Tyranny of majority unleashed

Posted Nov. 10, 2009, at 7:44 p.m.

Look what’s on the state of Maine Web site: “An Act to Remove Protections Based on Sexual Orientation from the Maine Human Rights Act, Eliminate Funding of Civil Rights Teams in Public Schools, Prohibit Adoptions by Unmarried Couples, Add a Definition of Marriage, and Declare Civil Unions Unlawful.” It’s signed by Mike Heath.

Have you heard of this initiative? I hadn’t — not until after last week when those of us who favor equality no matter whom you date watched the marriage equality initiative fail. Then we all started scouring the secretary of state’s site fearfully looking for what might be next. There comes a point where the tyranny of the majority gives way to mob rule. And we’re approaching that point.

I have to admit, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Why hadn’t I heard of this initiative? Melissa Packard of the Secretary of State’s Office told me yesterday that basically no one has worked on this initiative and it will expire in 10 days. I asked her how long it would take for some group to turn around and get back in business if it resubmitted the legislation after that expiration date. She said it conceivably could be back by Jan. 1.

I’m afraid last week’s vote overturning marriage equality will embolden those who appear to be religious zealots. Maybe their victory over fairness made them feel powerful enough to strip their neighbors of more rights. I say those who appear to be religious zealots because I don’t think religion has ever been the cause of prejudice. I think faith is as much a victim of control-freak injustice as people of color, Jews, Arabs, Christians, homosexuals, scientists or any other minority group that has been persecuted in religion’s name.

Let’s take a look at the Roman Catholic Church; it has subjugated every one of those groups at one time. And yet the so-called Christians of various denominations that helped them defeat marriage equality apparently forgot that at one time the Roman Catholic Church excommunicated their originator Martin Luther and burned unrepentant Protestants at the stake. Some Christian sects apparently forgot their own persecution at the hands of others long enough to join forces and deny others a basic civil right.

But see, that’s not because their faith told them to pick on somebody else, it’s because persecution is about the power of certain ruling bodies.

The Catholic Church is the longest-reigning governing body in Western civilization. This year, governors of that theocracy — from inside and outside of Maine — contributed $550,000 to stop one group of people from having the same rights as another group.

The Catholic Church hierarchy was wrong and I’m afraid it might be wrong again. I’m afraid it’ll lend its clout to some new crusade and then a minority will, again, be persecuted for no reason.

It’s not surprising that the Catholic leadership was wrong on this year’s initiative. They’ve been wrong plenty. And I don’t just mean moving pedophile priests around or burning heretics. That stuff might have seemed right to them at the time, I guess. But that’s the problem — what seems right to a church government shouldn’t be used as the standard for a secular society.

I went to Catholic school for 14 years. I learned about one of the biggest blunders the world’s oldest monarchy ever made when I was at Boston College. The Catholic Church still hasn’t excommunicated Adolf Hitler. Some Jesuits tried to explain it. They said that the pope was concerned that Hitler would bomb the Vatican if he excluded him. That’s the “reason” for tolerating a genocidal maniac who caused more than 51 million deaths? Well, it does take the spotlight off a more sinister theory: that the Catholic Church might actually have been anti-Semitic. And now Hitler’s dead, so you can speculate for yourself which is true: that ancient buildings, unique artifacts of the past, were more important than people, or that hating the right people is OK.

The Roman Catholic government handled last week’s referendum as though it were protecting a bunch of old buildings. The ancient institution of marriage must be preserved and it’s OK if that tramples the rights of others.

Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com.

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