Americans have a long history of using religion to rationalize atrocious behavior. Confederate President Jefferson Davis echoed many Civil War Southerners when he validated slavery by claiming that it “was established by decree of Almighty God…it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation.” The blight of racial segregation was explained through the story of Noah’s son, Ham, which mentions the “inferiority” of “dark-skinned peoples.” The biblical passage 1 Samuel 15:2-3 (“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”) has been used to vindicate attacks on Native Americans. Many biblical scholars have already shown that these interpretations are either misleading, incorrect or out of context, but that hasn’t stopped people from seeing what they want by whatever means they want.
Following this tradition in America, should the Kim Davises of the country be allowed to refuse marriage licenses to divorced people because Jesus spoke against divorce? Or deny licenses to interracial couples because of the story of Ham? Or stone rebellious children because of Deuteronomy? The reason we separate Church and State is because the Founding Fathers believed government should be guided by a balance of morality and reason, not blind religious faith. There are about 35 major Christian denominations in the U.S. Various denominations don’t always agree with each other on what the proper moral action is in the same situation. Then we add in all the other religions and belief systems in our country—all protected by the Constitution—and we see why we don’t go to any one religion to decide what should be legal. The Orthodox Jewish clerk at the DMV cannot deny you a driver’s license because you eat ham. The Muslim clerk at the Social Security office can’t deny you benefits because you drink liquor. The Christian Scientist clerk at the IRS cannot audit your taxes because you chose medical help. Practice your religion in freedom; just don’t make everyone else practice your religion.