That statement was part of the decision handed down by the Virginia State Supreme Court in 1958 regarding interracial marriage and miscegenation. In the name of God and the courts, it was the ruling that sentenced Mildred Jeter Loving, a black woman, and her husband, Richard Loving, a white man to one year in jail for a marriage that was not only illegal but immoral as well. So declared, the opinion was not just that of the court, but it was viewed as God’s edict as well.
It’s amazing the court’s opinion in 1958 had such a parochial, self-serving world view. But what’s even more amazing is that the court attributed its decision to the wishes of God. Unfortunately, that was how the world was in 1958. Thank God that was in the past. Or was it?
Today, here in the dawn of the 21st century, we still use our concepts of God as a means of denying rights to others. Most contentious of which is gay rights. And what’s sad about this habit is that it uses the same tired religious gesticulations that were once used to support slavery, to subjugate women, to declare wars, to decimate entire peoples, and yes, to justify laws that forbade miscegenation and other forms of racism. And as if not to have learned from past mistakes, there are those who go on using God as the prime agent to further hateful ideas as law.
Poor God. We dump all our self-conceited desires and ruminations on Him, or Her, or It.
We go on, day after day, misappropriating perceptions of God to suit our personal wishes. What started out as a way of explaining the unexplainable, the concept of God fell into dirty little hands that sought to use it to acquire power while denying rights to others.
This habit of using God as a fallback for dirty little deeds is why the U.S. Constitution prohibits the state from endorsing particular religions, the implication of which is a separation of church and state. The framers of the Constitution were historically close to a time that showed them just how dangerous it can be when the two entities, church and state, are entwined.
Sure we all carry ideas of God inside our heads and our hearts, but to use those ideas to commit forms of oppression, to deprive people from attaining their full worth in compliance with the greater good of society, is crippling for society as a whole.
Having perceptions of God isn’t inherently wrong. However subjective, they engage us in much of what we do everyday. But there is a point when we simply should not use those views as overriding judgment when we create, execute, and interpret laws. When we do we become caught in a dangerous quagmire of competing personal views, some of which can be caustic. Instead, principles of ethics, humanism, fairness and common sense should be the prime sources of thought in pursuing the course of law.
This week Mrs. Loving went home to join her husband who passed away in 1975. She was described as a shy, quiet woman who simply wanted to live a dignified life with the person she loved.I’m sure God didn’t mind. (Originally Posted in October, 2009)
(Note: The Loving's sentence was given a 25 year suspension in which the couple was banned from the state of Virginia. Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the decision in 1967.)