Macaulay Honors College Seminar 2, IDC 3001H

Category: Week 8

Religion V.S Society

This past Monday professor Rosenberg took a bit of a detour in the class discussion. He pulled out a topic that I have been recently enjoying more and more because of the law aspect that this particular case brings. We discussed the issues of two laws colliding with one another. One of them being a constitutional amendment and the other being recently added to the liberties of individuals in America. The collision of freedom of religion and civil liberties is a topic that intrigues me mostly because truth, I really don’t know which side is correct.

We brought several different cases and discussed the scenarios of a priest, a baker and a dining hall and if they would be required to perform their duties if they were against the marriage that was to be carried out. It’s even more interesting because my religion has no tolerance for gay marriage and so it really is a conflict that I can personally visualize. Even after the discussion we had in class I still don’t know which side the law would favor with. In a case of racial differences however , for example, if a baker wouldn’t bake for a mixed race marriage, that I think is wrong and the baker must perform his duties. Because of the racial case I’m extremely interested in where the line is drawn. I can’t seem to figure out if the gay marriage should also have the racial point of view or it’s a case entirely separate. Where is the line drawn?

Loving v. Virginia

In 2016 the acclaimed movie Loving, about Mildred and Richard Loving, who defied their state’s prohibition against interracial marriage, was nominated for two Golden Globes. I haven’t had the chance to watch it but it does present a similar problem to the stuff we discussed in class.

The facts of the case are that Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving got married in 1958. Mildred had black and Cherokee ancestry; Richard was white. They lived in Virginia. Virginia at that time had anti-miscegenation laws that forbade the marriage of whites and non-whites. The Lovings appealed their case all the way to the Supreme Court and the court found in their favor. The court found that anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional.

But clergymen are different. Shouldn’t clergymen be able to exercise their freedom of religion and refuse to marry intersex couples? A similar question would be: shouldn’t clergymen be able to exercise their freedom of religion and refuse to marry inter-race couples?

Yes. I feel that all citizens of America have these rights. However, this should be an individual and case-by-case choice only. I don’t feel like it’s ethical to have it mandated by law to forbid intersex or interracial marriage, as affirmed by Loving v. Virginia. Similarly, I think that clergymen shouldn’t be persuaded by their constituents or hard-line religious fundamentalist groups that they must refuse to marry intersex couples.

What I’m trying to say, is that the law should protect clergymen that are bold enough to defy the religious scriptures to do what they feel is ethical. I do not think that other racist laws or narrow-minded people or lobbyists should legally be able to influence their decisions. Of course, the vast majority of clergymen would choose to stick with the teachings of their scriptures and that is their choice. But the freedom of choice must be given to those who choose to defy scripture and follow their conscience.

And on a hopeful note, I think that we are moving towards a more inclusive and tolerant society. This has been shown by Loving v. Virginia and the virtual mainstream acceptance of interracial marriages. This has also been shown by the Supreme Court ruling in 2015, legalizing gay marriage. I really hope that our nation is becoming more tolerant and in the near future intersex marriages will be accepted because no one can remember a time when it wasn’t.

***One thing I forgot to mention: marrying inter-race and intersex couples has one important difference. Intersex marriages are prohibited by Christian scripture but I don’t think that inter-race marriages are. Like I think all they need to be is Christian. The Bible condemns homosexuality however.

The Middle

On Monday Professor Rosenberg brought up a quote that appeared in Nancy Foner’s famous book From Ellis Island to JFK: New York’s two great waves of immigration: New York City is increasingly becoming “hollow in the middle”. I found this quote to be quite interesting, because it clearly contradicts with what I’ve previously learned. New York City’s middle class was gradually becoming smaller and smaller as the economy was recovering.

The middle class first made its appearance during the Industrial Revolution, which was a transition from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy, and manufacturing processes were facilitated by technology and machines. As a result of this Revolution America’s economy was increasingly expanding and becoming better. The middle class included people that had “white-collar” jobs, such as lawyers, doctors, bank clerks and shopkeepers. Some middle-class individuals even contributed to the expansion of the economy by buying and constructing factories for manufacturing goods/products.

It’s really interesting how the things are so different in the two eras. I’ve learned that during the Industrial Revolution, as the economy was improving and more and more jobs were created thanks to the advancement of technologies; the middle class was unrelentingly thriving. Yet, in the 20th century when the economy was recovering and improving, the same middle class was becoming more and more “hollow”. Many jobs were also created thanks to the advancement of technology in the 20th century. For instance, Foner claimed that many jobs that had never existed before were created, such as computer programming. Both epochs certainly share many similarities, notably the economic improvement and technological advancement, yet the middle class of the industrial era was thriving and the middle class of the contemporary era is dwindling.

Society’s Dilemma

In Monday’s class we discussed the issue of freedom of religion versus freedom of expression in the context of same-sex marriage. This is merely one of the heated debates that has divided people nationwide, so I found it worthwhile to bring up in class. As we moved from an extreme, the clergyman, to a grey area, the baker, the reactions to these situations made an impression on me.

I was surprised to hear that some people believe that a clergyman who refuses to marry a same-sex couple should be forced to do so. While I certainly think that in a business context there should be no prejudice in what customers to attend to, in such a religious setting I feel that there has to be a degree of autonomy. The entire basis of religion is the right to express one’s beliefs and share them with a community of others who believe the same. Therefore, forcing a clergyman to marry two people whose marriage he doesn’t condone would be unethical. Clergymen are supposed to be one of the most devout religious followers, and thus I think they would simply not be able to do something that goes against their religion without a guilty conscience and a poignant anger towards anyone forcing this on them against their will. On the other hand, I can sympathize with the rejection that a same-sex couple must feel in this situation as well. An aspect of one’s character that is so personal and private should not be judged by others. There definitely needs to be more understanding towards same-sex couples so that they too can thrive. I sincerely hope that our society as a whole is moving towards this by figuring out a healthy middle ground.