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Michael Varrati

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An Open Letter to Billy Graham

Posted: 05/08/2012 2:13 pm

Dear Billy,

As voters in North Carolina are poised to decide whether to write a permanent ban on same-sex marriage into their state's constitution, it should come as no surprise to anyone that you, the famed Bible (mis)interpeter that you are, weighed in with your opinion.

"At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage," you said in a statement, "The Bible is clear -- God's definition of marriage is between a man and a woman."

Well, Billy, I didn't think at 93 you'd need a civics lesson, either, but apparently you do.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and argue with you about what the Bible says or doesn't say (although Leviticus 11:12 does explicitly say that eating shellfish is a sin, so I do wonder why you're not crusading against Red Lobster), but I do want to talk a little bit about the Constitution. It's a document that you may be familiar with, as it allows you to not only celebrate your religion but sing its praises loud and proud. In fact, it's all there in the First Amendment, so the Founding Fathers must've thought it was pretty important. Also implicit in that First Amendment is the separation of church and state, a basic principle that was championed by Thomas Jefferson to ensure that you could celebrate your faith peaceably without crapping all over someone else's rights or beliefs.

But maybe you're not convinced. I understand. Despite the First Amendment's explicit definition that these things should have no bearing on one another, I know that people like you, select Republicans, and Fox News have the misguided belief that this should not be the case. That's totally fine; I get what you're doing. You pick and choose! And why not? It's fun! You already do it with the Bible, so why not the Constitution? It's important not to limit yourself.

But, you know, those crazy patriots who founded our country must've thought this was a pretty important issue, because it comes up again in the Fourteenth Amendment. In case you're not familiar with that one, it's the amendment that ensures your religious civil rights, and also ensures that the state can't make or enforce any law that abridges or denies your beliefs or way of life. Essentially, what ol' Fourteen is saying is that no one faith-based or religious entity can be allowed to make its beliefs into written law, because it may be to the detriment of the civil liberties of others. And given that the entire basis of your argument against same-sex marriage is simply based on the fact that the Bible says so, I'm going to have to go ahead and say that it's kind of contradictory to both the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

With this information now in your possession, and with complete respect to your beliefs, I'm sure that you see the error in your argument. After all, this isn't a religious issue; it's a state issue. More importantly, it's an issue of civil rights.

Now, I've done my research. I know that you've taken great pride in the fact that you supported integration in the '50s, and though some historians have questioned how consistent your message of racial unity actually was, you wanted people to know you were all for equal rights. Great! Though the specifics of this situation are slightly different, the underlying cause is the same. I know it's difficult, especially for a pious man such as yourself, but this is a circumstance where you have to set aside your beliefs in honor of what is right. I'm not asking you to change your opinion; in fact, I can fully respect that you're personally against gay marriage. That's your right. However, trying to force your beliefs onto someone else is wrong and a violation of their personal freedom.

So I'm calling you out, Billy. For someone who has made great claims of being a champion of equal rights, it's time to live the example. It's not for you to decide what others have the right to do or not do, and if you live the faith-based life you proclaim, you should be happy with yourself. Don't worry about others. If what you believe is true, then it's between you and God, no one else.

And although I promised to steer clear of the Bible here, I wanted to leave you with something to consider. That carpenter from Nazareth may have said many things, but the underlying message was always love -- to celebrate it, know it, and always respect its presence in the world. Furthermore, Jesus made it abundantly clear that it was not to us to judge our fellow man. Yet there you stand with a fistful of stones.

Believe what you want, Billy. But, this issue isn't about you. It's about human beings, human rights, and love. And although the Bible and the Constitution are vastly different documents, they are both abundantly clear on those virtues.

 

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