Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Hostettler and Christian Right Hold Their Own Fringe Festival In Evansville
Not to be outdone by Indianapolis' Fringe Festival this week, the Indiana Family Institute hosted its own little "Fringe Festival" at the Crossroads Christian Church in Evansville. According to the Evansville Courier Press, about 25 area pastors gathered to hear Rep. John Hostettler decry the growing problem of divorce. The paper reported that "Rep. John Hostettler told area clergy that divorce on demand is as dangerous as gay marriage, and pastors' actions will be key to strengthening all Indiana families." "The picture of marriage is the picture of Christian salvation," said Hostettler, who describes his elected office as a ministry. "Any diminishing of that notion - whether homosexual marriage or any other degradation of marriage - is something we must fight in public policy." Hostettler added, "Public policy that is rooted in Scriptural truth."
Hostettler and the group of pastors have apparently decided that federal and state constitutional requirements for the separation of church and state are no longer applicable. The group is up in arms because Indiana ranks 13th among all states in the rate of divorce. The answer according to Rep. Hostettler and the group of pastors gathered at the event is to end "divorce on demand", or what is more commonly known as "no-fault divorce." "Our state is not very marriage-friendly in the law," said Ann Gries, who coordinates Community Marriage Builders, a local nonprofit agency that works to avoid divorce and to promote healthy marriages. According to the report, the group wants to change Indiana law to require a two-step process to marriage with a waiting period and mandatory premarital counseling before the granting of the marriage license. Those who don't want to wait will have to pay a larger fee to finance a marriage counseling program. The report indicated that the Indiana Family Institute would lobby the state legislature to "strengthen state law's stances on family."
Virtually every state in the country has long since adopted a no-fault divorce system. Under antiquated family laws, a married couple could only obtain a divorce by one spouse suing the other spouse for divorce and pleading and proving some recognized ground for ending the marriage, such as adultery or extreme mental cruelty. The old system particularly disadvantaged women married to abusive men. It was also based upon an earlier Christian fundamentalist belief that the woman was the property of a man as evidence by the religious marriage ceremony where the father consents to giving away his daughter to his son-in-law, thereby seizing him of her ownership. And as the traditional ceremonial rite goes "And what God has joined together let no man tear asunder." To revert to the old system of pleading and proving a case for a divorce as suggested by Hostettler and this group of pastors is truly inhumane.
Of course, there was plenty of talk about the need for a gay marriage ban. In defense of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman and barring recognition of same sex civil unions, Pat Fox said, "In 1851 (when the state constitution was adopted), you didn't need a definition of 'marriage.' Everyone knew what it was. Now, you need a definition. The Rev. Paul DeHart added, "If we don't stand for God's principles in our society, who will?" "What God has given us is the gift of democracy." DeHart added, "Christians make the best citizens because we don't answer just to local magistrates."
In a most extraordinary and revealing statement of his beliefs, Rep. Hostettler asserted that public officials are not elected to serve the people. Instead, Hostettler says "all public officials - are ordained deacons of God". The paper reported that "[h]e cited the specific reference to civil government in the Bible, and extended the ordination to leaders of all backgrounds. But Hostettler adds, "That diversity, however, should not limit the role faith plays in American public life." "A pluralistic society is one where all belief systems are present," he said, "but that doesn't mean all value systems are equal." Rep. Hostettler needs to take a look at the Indiana Constitution, which specifically provides that "no religious test shall be imposed on our public officials and offices of trust."
Rep. Hostettler and the Indiana Family Institute, as demonstrated by this gathering, have really strayed into the lunatic fringe. There can be no mistaking the fact that they are intent upon imposing their understanding of Christian law on the rest of society whether we subscribe to it or not. That is not what our founding fathers intended when they incorporated the Establishment Clause into the First Amendment to the Constitution. It was also not the intent of architects of the Indiana Constitution, who took even greater steps to separate religion from government. Rep. Hostettler and his Christian friends are free to practice their belief system, but it is not their right to impose their belief system on the rest of us through the laws by which we are governed. And let's not let them forget that.
Advance Indiana again would call upon Governor Daniels to reconsider his decision to appear at the Indiana Family Institute's dinner next month. His appearance at their event can only alienate him from the majority of mainstream Hoosiers.