Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Is “Rev.” State Senator Diaz willing to violate his oath of office?

Ruben Diaz was quoted in the Christian Post as saying the following things:

“Pastors and religious leaders are supposed to remember that we are supposed to be Christians before being Democrats or being Republicans. Our responsibility is with Jesus and not with Democratic Party or Republican Party."

"We should always think first as Christians; we should not be concerned if that person is Republican or Democrat. We should be concerned if that person has Christian values and go all the way for that person."

Senator Diaz is in a special position, and is not just a pastor and religious leader, he is also a New York state senator. He took an oath of office that follows this format:

I [state your name] do solemnly swear [or affirm] that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of New York, and I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of New York State Senator according to the best of my ability [so help me God.]
When he wears his pastor hat, he should certainly feel free to act in accordance wioth the dictates of his personal religious beliefs (within reason, of course), but it may be argued that by putting his own particular and narrow religious views above the broad sweep of the federal and state constitutions when he is wearing his “state senator” hat, Diaz could be violating his oath of office.

That is not to say that his vote against the marriage equality bill or its additional religious protection amendment in and of itself violates the federal or state constitution. Indeed, the New York State Court of Appeals, in its 2006 decision that left the issue of marriage equality to the legislature, Hernandez v Robles (2006 NY Slip Op 05239), 855 NE 2d 1, 7 NY 3d 338, 821 NYS 2d 770 (2006) the New York Court of appeals expressly held that marriage on a gender-neutral basis was not required under the constitution of the State of New York or by the language of the existing statute.

But we have to note for the record, that even before the vote on the marriage equality bill and its additional religious protection amendment, out of state marriages have been understood to be recognized for all purposes under the law of the State of New York, when they are valid in the jurisdiction of origin. This is because they do not violate the express public policy of the State of New York, even if the marriage could not be performed in New York. Since New York had never passed a state-level Defense against Marriage Act, the Appellate Division in the 4th Department confirmed this on February 1, 2008, in Martinez v. County of Monroe (50 A.D.3d 189; 850 N.Y.S.2d 740).

However, it is the “Rev.” State Senator Diaz’s reasoning for his vote that makes me suspect that he would choose his religious bigotry over constitutional requirements.

It is interesting that Diaz ignores the express teachings of the Gospel in placing his religion first, over his constitutional obligations.

Jesus taught a basic separation of Church and State – see the synoptic gospels on “rendering to Caesar.” In all three, at Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:17, and Luke 20:25, we see that when confronted by a question as to the authority for a particular thing, whether it be secular or spiritual, the rules to follow ae those that go with the respective authority.  For religious marriage, by all means there is no problem with looking to one's own sacred scripture or the interpretation of it that one understands, but when dealing with the civil rights of the citizens of the state, one particular religious belief should not be the primary consideration to trump the civil rights of all the citizens.

If rendering to Caesar is not enough of a scriptural admonition, there is also the teaching “no man can serve two masters” that I find in two of the synoptic gospels, at Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13. While Jesus is specifically referring to God and money, the spiritual and temporal authority are still intended to be separable - and when there is a conflict, and it is not possible to do justice to the one or the other in a proper circumstance, stepping down from the obligation that cannot be met would be proper.

Even when he identifies himself, the “Rev.” State Senator (or the State Senator “Rev.”), he can’t seem to avoid combining his titles and his allegiances – and yet, he readily and constantly admits putting his “Rev.” hat above his “State Senator” hat. When the time does come that he has a conflict between his oath of office and his religion, he will put his religion first, and he openly admits it in nearly everything he says on the subject. Should such a time come, if he does not resign his office and it can be established conclusively that he violated his oath of office, he could suffer consequences.

Since it would be really hard to prove his motivations if he did not keep yapping about them, Diaz should perhaps take some additional precedent from Jesus himself, and just stop telling everyone that he puts his religion ahead of the constitution and his oath of office. This way we can only guess that he might be violating his oath of office, but we wouldn't actually be able to pin it on him.

See, in particular Matthew 21:23-27.

In this passage, Jesus remains opaque about how he interprets his own source of authority for his teaching in the temple courts. When asked by the religious authorities to explain his authority, Jesus responds with a question about the source of John’s baptism, from divine or human authority – and when they refused to answer that, he also refused to answer them himself. Were Diaz silent about his motives, it would be impossible to prove whether they violate his oath of office.

It is one thing to for him to take his religious beliefs into consideration in deliberating how he should vote on the legislation placed before him – and it is quite another to set aside all other considerations other than his religious belief in formulating that vote.

Diaz can get away with putting his religion first if only he doesn’t advertise his reasoning so obviously. Otherwise he might find himself accused of violating his oath of office, and his own words would be found to incriminate and condemn him.

I am not suggesting that he be removed from office, only that he be somewhat more discreet about his motives and his parody of reasoning.

Of course, he does not even really understand Christian teachings about marriage – most Christianists don’t understand the true meaning of the Good News - they look to the miracles and things that require a suspension of disbelief, and not to the social justice message.

Let’s look briefly at two passages:

In Matthew 19:6, Jesus refers to traditional opposite sex marriage, in which the two become “one flesh.”

But in the one same-sex marriage referred to in the Bible, we get this, in 1 Samuel 18:3 (the link is to the KJV for this passage), that essentially, David and Jonathan are knit together as one soul by their covenant.

One flesh, and one soul - and as if the beating of a single heart. The two relationships are the same sort of thing in bible terms, as far as establishing a family relationship (the connubium aspect, even though a same sex couple’s relationship (or the relationship between opposite sex couples in which one partner is infertile or menopausal) does not naturally produce children?

Senator Diaz should seriously consider looking more carefully at both his beliefs and the obligations he has under the two or more hats he wears.  He does not seem to be able to reconcile his obligations to both his masters, the constitution and his (erroneous) version of God.

1 comment:

  1. Herein lies the problem: The area Ruben Diaz represents is comprised of people who are economically and educationally depressed and they simply lack the requisite skills to realize Diaz is holding them back. To that end, when push comes to shove, some people will tell you they've had it up to here with the man, but he's all they have and Diaz knows this.