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Dec 20 2013

Prager’s Incredibly Disingenuous Claim on Interracial Marriage

Dennis Prager has a column at the Worldnetdaily about the recent court decision in Colorado that businesses cannot discriminate against gay people and he offers a staggeringly disingenuous answer to the question I’ve been asking: If it’s okay for a business to discriminate against gay people on religious grounds, why isn’t it okay for them to discriminate against black people in religious grounds?

Those who support this decision argue that religious principles do not apply here: What if, for example, someone’s religious principles prohibited interracial marriages? Should that individual be allowed to deny services to an interracial wedding?

Of course not.

Here’s why that objection is irrelevant:

1. No religion practiced in America – indeed, no world religion – has ever banned interracial marriage. That some American Christians opposed interracial marriage is of no consequence. No one assumes that every position held by any member of a religion means that the religion holds that position.

*headdesk* Interracial marriage was banned in every state in this country at one point and always on religious grounds. Whether Prager thinks those religious grounds were legitimate or not or whether the Bible really supported that position is irrelevant; it was the overwhelming view of Christians in this country for at least a century and a half that interracial marriage was forbidden and that the law should enforce that religious view. Christian ideology has shifted, as it often does, but that does not make the reality of those past positions magically disappear.

If opposition to same-sex marriage is not a legitimately held religious conviction, there is no such thing as a legitimately held religious position. Unlike opposition to interracial marriage, opposition to same-sex marriage has been the position of every religion in recorded history – as well as of every country and every American state until the 21st century.

Who, exactly, gets to decide what is and is not a “legitimately held religious conviction”? The government cannot make such a determination without violating the Free Exercise clause. Is he really going to claim that the millions of Christians who believed that God forbid interracial marriage from the founding of this country until the mid-20th century, when that belief finally began to wane, did not have “legitimately held religious convictions”? By what possible standard other than his disagreement with them? This is sophistry.

28 comments

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  1. 1
    steve84

    “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
    – the trial court judge in what led to Loving v. Virginia

  2. 2
    dmcclean

    Unlike opposition to interracial marriage, opposition to same-sex marriage has been the position of every religion in recorded history

    Citation needed.

    Christian ideology has shifted, as it often does, but that does not make the reality of those past positions magically disappear.

    Seriously. Even if you allow the one-time-only magical disappearance of supersessionism, it’s not something you can invoke every two decades.

  3. 3
    jnorris

    “legitimately held religious convictions” my ass.
    Someone has to help me here, perhaps Mr Prager : where in the bible, chapter:verse please, is same sex marriage forbidden? bonus points if it in a Gospel and Jesus said it.
    Thank you.

  4. 4
    Sastra

    What if, for example, someone’s religious principles prohibited interracial marriages? Should that individual be allowed to deny services to an interracial wedding?…. No religion practiced in America – indeed, no world religion – has ever banned interracial marriage.

    The guy’s not even attempting to answer his own hypothetical. You said “IF.”

    Even if he was right — which he is not — it’s still irrelevant.

  5. 5
    Friendly

    Evangelical fundamentalists believe that interracial marriage is OK and they always have.

    Evangelical fundamentalists believe that Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr., were heroes and they always have.

    Evangelical fundamentalists believe that slavery is evil and they always have.

    Evangelical fundamentalists believe that Eurasia is our ally and that Eastasia is our enemy.

    And they always have.

  6. 6
    richardelguru

    jnorris:
    I think Genesis 2 is relevant here, God created a being with the same DNA as Adam (probably called Evan pro tem) and then changed his sex (and, I guess, its name to Eve) so Adam could bonk her in the Gen 1:28 approved manner. Just because God was better at it that we are (as you’d expect for an omnipotent thingy) doesn’t make it any less of a sex change op!

  7. 7
    Alverant

    Well he’s right about one thing. There is no such thing as a legitimately held religious position. A religious position is just an opinion and you don’t get to deny someone their legal rights based just on an opinion.

  8. 8
    Chiroptera

    Yeah, the usual fundamentalists’ creative accounting: count anyone who says “Jesus” as Christian when they want to claim the US as a Christian nation, but when the majority Christian opinion turns out to be embarrassing then bring out the “no true Christian” card.

  9. 9
    Scr... Archivist

    I guess Prager has never heard of a religion called Christian Identity.

  10. 10
    Raging Bee

    Christian ideology has shifted, as it often does…

    Not as much as some people like to think. That’s what makes the comparison to interracial marriage relevant.

  11. 11
    freehand

    Proponents of human-android marriage rights are claiming that “it’s the decent thing to do” – but is it? God’s bible never speak approvingly of human-golem or human-chimera marriages. Whereas mixed race or same sex marriage rights have always been supported by conservative Christians as obviously kind and decent, these monstrous creations from godless laboratories are not people – they have no souls. It doesn’t not matter how well their programming simulates laughter or tears, they have no soul and therefore are not really feeling anything at all. They don’t have free will as Real Humans® do.

    I don’t care how cute your fox-boys or cat-girls are, how sinuous your machine playmates are, it is an abomination to love imaginary people and to treat them as real! So sayeth Gawd!

  12. 12
    Friendly

    @jnorris: Fundies historically looked at the stuff in the Torah and the Book of Judges about the consequences of nice Hebrew boys marrying strange foreign girls (remember what happened to Samson? tsk tsk!) to justify miscegenation rules. They also bought heavily into the “races and nations are directly descended from the children and grandchildren of Noah” idea for a long time; Jews and Arabs were descended from Shem, black Africans were descended from accursed Ham, and everybody else was descended from Japheth (although the issue of when and how the Japhethites split into Caucasian, Oriental, Polynesian, and Native/Aboriginal stocks was always in my experience completely glossed over). So if a Caucasian-American were to marry an African-American, well, that would be spreading the curse of Ham into the Japhethic line — horrors! And Jews carried the “blood of Christ” curse, so a Caucasian shouldn’t marry a Jew either. In addition, the story of the angels getting it on with human females and spawning the Nephilim was viewed as a cautionary tale about how Intermixing Outside One’s Own Kind Causes Really Bad Things to Happen, and for Catholics and others who accept the Book of Tobit as scripture, that book is even more specific about not marrying outside one’s own tribe. The nominally Christian types who bought into the British Israelism that led to the Worldwide Church of God thought that Western Europeans were actually the lost tribes of Israel, thus Semites, and the literal (rather than doctrinally defined) heirs of the covenants God made with Israel, and yet again should not sully the bloodline. Basically any conceivable way you can use scripture to justify racism and racial separation has been done by Christians at one point or another during Christian history.

  13. 13
    matty1

    So was Mormon leader Bringham Young was expressing a legitimately held religious position when he said
    “If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.”?

  14. 14
    Leo Buzalsky

    On that last thought about how to determine which beliefs are “legitimately held,” Prager appears to be implying that a religious conviction is legitimately held if it has been held by “every religion in recorded history.” Well, I’ve got some bad news for Prager — the conviction that Jesus was/is the “Son of God” and/or the “Lord and Savior” are convictions that have not been held by “every religion in recorded history.”

  15. 15
    John Hinkle

    Prager more than once frames it as the Colorado bakers being forced to participate in an event (a same-sex wedding) if they sell a cake to the couple.

    So I guess if I sold a bed to a gay couple, I would be participating in some very special events. Riiiiight.

  16. 16
    D. C. Sessions

    There’s also the whole Levitical thing about mixed fabrics, meat and milk, mixed seeds (especially!) etc.

  17. 17
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    I would bet that Mr. Prager refers to the American Civil War as “The War of the Northern Aggression”.

  18. 18
    zmidponk

    Unlike opposition to interracial marriage, opposition to same-sex marriage has been the position of every religion in recorded history – as well as of every country and every American state until the 21st century.

    Same-sex unions were fairly common in the Roman Empire – until it was outlawed in 342CE under the joint rule of the Christian Emperors Constans and Constantius II. Similarly, this was also common in ancient Greece. Traditional Native American culture has this concept of some people being ‘two-spirited’, which makes their gender somewhat fluid (or, alternatively, neither male nor female, but a third gender with elements of both), so they may marry either men or women. Many tribes actually hold these people in great esteem and respect them immensely.

    I’m no history buff, but I knew about this just off the top of my head, so it would seem that Mr. Prager is speaking from a position of immense ignorance and assuming that because the religion he’s most familiar with has a problem with same-sex marriage, every other religion MUST be this way as well.

  19. 19
    Pieter B, FCD

    God has separated people for his own purposes. He has erected barriers between the nations, not only land and sea barriers, but also ethnic, cultural, and language barriers. God has made people different from one another and intends those differences to remain. Bob Jones University is opposed to intermarriage of the races because it breaks down the barriers God has established.

    That was expressed by Jonathan Pait, Public Relations Officer for Bob Jones University, in 1998.

    By the bye, BJU’s tax exemption was pulled by the IRS in 1976, retroactive to 1970, for racial discrimination. When the case was finally ruled upon by SCOTUS, the Court ruled against BJU 8-1. The lone dissenter was Rehnquist.

  20. 20
    ArtK

    Who, exactly, gets to decide what is and is not a “legitimately held religious conviction”?

    It’s really simple, Ed. If I believe it, it’s legitimately held. If you believe it, it’s not. See how easy that is?

  21. 21
    cptdoom

    The Roman Catholic Church has believed for centuries that civil divorce does not end a marriage, and any subsequent “remarriage” is adultery. Does Prager think that bakers and florists and the like should be able to refuse services to these adulterers based on “legitimately held religious” convictions?

  22. 22
    brianwestley

    Hmm, the twice-divorced Prager? That’s a real poser, cptdoom…

  23. 23
    Dr X

    Wikipedia:

    In May 1975, as it prepared to allow unmarried blacks to enroll, BJU adopted more detailed rules prohibiting interracial dating and marriage—threatening expulsion for any student who dated or married interracially, who advocated interracial marriage, who was “affiliated with any group or organization which holds as one of its goals or advocates interracial marriage,” or “who espouse, promote, or encourage others to violate the university’s dating rules and regulations.”[99] In 1982 BJU’s then-president Bob Jones III, during interviews in which he defended the school’s tax-exempt status, cited nine passages from the Bible – drawn both from the Old and New Testaments – which he claimed demonstrated that God intended races to be segregated:[100] “The Bible clearly teaches, starting in the 10th chapter of Genesis and going all the way through, that God has put differences among people on the earth to keep the earth divided”, he said, adding that inter-racial marriage was “playing into the hands of the antichrist and the one-world system.”[101]

  24. 24
    iangould

    Leaving aside Christianity for a second:

    Can an ultra-Orthodox Jew ban women from his place of business on the basis of a sincerely held religious belief that if they’re menstruating and he accidentally touches them he becomes ritually impure?

    - Can a Hindu doctor refuse to treat a Dalit on the basis of a sincerely held religious belief that their suffering is necessary to expiate sins they committed in a past life?

  25. 25
    voiceofreason2me

    Perhaps he meant “sincerely held religious belief,” which is a legal requirement for pursuing employment religious discrimination claims and also a requirement to prove a Free Exercise First Amendment constitutional claim. But who knows…

  26. 26
    wsierichs

    The legal basis for racism in the U.S. and its English colonial predecessors has always been Bible-based, as interpreted by Christians. I won’t go into the long historical background but simply point out:
    The Va. colonial law of 1662 banned sex between “Christians” and “negroes,” who at that time were pagans.
    The 1664 Maryland law whined about how many “freeborn English women … intermarry with Negro slaves”; by definition a freeborn English man or woman had to be a Christian. More interesting is that marriages between, in our terms, white women and black men, suggests racism was not yet in existence.
    There are several other things from the 17th-18th century that show the distinction was between Christian and pagan (even to “Christian hair” vs. “Negro hair”).
    The most damning evidence are the “Butts v. Penny” (1677) and “Gelly v. Cleve” (1692) decisions by English judges in lawsuits challenging the enslavement of Africans that because Negroes were pagans, Christians could lawfully enslave them. The basis of this is ultimately biblical: An Israelite law (don’t remember citation) allowed the Israelites to permanently enslave non-Israelites and their descendants, but not Israelites. Christians had declared themselves the “new Jews” with a new covenant, which threw out Jewish ritual requirements but kept the Deuteronomic and Levitican laws. “Slave” comes from Slav, because medieval Christian crusaders captured so many pagan Slavs in centuries of brutal, annual raids and sold them into forced labor, that Slav became synonymous with forced labor. So Christians did to Africans exactly what they did to European pagans.

  27. 27
    caseloweraz

    Further to Ian Gould (#24):

    Could a Jain working at a hardware store refuse to sell insecticides?

    Could a Mormon be legally prevented from practicing polygamy?

    Could a Christian be required to sell guns and ammunition?

    (That last one might be a killer. Pun intended.)

  28. 28
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    If it’s okay for a business to discriminate against gay people on religious grounds, why isn’t it okay for them to discriminate against black people in religious grounds?

    What makes you think Prager doesn’t think that’s okay?

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