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« Bloggers for separation of church and state | Main | The American Taliban »

Saturday, April 07, 2007


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aaron jason silver


If anyone watches or reads the news it would have been difficult not to have heard of the many of sex scandals as of late. I am now speaking of men in high profile positions. A great many of them are members of the clergy. These men obviously knew full well what they were supposed to believe about homosexuality. To them it is considered an immoral and abominable act. Why then were these men not able to pray away these sinful thoughts and be able to resist the temptations of these "unnatural" acts? Would they have been more successful if they had prayed to a different God perhaps? Or could it be that it is a normal sexual orientation for some people that cannot be altered and it is what God intended for them? It would seem that since members of the clergy who are considered to be closer to God than we mere lay people would be very successful ridding themselves of all sorts of perverted thoughts and acts. It is quite likely that they have prayed about it enough but without success. If the heterosexual majority would do some research on their own by going to gay bars or log on to the gay chat rooms where many gays meet other gays with the safety and anonymity that computers provide. They would then realize the vast numbers of clergy and married men from all walks of life that are struggling with this issue. These men are just the tip of the iceberg. These men are those that are willing to take the first step toward homosexual contact. It is done in baby steps with much guilt, shame, fear and trepidation. I have talked too many of these men as I was researching for my book. It seems quite clear to me that if the clergy themselves cannot fight these powerful inner urgings through prayer then perhaps we ought to start looking at it differently. After all homosexuality does not cause victims as long as it is of mutual consent between adults as it would be expected of heterosexuality as well.
Perhaps it is high time that the phenomenon of “the closet” is addressed and understood. I believe it is essential to discuss “the closet” to provide the necessary context from which to view some of the scandals that have happened recently to people in high profile positions. This discussion needs to be civilized our knee jerk reactions and judgments held in check. After all, the last time I checked Christian doctrine we are not supposed to judge others. We need to discuss the subject of “the closet” with great compassion. By the term “closet”, I am referring to the emotional place that many people with same sex attractions recoil into in order to keep any suspicion of their sexual orientation away from them. Many closeted gay men will often compartmentalize their lives and marry in order to try and rid themselves of these same sex attractions and to thwart any unwanted suspicion. When one represses the powerful natural urgings of sexuality they then often have secret sexual liaisons, become very involved in conservative religious dogma and/or become members of the clergy themselves desperately hoping that these same sex attractions will go away if they just try harder. Whichever methods closeted gays use, are desperate attempts at hiding, or even used as a way of trying to rid themselves of their natural sexual inclinations by trying to play it “normal”. This is done out of shame for being something other than what they believe their God or families and friends want of them. I am speaking primarily of men at this time because I believe men use the closet even more often than woman. The reason being is because of societies more narrow view and expectations of what behaviors are considered acceptable and “normal” for men. Woman can be tomboys much easier than men can be sissies. Of course not all gay men are effeminate by a long shot but that is a stereotypical image of gay men. Therefore men with same sex orientations will often practice stereotypical masculine behaviors to thwart any suspicion out of fear of social denunciation.
The practice of compartmentalizing ones life for very long often will often cause the development of some emotional problems to varying degrees and manifesting in a variety of ways. Many closeted men develop coping mechanisms such as addictive behaviors of all sorts whether it is alcoholism, prescription or non prescription drug abuse. They may develop addictions to pornography, sexual addiction or other self-destructive ways of acting out. The longer one stays in the closet there will then also generally be more victims because of their closeted lifestyle choice. The victims may be their wives, children, their friends, parents, siblings etc. All feeling like they have been betrayed and deceived when the closeted individuals true nature is discovered as it was for ex-governor of New Jersey, Mr. McGreevy, ex-congressmen Foley, the president of the Evangelicals, very patriotic members of our armed services to name just a few of the staggering numbers of men that have also been hiding their true selves. I feel very sad for the victims as I do with the closeted individual. They are all truly victims. I understand the humiliation, despair, and profound depression that the closeted individuals feel that soon follows once that door to the closet has been flung open. For some, the shame and fear is just too unbearable and suicide seems like the only alternative to ending their unbearable pain and shame. Suicide rates and addictions are much higher than heterosexual men.

Society needs to take some responsibility with this matter of the closet by being more accepting of alternative lifestyles. Without the closet, try and imagine how much less pain many people and families would have to endure. Not only the ones that feel that living in the closet is their only alternative, but for the victims that find themselves feeling betrayed once the secret comes out.

We as a culture have some soul searching to do on this matter and not be so self-righteous and quick to judge. There are a variety of ways of loving and living. We need to accept the fact that what seems to be normal for some is not necessarily normal for all. There is still so much shame involved yet in this day and age concerning sexual orientation in our rather hypocritical puritanical society. This attitude is unfortunately what causes many gays not to seek help concerning issues they may be struggling with from the appropriate professionals. I generally do not recommend clergy because it can cause further damage due to their religious agendas which can deepen one's shame and depression. This is a very complicated issue and I don’t have all the answers. I am however certain that society has to become more compassionate toward people with innate same sex attractions. If they do not, we will continue to shame many gay people enough so that it will continue to inhibit many from being true to themselves and therefore to their loved ones.

One can read more about this issue and many other disturbing issues involving gay culture of today in my new book; "why gay men do what they do"; an inside look at gay culture. Thank you, Aaron Jason Silver


I think Dan's questions concerning the slippery slope are poorly formed. Dan summarizes:

The burden is on them to convince the rest of us that what they seek -- call it theocracy or call it something else -- will not soon devolve into a system that will eventually deprive all of us, Christians included, of our most sacred liberty.
The burden is not on "them" or "us" unless "we" deem "them" to be losing or in the minority.

Is the burden really where you imply it is? If the wall of separation must be serviced with the removal of religious symbols and the prevention of religious acts that were acceptable 200 years ago, "how are we to believe that this will be better for our country than the system that has served us so well for 200 years?"

Our secularist democratic party

Non-religious Americans are increasingly important for the Democrats' coalition


Fair enough, particularly on the question of previous generations, which I think is an angle on this topic that probably isn't well understood.

But to clarify one point: "us" and "them" in this case refers to those who would maintain the current interpretation of the (admittedly vague) establishment clause and those who propose a new interpretation, either via the appointment of judges with a particular philosophy (the easiest way) or via Constitutional amendment (an extremely unlikely path). As in any debate about a proposed change, I think the burden rests with those who favor the proposal.

To the point about the removal of religious symbols and the prevention of acts that were once acceptable, I've got a couple of responses:

First, for a government act to be deemed unconstitutional, don't you first have to have a complaint in the form of a lawsuit? And for that to occur, the complainant must have standing to file the suit. And part of that standing is residency.

Which leads to a pattern that I see: in more homogeneous communities with a dominant religion, you're less likely to see symbols and practices challenged. We've got rulings that clearly state that holding prayers to a specific deity at school functions goes against the establishment clause, yet I've been to numerous small-town events (mostly football games) where those prayers get said and nobody complains. This continues.

On the one hand, this doesn't bother me because, for crying out loud, it's their town and their school and whatever. But I've also seen the high price paid by people in these settings to stand up for rights that courts have repeatedly said that they have.

A few years back I went to a tiny South Carolina town near the North Carolina border where a Wiccan had challenged her town council's practice of holding a Christian prayer to begin their official meetings. She challenged the practice in court (after trying to get them to amend their prayer to put it in line with the existing interpretation), and the backlash against her, including the killings of her pets, was truly disheartening. But I digress.

Second point: The Constitution may or may not "evolve," but leaving the strict constructionist arguments aside, case law most certainly evolves. And since the First Amendment is rather a breezy omnibus, courts have been forced to interpret the Establishment Clause ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion") ever since. The state of that case-law precedent has varied, just as U.S. attitudes toward religion have varied.

So it is absolutely true that at various times in our national past we have, I think, rather enthusiastically trampled the wall between church and state mentioned in Jefferson's Danbury letter.

Consider "In God We Trust," which started appearing on our currency in the early 19th century, around the time of The Great Revival. It also became our national motto during the Cold War, when Americans saw themselves in a life-or-death struggle with (officially atheistic) Communism. All sorts of references to God popped up in official government life during that period of change and high national anxiety.

Anyway, courts have repeatedly upheld the constitutionality of "In God We Trust" on our currency. This could change, of course, but I think it illustrates the open nature of the Establishment Clause and the evolved wisdom of decades of precedent (some good, some bad, but trending together toward a wise compromise).

Which is why a public school principal can't lead students and faculty in a prayer invoking Jesus or Allah, but the country's currency can use the word "God." It's why attempts to put up the Ten Commandment in council chambers are unconstitutional (Charleston, SC), but attempts to remove the Ten Commandments from a 1930s courthouse display don't get traction (Haywood County, NC). It's why the "wall" isn't really a wall at all, but a guide to resolving conflicting liberties in tension.

I freely admit that the Establishment Clause doesn't give us specific instructions in these cases, and that previous generations and various jurisdictions have interpreted them in many ways. But I also believe and contend that the evolved standard, as currently held, is preferable.

Final point: The generation that won the Revolutionary War and framed the Constitution wasn't a monolithic culture and included devoutly religious people who no doubt disagreed with Jefferson (who wasn't adverse to using religious language in his writings). Yet that group, having just emerged from its conflict with England, seemed to have internalized the value of keeping religion and politics largely separate.

It's really not until their passing -- after the War of 1812, and during the decades-long rising of tensions over slavery -- that strong efforts to assert Christianity's place in American government arose.

We have often flirted with government endorsement of religion, and we have often backed away. Now is one of those times, though I would argue that the effort to "tear down the wall" has crested and is now ebbing.

This isn't because most Americans hate religion, but because we're the most diverse nation on the planet, an onging experiment into how many people can learn to live together as one.


Well Dan, if you're going to write better comments than posts ...

re: your clarification and first point

I find it equally applies to theocrats as well as secularists. Especially considering that the "wall of separation" relies on BOTH the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the 1st Amendment's religion clause AND both were cited by Jefferson in his Danbury letter when coining the phrase "a wall of separation between church and state." Since you seem solely concerned with the theocrats and Establishment portion of the wall, you can expect me to remind you of the Free Exercise portion.

The "current interpretation" IS vague, so you find many cases of "them" and "us" standing on "the wall" on top either clause. To say that you stand in defense of a vague interpretation that has not been decided seems ... silly.

re: your second point

"It's why the "wall" isn't really a wall at all, but a guide to resolving conflicting liberties in tension."

See, you get it!

re: your last point

"We have often flirted with government endorsement of religion, and we have often backed away."

FindLaw: U.S. Constitution: First Amendment: Annotations: RELIGION

James Hutson

Jefferson knew and seemed to savor the fact that his letter, as originally drafted, would give "great offense" to the New England Federalists. Reviewing the draft on Dec. 31, Postmaster General Granger, the object of unremitting political harassment in Connecticut, cheered Jefferson on, apparently welcoming the "temporary spasms" that he predicted the letter would produce "among the Established Religionists" in his home state. When Levi Lincoln, a cooler head, saw the letter the next day, he immediately perceived that, as written, it could hurt Jefferson politically among the growing number of Republicans in New England. People there, Lincoln warned Jefferson, "have always been in the habit of observing fasts and thanksgivings in performance of proclamations from their respective Executives." To disparage this custom with an "implied censure" by representing it as a tainted, Tory ceremony could be politically disastrous, however well the slur might play south of the Hudson River....

... Jefferson would never compromise his views that there were things government could not do in the religious sphere -- legally establish one creed as official truth and support it with its full financial and coercive powers. But by 1802, he seems to have come around to something close to the views of New England Baptist leaders such as Isaac Backus and Caleb Blood, who believed that, provided the state kept within its well-appointed limits, it could provide "friendly aids" to the churches, including putting at their disposal public property that even a stickler like John Leland was comfortable using.
First Amendment Center: School Prayer

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