobia.”

Schaktman gets this all technically right for the most part. Judaism may well teach that all people are children of God. How he concludes they ought not face discrimination is subjective (especially considering what a tribal book the Torah is), but he can make a rational argument for the position. Unfortunately, that’s still if everyone agrees that Judaism is a valid source of knowledge. Since it offers no reliable methods of inquiry or useful, defined tools for coming to consistent, objective conclusions, I have to reject it.

And Schaktman gets it right that civil unions are purely legal arrangements and anyone opposing them are bigots. But he ought to go one step further. Marriage is purely a legal arrangement in the eyes of the government. People put their own values into what marriage is, but that’s irrelevant here. If marriage was purely a religious institution, then which one? Most Americans would say Christian, but the government of Hawaii is showing she clearly disagrees when she consults two rabbis. And even if it’s possible to agree on marriage being about just one religion, the institution is still rife with inconsistency when it allows other religious members (as well as the non-religious atheists, agnostics, humanists, and deists) to marry. This makes it pretty obvious that this isn’t merely about marriage being based in religion; it’s about bigotry and homophobia and sexual immaturity (the latter being one of the biggest hallmarks of religion).

10 Responses

  1. Hmmm, there is a way to solve such things. The ballot box. Political figures as they are freely elected are perfectly free to use any criteria to make their decisions on how to vote or what to sign. Whether it be by consulting with their priest or rabbi or by flipping a coin. The voters will decide whether they get punished for their deeds or rewarded with another term.

    Also I assume the rabbis are registered voters? By virtue of that they would have as much right to be consulted as anyone else.

  2. So, Nate, you would have no problems if, say, Obama brought in a radical Muslim imam to help him make important decisions?

    – And no, the ballot box is not the answer for everything. If 51% of the population thought the other 49% should be tortured for no reason, would that be fair?

  3. Did I say the ballot box was the answer for everything? If Obama did such a thing I am willing to bet he would suffer at the polls and that would likely be the only way to stop him from doing so.

    Are you saying that religious people should not be allowed to vote or give their opinions to political leaders because their positions may or may not be affected by their religion?

    I believe one of these rabbis is taking the position that it is not a religious matter to him at all.

  4. This is not about a couple of religious people voicing their opinion, which they should of course do all they want. This is about religious people being deliberately brought on as advisers, as if they are somehow more qualified to judge in that matter than anyone else.

    The problem with letting the ballot box control it is that religious people are the majority in the US, but that doesn’t necessarily make them/you right. Ignorance does not suddenly become knowledge if the majority is ignorant.

  5. Well they are no less so than anyone else, certainly.

    The majority is ignorant by virtue of a minority saying so? That is no more true than me claiming the opposite. The non-religious minority is ignorant.

    See? Did you just become ignorant? Damn… I’ll keep trying but I do not expect anything to happen.

  6. The answer to these sort of criticisms is not “She has the right to do it”. That isn’t being called into question.

  7. Uh, no, Nate. That’s not how it works or how anyone claims it works. I actually doubt you could honestly have thought that I said minorities are always right.

    This is where the word “qualified” comes in.

  8. I doubt you honestly thought I meant that voting legitimizes any and everything.

  9. Well, I wasn’t sure, but I still don’t know what you did mean if not that.

    If we agree that democracy is irrelevant and majority rule isn’t justice when it comes to the rights of minorities, then what was your point? Sorry if I missed it.

  10. My point was simply that elected officials are held to account for their policies, advisers, the way they make their decisions and even their leisure activities at the ballot box.

    If Obama wished to make his choices by drawing solutions out of a hat, who or what is to stop him? Pretty much the only solution to bad politicians is voting them out of office. Unless they do something really, really illegal.

    I feel we wouldn’t be having this discussion if gay marriage hadn’t been defeated every time it was put on the ballot. You would be extolling the merits of referendums, citizens initiatives and the peoples veto.

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