First up from the God Machine this week is a legislative debate on gun policy in Arizona that, at least first, had absolutely nothing to do with religion, though the deliberation took an unexpected theological turn.
At issue in the Arizona state House this week were two bills related to firearm ownership: a proposal to make it easier for Arizonans to carry concealed weapons in public establishments and a bill related to transferring guns between states. One lawmaker, Republican Eddie Farnsworth said the ability to buy a gun is among Americans’ “God-given rights,” which set an interesting debate in motion.
Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales (D) rose to oppose one of the bills, and threw in a note of correction to her colleague’s statement about the divine.“Twice on this floor I’ve heard members say that I have the God-given right to bear arms, and since I know that God didn’t write the Constitution, I just wanted to state that,” she said. “And I vote no.”
Soon, other state representatives joined the discussion, with one insisting the Constitution was written by “humans, great humans.”
Farnsworth, unimpressed, argued in response that “those who penned this” believed that Americans are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”
“This,” however, was in reference to the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. The former says we are “endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights” – firearms are not mentioned in the document – while the latter makes no mention of God and establishes a government created by “we the people.”
Ultimately, it seems these details did not change the outcome of the debate. As the Phoenix New Times reported, the Republican-led chamber approved both gun measures.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Another civil-rights breakthrough for a large American denomination: “The 1.75 million-member Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has updated its constitution to recognize same-sex marriage, bringing the laws of the nation’s eighth-largest Protestant denomination in line with its already accepted practice. Individual churches will still be able to decline to perform such marriages if they believe them inappropriate, the church said Tuesday.”
* When a Catholic church in San Francisco set up a sprinkler system to ward off the homeless, it was a bad idea: “A sprinkler system at St. Mary’s Cathedral has been drenching people who seek shelter there for two years, but after that action became highly publicized the bishop backtracked saying the church’s aim was never to douse people.”
* And the New York Times had an interesting report this week on David Lane, a onetime Bible salesman, who’s slowly building an evangelical powerhouse that he hopes to turn into a “decisive power in the Republican Party.” Lane told the paper, “An army. That’s the goal.” The piece added, “A fast-talking and born-again veteran of conservative politics with experience in Washington, Texas and California, Mr. Lane, 60, travels the country trying to persuade evangelical clergy members to become politically active. His hope is that the politicized pastors will help mobilize congregations that have been disheartened by the repeated failure of socially conservative candidates, and by a party that has softened its opposition to same-sex marriage.”