Feb 16, 2017

Republicans: Have We Missed Our Calling?

The Republican Party was founded with a mission of ending slavery.  The party, grown out of the old Whig Party, was strictly against the spread of slavery.  The core belief was that stopping the continued growth of slavery would eventually lead to enough votes in Congress to eliminate it altogether.  From that time on, the party has always stood against injustices.  After slavery was abolished, Republicans pushed for the voting rights of former slaves.  They later pushed for equality and women's rights.  They stood firmly against southern Democrats who wanted to put down the Civil Rights movements.  In many cases the Republican Party stood against what society considered to be the norm.  In fact, the party even stood against what religion considered to be appropriate.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party again stands at the threshold of a fight against discrimination.  The problem that now faces the party that has always fought hard against discrimination is the core question that must now be answered.  Can the party separate religious beliefs from political views once again?  I say once again, because few may remember that at the time slavery was in place, many preached it was appropriate and even Biblical to have slaves.  Later, store owners in the 1960's would justify not serving African-American people because they were "decedents of Cain" and in some circles the color of a person's skin indicated whether he descended from Cain or not.  Religion was used to justify what Republicans simply saw as wrong.  Today we would be horrified to think of someone justifying slavery with the Bible, or justifying women not voting based on some Biblical verse that indicated women had no rights.  We would simply say those religious leaders were wrong.  We can say that, but the question remains "Can the party separate religious beliefs from political views once again?"

The fact is that many Republicans firmly tie their religious views to their political views.  In other words, regardless of what the Constitution might say, they elevate the Bible, or another religious book over it.  If that is how a person feels, then it is fine....we are, after all, a nation founded on religious freedom.  However, it is because of that foundation of religious freedom that we must be very careful not to allow our religious views to guide us in all matters regarding the Constitution and other people's rights.

Consider this for a moment - what if a large group of the voting population was Jewish.  That population turns out to be the dominate voting group in the Republican Party.  Would it be appropriate for them to tell Christians that they can not work on Saturdays because Saturday is the Sabbath? No.  It would be no more appropriate than it would be for Christians to tell Jews that they must honor Sunday as a Holy Day, not Saturday.  The bottom line is religion does not matter and in fact has not mattered many times when the Republican Party stood up for the Constitution and stood against society, and even religious, norms such as slavery, voting rights, women's rights, and many other situations.

Where is all this going?  We stand at a crossroad as a party.  We can embrace our calling to stand up for the Constitutional rights of all people, or we can continue to select who and when we will stand up based on our own religious views - regardless of the views of other people or the law.

President Trump recently had the DOJ withdraw support for a Transgender lawsuit in Texas.  The message sent to the LGBT community was clear - the highest ranking Republican in the country is not going to support your rights.    It's a scary thought to our fellow citizens who are LGBT.  They felt suddenly justified for all their open opposition to candidate Trump and now President Trump.   On the other hand, many Republicans cheered Trump's decision.  But is his decision the right one for the party and the nation?

Although many Republicans are not supportive of the LGBT community or their efforts, how is it different than the efforts of women to gain the right to vote, or African-Americans to gain equal rights?  Much like those efforts, isn't the LGBT communities push for equal rights the same?  The answer should be a resounding "Yes", but the problem is that our religion conflicts with our Constitution.  Remember, many preachers stated that slavery was okay, but Republicans set religion aside and said, "No, slavery is not okay."  Many religions felt that women should not have the right to vote - even allowed beating women who tried and promoted voting- but Republicans set religion aside and said women should vote.  Many preachers stated that separation of "Colored and Whites" was God's will, but Republicans set religion aside and said, "No separation is right in the United States."

We now stand at a point where religion once again tells us something is wrong.  It tells us that the LGBT society is wrong.  Preachers talk against it, religious leaders pound the podiums of churches across the nation and say it's wrong!  In the eyes of those religions, it is wrong.  In the eyes of many reading this now, it is wrong.  But ultimately why should your religion or the religious beliefs of any group of people, rule over and tell the LGBT that they do not have rights?  That is not what this nation was founded on.  This nation was founded on the belief that you can have your religious view and others can have religious views that are different from yours.....That is what the Republican party has stood for.  Members of the party have not always agreed when it comes to Religion - we have Catholics, Jews, Christians, Muslims, and even Atheist who are Republican - but what we have in common is a belief that we should and can all have equal rights under the Constitution of the United States of America.  It is time for Republicans to realize that as a party we can not miss our calling.  Our calling is to stand up for those oppressed- whether it is a slave in the 1800, a woman in the early 1900, Civil Rights in the mid-1960s, or even the LGBT person in the 2000s - we do not back down when it comes to Constitutional Rights.  We may not personally believe  in the issue on a religious basis, but we understand that the United States is bigger than our individual religious views - we can hold onto them, believe in them, but we can not allow any person or group of people - whether we like their views or not- to be oppressed in this country.  It is not what Americans allow to be done and it goes against everything the party was founded on to allow anyone to live under any sort of oppression without the same rights and liberties that we all share.   The time for the Republican Party to rise up and answer the call is now or else we betray everything those founding members of our country and party have set in motion so long ago.

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