Public opinion

In light of Minnesota’s recent law legalizing gay marriage, this seems relevant even if the column isn’t new.  Usually I ignore Cal Thomas, but his column on the dangers of following public opinion hit a nerve.

He asserts that

History is full of warnings about what happens when people follow public opinion instead of standing by their principles.

Apparently it’s lost on him the number of times public opinion or cultural norms have been misplaced, at best, or downright evil, at worst.  There seems to be some confusion about the validity of public opinion.  Thomas himself rails against following public opinion for most of the piece, but then in the fifth paragraph cites  passage of California’s Proposition 8 as proof that public opinion believes gay marriage should remain illegal.  But the proposition was passed by popular vote; does the popularity of Proposition 8 make it invalid?

The popularity of one position on a given issue doesn’t make it right or wrong any more than the popularity of a singer makes them good or bad.

The second part of Thomas’ argument is no less frustrating

Some liberals believe the Constitution is a “living” document that must constantly evolve to fit the times. It is not. Some liberal theologians believe the same about the Scriptures. They believe these, too, must evolve, because serving God is no longer the standard; serving Man is.

If the constitution isn’t a living document then why did its creators include a provision to amend it?  And why did they start amending it almost immediately.  Amending the constitution requires a change of public opinion, so does that mean that each amendment since 1791 is invalid because it bows to a change in public opinion?

As far as scripture goes, interpretation of the Bible has evolved over the past 2,000 years – or more, if you use the Talmud as an example.  Christianity was used as a basis to deny interracial marriage, as this quote from the 1958 case Loving vs. Virginia

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 scriptural basis for opposition to gay marriage is no less tenuous than the scriptural argument against interracial marriage.  And even if there is an ironclad Biblical argument against gay marriage then we still shouldn’t be using the American legal system to enforce Biblical laws or morality.

Outlawing marriage between two people of different races seems ridiculous to us now and today’s laws against marriage between two people of the same sex will seem no less silly to people forty years from now.


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