When Words Mean the Opposite: The Story of My Awakening
By David Trillo
If a psychic or a Tarot reader had told me in 1985 that, within the next seven years, I would become a gay rights activist, I would have laughed in his face – if he had caught me in a good mood.
I was more than just anti-gay. I was vehemently anti-abortion. The only reason why I didn’t join Operation Rescue or a similar group was youthful ignorance – I didn’t know where to contact them.
I was still an evangelical Christian when I joined as one of Citizens Project’s earliest supporters in 1992. The idea of gay marriage was still hard for me to take, but as I listened to Christian radio and conservative talk beginning around 1990, I began noticing a pattern that disturbed me much more deeply than guys marrying guys.
I began noticing a very systematic, repetitive attack on the concept of church/state separation, and an orchestrated re-introduction of the antiquated idea of “legislating morality.” Not only did that run counter to my core beliefs in Christian free will, but I knew that if I had doctrinal differences with the “Christian authorities” – and I did — it took no rocket science to see that these aspiring theocrats would impose their moral doctrines by legislation, with no regard for my Christian theological disagreement.
I became, on that fateful 1992 day, the most unlikely gay rights activist. As distasteful as I found my admittedly distorted visions of the “gay lifestyle” to be at that time, I knew, deep down, that to protect my rights as a dissenter, I must likewise protect theirs.
It didn’t take long to see that, in the world of far right politics, words aren’t always what they seem.
To average people, “freedom” means that you can live your life much as you choose, as long as you aren’t hurting others. The Constitution, we’d think, sets up a government with internal restraints, and protects important individual rights and freedoms so that no government can take them away.
But in the strange world of Hard Right vernacular, these familiar, appealing words can take on virtually opposite meanings. “Freedom” isn’t what most people would think it is; it means instead either an unlimited “freedom to make laws”1 as former judge Robert Bork puts it, or freedom is a “biblical concept” that “comes with limits set from the very beginning by our Creator,”2 as explained by Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Religious freedom is also turned on its head. To the Hard Right, it merely means the freedom to worship as you choose – “we won’t force you to go to church” — but you would be required to live your life by laws “rooted in Biblical law,” as the dubiously named Constitution Party says it3. To be “free” to worship in your own religion, while being forced to live according to a different, government-imposed religion11, is a hollow freedom.
And “Constitutional rights?” Not as most people understand them. To former Republican leader Tom DeLay, the Supreme Court should never have been given any power to overturn unconstitutional laws4. To Robert Bork, very few rights would be off limits to being trampled by “representative assemblies1.” And to Religious Right attorney Thomas Jipping, “direct forms of democracy”5 such as ballot initiatives would probably be immune to Constitutional challenges, since he objects to the courts’ alleged “power to thwart the will of the people”5.
To theocratic “Constitutionalists,” the Constitution is considered subordinate to “God’s law”11, despite its own statement to the contrary. “Despotic government” is not tyranny in itself – it refers to any government that enacts laws contrary to “God’s law.” An expansion of personal liberty could be deemed “tyrannical” if “God” disapproves. According to advocates such as noted creationist Henry Morris, this higher law that trumps the Constitution is “nothing more nor less than applied Biblical law.”12
Will voting for today’s Religious Right candidate “keep government out of our private lives,” as conservative and Republican advocates claim? Don’t bet on it.
To Religious Right icon Sam Brownback, there exists no right to “sexual privacy”6. To Tom DeLay4, and Vision America’s Rick Scarborough7, Americans have no protected right to privacy at all. Possible presidential contender Rick Santorum disparages the “right to privacy lifestyle”8, particularly as it pertains to sexual choice.
Conservative columnist Jason Adkins, to his credit, pointed out the importance of the courts’ role in enforcing the Constitution9. Unfortunately, he was soon countered by comments that argued that the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply to states!
Indeed, partially or even completely repealing the power of the courts to enforce Constitutional protections is an increasingly popular idea among the far right10, 13. Imagine a future where your state or local government could randomly search your house for contraband books – and the Bill of Rights would afford no recourse.
America is just two or three “conservative” Supreme Court appointments away from possibly realizing such a frightening world. That is what some extremists call “returning to Constitutional government.”
It is anything but.
Wow, what an awakening this was! But the opening of my eyes paved the way for major changes in my soul. I now support same-sex marriage with all of my heart.
I am still a moderate, libertarian Republican. It worries me to see Democrats so eagerly support a wholesale expansion of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause scope to justify the upcoming federal health insurance mandate. They would do well to contemplate such expanded federal power in the hands of the Religious Right.
But if you’re a Republican, Libertarian, new to the Tea Party, or are otherwise concerned about excessive government, don’t fall into the “any conservative is always better than any Democrat” thought habit. Pay very close attention to candidates, and see whether each candidate uses the words “freedom” and “Constitutional liberty” in their normal, commonsense meanings, or whether there might be a bizarre reverse definition concealed inside a Trojan Horse.
If you’re looking for true Constitutional freedom, you might be disappointed, even stunned, that some of the people who most loudly promise “freedom” have in mind something very opposite — the unfettered legislative access to your most personal life.
I know I was stunned. It knocked my eyes wide open.
1. Robert Bork, “Tradition and Morality in Constitutional Law” p. 9
2. Albert Mohler, “The Culture of Freedom and the Future of Marriage,” AlbertMohler.com, 9/14/2005, http://www.albertmohler.com/2005/09/14/the-culture-of-freedom-and-the-future-of-marriage-2/
3. Constitution Party National Platform, as of 7/11/2011, http://www.constitutionparty.org/party_platform.php
4. Tom Delay, Washington Times interview 4/13/2005
5. Thomas Jipping, “Imperial Judiciary,” Christian American, Christian Coalition, January 1997.
6. Sam Brownback, Obscenity Prosecution and the Constitution, Senate Hearing 109-1023, 3/16/2005, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-109shrg44825/html/CHRG-109shrg44825.htm
7. Rick Scarborough, “It’s All About the Judges,” Scarborough Report, Vision America, 9/28/2007, http://www.visionamerica.us/article/its-all-about-the-judges/
8. Rick Santorum, Associated Press interview, 4/23/2003, http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2003-04-23-santorum-excerpt_x.htm
9. Jason Adkins, “Judicial Abdication, Not Activism, is the Real Problem in the Courts,” Townhall.com, 2/24/2011, http://townhall.com/columnists/jasonadkins/2011/02/24/judicial_abdication,_not_activism,_is_the_real_problem_in_the_courts/
10. 2004/2008 Candidate Questionnaire, Conservative Caucus, http://www.conservativeusa.org/candqest2008.htm
11. Main page, Rare Jewel Magazine Website, as of 7/12/2011, http://rarejewelmag.com/about/index.shtml
12. Henry Morris, “The Higher Law,” Institute for Creation Research, http://www.icr.org/article/20528/228
13. Alex Newman, “Stopping Abortion Without the Supreme Court”, The New American, 7/8/2011, http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/congress/8136-stopping-abortion-without-the-supreme-court