By Andrew L. Seidel
Freedom From Religion Foundation
A North Carolina legislator wants to overturn marriage equality by waving his bible and setting fire to the U.S. Constitution.
He has proposed a bill that declares the Obergefell equal marriage decision “null and void in the state of North Carolina.” The bill argues that the U.S. Supreme Court exceeded its authority in several ways, including “relative to the decree of Almighty God that ‘a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24, ESV).”
This bill seeks to substitute religious law — “God’s law” — for our secular law. It looks like it was penned by a Sunday school teacher who failed American Government class in high school and hasn’t read the Constitution.
Legally, there isn’t much to worry about. The bill is DOA. N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper would almost certainly veto it, should it ever make it to his desk. But even that’s unlikely. The mastermind of this bill — a term used very loosely here, given the bill’s content — is Larry Pittman.
Pittman wasn’t elected, at least not at first. He was appointed when his predecessor resigned. Pittman was a pastor before he became a state legislator, and he hasn’t transitioned well. Pittman’s short political history exemplifies the problem of elected officials using their public office to promote their personal religion.
Pittman once proposed making Christianity the official state religion of North Carolina.
In a sparsely attended 2013 talk, he proclaimed his Christianity boldly, as though standing up and calling yourself a member of the majority takes courage:
“Imma start out with something and I hope it doesn’t offend anybody but it may . . . Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, is the living and true god in human flesh and there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved, and that is never going to change.”
He continued with a little spiritual blackmail, “You need to know where Jesus Christ stands. You need to remember you have an obligation to vote as an informed voter, and if you are a Christian, when you go into there to vote, your vote belongs to Jesus Christ.”
He promised to “always put godliness . . . first.” And he has, as his bill to end marriage equality shows. There are really only two explanations for the bill: Either Pittman and his co-sponsors are breathtakingly ignorant when it comes to the Constitution or they are so blinded by their bigotry and their bible that they are ignoring their oath to uphold the Constitution. Maybe both.
Pittman appears to be genuinely hostile to the U.S. Constitution. He recently proposed a bill that would repeal Art. I, Sect. 4 of the N.C. Constitution, which prohibits secession. A few days ago he also compared Abraham Lincoln to Hitler: “And if Hitler had won, should the world just get over it? Lincoln was the same sort of tyrant, and personally responsible for the deaths of over 800,000 Americans in a war that was unnecessary and unconstitutional.”
The marriage inequality bill itself demonstrates a deep and spacious ignorance. Pittman misunderstands basic American concepts like federalism, the supremacy of the U.S. Constitution, the incorporation of rights in the U.S. Constitution, the difference between rights guaranteed by the Constitution and state laws governing marriage, and separation of powers. Most fundamentally, Pittman does not understand the separation of state and church enshrined in our Constitution and First Amendment.
Arguably, Pastor Pittman does not understand his own bible. As the bill and his comments show, Pittman thinks the bible stands for a single marital model, “the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman.” But it doesn’t, as this wonderful meme shows:
Biblical marriage is most often not between one man and one woman. Hell, the founder of all three major monotheisms, Abraham, has sex with his wife’s slave at his wife’s request.
“so [Sarai] said to Abram, ‘The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.’ Abram agreed to what Sarai said.” Genesis 16:2.
This passage comes from the same book Pittman’s bill cites. If Pittman wants to govern with the bible, then he should expect a rise in slavery, polygamy and genocide.
The rest of Pittman’s legislative record is similarly disturbing — and equally biblical. When you have a man who worships a book as cruel as the bible, it shouldn’t be surprising that he asks the state to adopt such cruelty. One of his first acts as a North Carolina lawmaker was to email every fellow legislator urging them to bring back public hangings, starting with abortion providers: “If murderers (and I would include abortionists, rapists, and kidnappers, as well) are actually executed, it will at least have the deterrent effect upon them. For my money, we should go back to public hangings, which would be more of a deterrent to others, as well.”
Pittman’s career is an exemplar for keeping religion and government separate. His religion has warped his view of government, “We the people,” and humanity. It has sapped his empathy to the point of inviting another civil war, simply to deny LGBTQ people the right to be happy.
Shame on Pittman for abusing his secular power in this manner — and shame on the voters who have provided him a platform for his regressive views.
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