King For a Day
In 1604 King James of Scotland was super pumped to be getting another country. His cousin Elizabeth I, Queen of England, had died, leaving him first in line of succession to the British throne. He was on his way to London to impose his will on his new subjects, when on a stopover, he was approached by a group of clergymen, who presented him with their Millenary Petition. This petition asked for changes in some of the righteous religious laws created to support the Church of England. This merry band of petitioners (just kidding, they were pretty self-righteous and serious themselves) wanted to practice their own reformed version of Christianity. The Church of England was founded by Henry VIII in the previous century, moving just far enough from the Catholic Church so Henry could legally divorce his wives as needed. Our intrepid petitioners wanted more austerity and to move farther from papist practices. They wanted to separate from the Church of England, becoming known as Separatists.
The history of religious practice in England, and much of Europe, was fueled by groups loyal to God, but even more devoted to their version of worshiping God. In 1604 there were already generations of families who had plotted how to take power and impose their “right way” to practice religion. Groups in power hunted, arrested, prosecuted and killed people who believed in God in a different way.
The Millenary Petition did not go over well. Most requests were denied, except one. King James agreed to have the Bible translated into English, allowing every literate Englishman to have access to the scripture. The other laws of the land remained in force, and as the Separatists would not disavow their beliefs, they became a new religious group to be shunned and persecuted by the ruling class. The Separatists formed the group that fled England for Holland and then sought a new land to build their vision of a community in the Americas. They were the group who contracted with investors to sail on the Mayflower in 1620, becoming the Pilgrims who settled in the future Massachusetts.
The descendants of these early immigrants learned hard lessons about religious persecution, and when a group of leaders rebelled against the British Crown and prevailed to form a new country, they used these lessons to articulate the principles in the US Constitution — the backbone of their new government.
They placed this lesson into the First Amendment:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
This is in writing for a simple reason: People had been fighting each other over opinions since the dawn of time, and only We the People can decide to stop the fighting. Laws based on personal opinion, especially opinions about how others live their lives are tools for attacking fellow citizens, not building a healthy society.
If the Supreme Court eliminates the Roe v Wade opinion, the effects on the lives of our fellow Americans will be real and potentially vast. First, maybe foremost, our legally protected right to privacy. Abortion is a medical procedure name applied to several reasons for having one, not all of them are terminating a viable pregnancy. The actual reason for a person having a medical procedure is unknowable unless they tell you or you have illegally obtained private medical information. Certainly one wouldn’t break the law to create and implement a new law.
Big topics in state legislatures around the country are trigger laws and data tracking. After the right to privacy is assaulted, the next trigger law targets are same sex marriage, and the rights of our LGBTQ fellow Americans. Possible uses for Data Tracking include tracking women’s menstrual cycle, receipts for pregnancy tests. Men and women will have lots of opportunity to involuntarily over-share: bar tabs and cab rides to another person’s address, triggering investigation into medical appointments, DNA cross referencing of pregnancy tests. Imagine the convenience of child support payments directly withdrawn from paychecks even before delivery. Society might even talk about how babies are made.
Government over-reach? Or are we all OK with elected officials and their appointees deciding how we live our “independent” lives? How do you separate a mother from a pregnancy? How do you slice up privacy rights? You don’t. You are not King Solomon. And King Solomon didn’t either, his story teaches us the futility of such judgements. The principle of Separation of Church and State remains foundational to our free society.
Laws and policy driven by religious beliefs only serve to control some people, they never solve a problem. The upcoming election is being framed as an either/or choice — Democrats making social safety net decisions that might cost the wealthiest of us some money versus Republicans making government overreach party-line decisions by targeting control over peoples bodies and privates lives. This misses the point. Our energy would go much farther to stop abortions if it were spent in supporting women and children, prosecuting the men that assault them, teaching our children not to tolerate bullying and assault behaviors in the first place, and building up our mental healthcare system.
As I write this there has been a shooting based on someone’s opinion about other people — he just didn’t like them, following his beliefs, acting on zealotry. We have the power to vote for people who repudiate this behavior.
You can be King for a Day, but you can only pick one. And because you are only king of your vote — that is what our forebears took from the old king and gave to each of us — make it Election Day.