Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Episcopalians 1, Baptists 0

In 1534, the Church of England seceded from the Church of Rome, because Henry wanted a divorce. Then, in 1789, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America seceded from the Church of England, because the U.S. wanted a divorce.

Then, in 2004, St. James Parish in Newport Beach seceded from the Los Angeles diocese of the American Episcopal Church and affiliated instead with the Anglican Church of Uganda. Divorce again, but for very different reasons. This time the people of St. James Parish were unhappy with the church’s stand on gays. Apparently the Ugandan Church is still sufficiently Victorian to think birds who do it with other birds and bees with other bees are naughty and have kept the church in the pure state it was in under Disraeli. I’m referring to Disraeli the imperialist, of course, not Disraeli the Closet Queen.

Well, organized religion being in large part about property, the Church of Rome is still reeling from the loss of real estate up north, and the American descendants of the Anglicans are not going to give up one square inch of Orange County without a fight, so they sued. You guys can go. But hands off the crucifixes and those beautiful silken garments we wrap ourselves up in. And you take a screwdriver to lift those pews and I’m hauling your ass into court.

To understand how the California Supreme Court danced around the touchy issue of how to handle the case without getting involved in doctrine, thereby crossing the church-state line as the churches did in spending millions of dollars in the Prop. 8 campaign, read the decision on the Supreme Court website. (Click on Episcopal Church Cases 1/5/09 SC). Not to spoil the fun of reading the whole 38-page decision, they decided it as a contract and property issue.

In a nutshell, the local church, while it holds the deed to the local property, agreed when it formed to be bound by the authority of the larger church. Ah, the joys of being hierarchical! This would not happen to Baptists. Baptists could say we’re forming the First Baptist Church of Don’t Touch Yourself Down There at least while in Topeka, and the rest of you people can just fart your way out of town.

Orange County Episcalopians, however, now have to shop around for a new place to be homophobic.

Maybe the Mormons will rent them some space.

Interesting to me is the fact that the opinion was written by Justice Chin, one of the more conservative members of the court, and one of the three justices who opposed granting rights of same-sex couples to marry. One hopes gays who want to label him a homophobe for this earlier decision will take notice of this one – here he is coming to the aid of one of the churches most supportive of gay rights inside and outside the church. I don’t doubt Chin himself would tell you his views on gays are irrelevant and he is applying the law as he sees it. Bravo, say I, knowing this could be explained by an inclination to support traditional authority.

Equally interesting is the fact that Justice Kennard wrote a dissenting opinion. Well, kind of. Basically she agreed with the decision, making it unanimous. She just thought the reasoning was not what it should be and her dissent was over a procedural issue. Kennard, you may remember, was one of the four justices who found same-sex marriages constitutional, and then surprised everybody when she said no to taking up the case against Prop. 8.

When the Supreme Court takes up Prop. 8 in March, if the same three justices (Chin, Baxter and Corrigan) who voted no on same-sex marriage hold to that opinion and support Prop. 8, and if Justice Kennard’s thinking on taking up Prop. 8 indicates she may switch sides and join them – even if George, Werdegar and Moreno vote in line with their previous decision – Prop. 8 will not be overturned, and justice will be delayed a while longer as we wait for religion-based homophobia in America to melt away on a more glacial scale.

But Kennard is an original and usually progressive thinker, frequently at odds with other members of the court. Who knows what she will come out with when the decision is announced in June?

But all that is speculation for another day. Today the Supreme Court once again looks gay-friendly and who loses here? Uganda, maybe.

In other religious news…

According to a Center for Disease Control publication, data from a recent survey show teen birth rates were highest in the South and Southwest, with the highest rate recorded in Mississippi (68.4), followed by New Mexico (64.1) and Texas (63.1).

Teen birth rates in 2006 were lowest in the Northeast in 2006, with the lowest rates occurring in New Hampshire (18.7), Vermont (20.8), and Massachusetts (21.3). The only states with a decrease in teen birth rates between 2005 and 2006 were North Dakota, Rhode Island, and New York.

That’s curious. Since the Episcopalians outnumber the southern Baptists in New England and it’s the other way around in Mississippi and Texas (I don’t have the figures for New Mexico), does this mean “God wants me to save it for the head of the household to whom I must submit” isn’t working, and hierarchical church structure leads to proper birth control?

It’s so hard to understand where religion ends and politics begins in America sometimes.

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