Thursday, May 28, 2009

Separation of Church and State

Just because something is illegal, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It’s easy to forget that fact sometimes. We have a lot of laws on our books that got there with supposed good intentions but perhaps it’s time that we took a harder look at some of those issues and began changing the laws. In these troubled economic times changing these laws would be a smart economic decision. In these difficult social times these changes could help bring us together.

We live in a country which was supposed to be founded on the principle of separation of Church and State yet we don’t seem to be really living that. With very few exceptions, we all have had sex and will undoubtedly have more in our lifetime. It’s a beautiful expression of love even if there is a financial arrangement connected to it. The body receiving the affection and attention it needs doesn’t know the difference. Yet if we look at what group is behind keeping sex work illegal and stirring up fears around it, we’re left looking at the Church and many of its followers.

We’re still a young country and we have a lot of growing to do. If we look at how other countries handle sex workers, we could learn a great deal from them. If sex work were legalized, as it should be, great things could come from that. First our police wouldn’t have to spend their already thinly stretched resources on it trying to catch people but rather could focus on protecting the workers. It takes far less resources for the police to respond to calls for help than it does to do investigation work trying to locate and prosecute sex workers. This frees up resources for more important matters of public safety.

With the emphasis being put on protection rather than prosecution this would also reduce the negative impact the industry has on the legal system; less attorneys, judges and legal staff. It would also reduce the strain on the already overcrowded jail system. All of these resources could then be used to focus on real crime reduction and not on enforcing morality issues.

If sex work were legalized nationally, as it already is in some states, it would ultimately mean that those in the industry could begin reporting their income to the government. This increases our tax revenues. If you look at some of the rates that the more successful workers are getting, the additional taxes collected from it could be substantial. That money is more often than not going unreported out of fear and sometimes necessity. That means lost tax revenue right now.

Assuming that like any other legal industry where licenses are required to do business in that industry, that revenue base would also be increased. With more people now being in business for themselves or in groups, more taxes would need to be filed so the tax preparation industry would feel a positive impact as well. With everything being run as a business this way it would mean more jobs to support the industry and this has a positive impact on the tax revenue. Factor in advertising and marketing revenues and the impact it could have on that industry and it really starts to add up financially.

These are just a few of the areas where we would see a positive impacts and each of these will radiate out into other industries. Sex work is the oldest profession for a reason. It’s happening now whether it is legal or not. We need to pull our heads out of our puritanical asses and legalize it to protect everyone involved. Dropping the moral judgments on the activity and seeing its real value will take us further as a society than we can even imagine at this point. Other countries know this to be true from their own experience.

Another area where we could see a HUGE positive financial impact on the economy would be through the legalization of marijuana. Let’s face it, the war on drugs is a dismal failure brought on by moralistic fear-mongers. There have been countless scientific studies that show the health benefits of this amazing plant. Compare this to the alcohol industry now and the negative impact that booze is having on everyone. This is another industry that if it were legalized, regulated and taxed the positive impacts would essentially mirror all of those mentioned above for legalizing the sex industry. I heard that if it were legalized, the taxes collected on it alone would be enough to pull us out of the recession. It’s that big an industry already despite its legal status.

So many resources are currently being wasted on keeping both of these areas criminalized. The fact is that no matter what your moral belief on either of these industries, they exist and will continue to exist no matter what the legal ruling on them. Rather than burying our heads in the sand and pretending that they don’t exist, we need to wake up, drop the judgments and see them for what they really are, business industries that have a huge market base and global economic impact.

The final point isn’t about something that is illegal but rather something that simply isn’t legal and it’s something very near and dear to my heart. Gay marriage. Earlier this week the California Supreme Court decided to allow Proposition 8 (a State ban on gay marriage) to stand but allowed the marriages that took place before Prop 8 to continue to be legal. The thing that saddens me most about this is that the main proponent of Prop 8 and the ones who spent the most on getting it passed is the Mormon Church.

Here is a case where the Church has taken its beliefs, beliefs intended to be for its followers, and used those beliefs to create State law. This is a clear violation of the separation of Church and State but because of the way it’s done the Church is not part of it, just the main financial backer. Even if you factor out the Mormons and just look at it from a neutral standpoint, it is still a violation. As babies we are not born to hate and judge. This is learned behavior. This discrimination directed specifically against gay people is Bible based. Where is the unconditional love there?

As an American born citizen I am supposed to have the same rights as everyone else in this country. While I recognize that marriage is a ceremony of the Church, I also recognize that our government has inferred many legal rights and financial incentives upon married couples. This in and of itself is a violation of the separation of Church and State. As a legal, tax-paying (yes, I do pay them) citizen, I should have access to those same benefits as any other American, yet I can’t ONLY because I’m gay. From a legal standpoint that is a violation of my rights as a citizen. I’m happy to have our commitment ceremony be called a “civil union” and leave the term “marriage” to the Church but I want access to every legal benefit that the State infers upon married couples. It’s not special rights it’s just equal rights. Anything less is discrimination and is simply unacceptable. One of the main purposes of Government is to defend the rights of the minorities to make it a level playing field for everyone. That isn’t happening here.

This is a very divisive issue, I know this, but it’s time that we woke up and stopped the practices in our country and on our planet which divide us. The Church and its followers are fully entitled to have their beliefs and opinions but they should only apply to their members. They are welcome to judge me and believe that the Bible tells them to do it. The laws in our land were formed in a different time based upon beliefs of the time. Unfortunately these old laws were put in place by members of the Church using the beliefs dictated to them by the Church. There are too many of us on this planet who don’t subscribe to that belief system and all of the laws that violate the civil rights and freedoms of others need to be modified from a place of love and respect.

We are all members of the same species. We are separated by arbitrary lines that our ancestors created that make us Americans or Canadians or Italians or Greeks but still we are all humans. We absolutely must find better ways to get along and we must do it quickly. We must focus on that which unites us and brings us peace and change that which separates us and brings us war at any level. Those who choose to live in love are living in alignment with the Universe which loving creates all that is, was and ever shall be. Love is the law.

How would your world change if all your decisions were based in unconditional love and not in judgment?

1 comment:

  1. As a lawyer, I find I agree with many, if not most, of your points! I am in favor, as are you, of decriminalizing all the "controlled substances" drug laws, as well as those criminalizing the sex worker industry.
    The U.S. Supreme Court has held, in many, many, decisions that laws that discriminate against persons because of an immutable characteristic (e.g., race, gender, ethnicity, age, and, I would hope, sexual orientation) violate the equal protection of the laws provisions of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. I believe it's only a matter of time, and not too long at that, that the Prop 8 type laws banning gay marriage, will be struck down as violative of the U.S. Constitution. Gay marriage opponents are in a generation that will be replaced by a generation (the generation that includes those under the age of 30) that favors gay marriage, or rather, marriage between any two persons who commit to each other. It's a world-wide incoming tide that will sweep away the homophobes and their misbegotten hateful prejudices. You are right, Michael, the U.S. Constitution provides for separation of church and state. We just need to make it a reality!