What Secular Government Really Means

Mike Swetnam

This Friday was marked by a seminal and controversial Supreme Court ruling. The court ruled that no state can define marriage based on sex. In other words, it is against the US Constitution to discriminate against same sex marriage. No state can define marriage in a way that biases or discriminates against one or both sexes.

This Friday was also marked with several terror attacks where dozens died. These attacks were encouraged, if not sponsored, by ISIS and Al Qaeda. They were attacks against Western countries because these societies do not govern their populations based on the teachings and rules of Islam. ISIS says that if we do not convert and live they way their religion says, we should die.

The Sunday talk shows are full of pundits making demagoguery statements on one side or the other about the Supreme Court ruling while mostly ignoring the Friday terror attacks. Few noted the ironic connection between these events. The US Supreme Court endorses personal freedom from religious definitions of marriage while ISIS sponsors terror to promote an theocratic/religious state.

Those against the ruling claim that the court invented law or that the court ruled against the wishes of the people in states where marriage was defined as between a man and a woman. They mostly claim that this discriminates against those whose religion defines marriage as such. I remember similar arguments in the 1960’s against laws and court rulings that allowed all Americans to go to the same schools regardless of race. It made it illegal to refuse service to any American: black, white, or in between.

Those for the ruling see the issue as one of pure rights. The right to marry who you want. The right to not be discriminated against because you love someone.

The one thing that has defined the United States since the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock is our unwavering adherence to secularism. We have refused, from the very beginning, to base our government, governance, or policy on religion. Saying that marriage is such and such because that is the way my religion defines it is EXACTLY the same as ISIS saying woman must wear veils in public or adulterers must be stoned to death because their religion says so. Secular governments, of which the USA is the prime example, do not base their laws or policy on their religion or faith.

In the USA, we strongly believe that no one should EVER be discriminated against because of race, creed, color, or sex. To tell someone they cannot do something like get married because they are not a man and a woman is discriminatory. Just as discriminatory as telling someone they cannot marry a black American, or cannot join the military because they are female, etc. Or to attack and kill anyone who does not believe in Islam.

We should not discriminate against those who believe marriage is between a man and a woman and it is now illegal for them to discriminate against those who have different beliefs. We should not act like ISIS and AQ, attacking those who do not believe as we do.

Further, the United States stands for rational governance based on reason and the good of all versus the good of a few. We stand for science. We stand for laws and policy that demonstrate the good of all of us. Our laws and our policies are meant to be as non-intrusive as possible while guaranteeing that each person’s belief is respected and preserved if possible. At the Institute, we call that rational policy instead of belief-driven policy.

The United States stands for free thought as much as free religion. It stands for freedom to live the way you want, believe what you want, and now marry who you want!

These are the things ISIS and Al Queda fight against.

On Friday, the Supreme Court made the best statement the USA can make to ISIS. We told them that we do not believe in government by religion. We should take a moment to be proud, but then we should echo this message of secularism to all people in the world. These are the principles that will defeat the growing threats we see in Iraq.

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