Monday, June 12, 2006

Love the Sin?: Review

Love the Sin : Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance

Janet R. Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini

Date: 15 April, 2004 — $11.05 — Book

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Review of Love the Sin : Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance

This book tackles the issue of sexual freedom from the interesting perspective of comparing the freedom of sexual expression to that of religious freedom. While the book's main focus is on the rights of gays and lesbians, the viewpoints presented in this book apply just as well to all sexual minorities.

The authors point out that the basis for all state and federal laws regulating consensual adult activity are religious in origin. Civil laws regulating American marriage are a place where religious ideas about the "proper" form of intimate relationships have been enforced as "secular" law.

Marriage was a religious institution until the evolution of civil law. The authors address the question of whether it would be best to offer everyone the right to marry, or does our constitutional commitment to religious freedom actually require that the government get out of the marriage business altogether?

The First Amendment requires both the disestablishment of religion and protection for the free exercise of religion, which includes all religions and the right not to practice religion as well. If marriage is based on religion, it too, should be disestablished, thus protecting the free exercise of sexuality.

The authors also question why religion is considered to be an appropriate basis for public policies concerning sex, but wonder why this religious base isn't extended to other moral issues such as poverty, the death penalty, environmental issues, etc. What makes sex different?

They note that on one hand, sex is seen as a private matter by many people but that it's also seen as having amazing powers that can either make or break the entire nations's well being.

To those who take the second view, it seems logical that sex must be regulated, controlled -- domesticated. Seeing sex as a potentially destructive power justifies to them extensive regulations concerning sex that otherwise go against the high value in which freedom is placed in this country,

The authors point out that by regulating sex, the state also attempts to regulate family life. This is because such regulations actually define what legally counts as family.

Advocates of gay and lesbian rights often appeal to nature, saying that homosexuals are "born that way", in much the same way that people cannot choose their race. The authors assert that it shouldn't matter why someone is homosexual, that to say one is gay because they can't help it is tantamount to saying it's like they don't know any better, as if there's something inherently wrong with being gay.

They believe it is better to link sexual freedom not to race, but rather to relgious freedom. That is, we aren't born any particular religion that we cannot change -- we choose what, if any, religion we will practice and the right to do so is protected by the Constitution. Likewise, people shouldn't have to justify why they're gay in order to enjoy the same freedom in regards to sexual practices.

The authors also discuss the pitfalls of the idea of "tolerance". They point out that "tolerance" is extended to homosexuals on the conditions they become "just like everyone else", such as entering into a monogamous marriage. However, tolerance doesn't include sexual minorities, gay and straight, who don't want to be "like everybody else" and who value and want something else.

These ideas and more are explored in depth in this well written and timely book. It will make many people think differently that will give a new perspective on the gay marriage issue and that of sexual freedom in general.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

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