A local pastor, applauding the recent decision against same-sex marriage in Louisiana, claims that Scripture compels that decision. He was quoted in your paper as saying “We are confined and constrained by what has been set forth by God.”

Similar claims have been made in the past to support mistreatment of other groups of people. For example, in 1861, Bishop John Hopkins wrote an essay citing Scripture as “proof” that God sanctioned slavery. Although personally opposed to slavery, he said he was nevertheless compelled by Scripture to accept it as the will of God: “As a Christian, I am compelled to submit my weak and erring intellect to the authority of the Almighty.”

Scripture has similarly been misused in the past to “prove” that God sanctioned laws prohibiting women from voting or holding public office. For example, in 1870, the Rev. Horace Bushnell wrote a book in which he quoted from the Bible to support his claim that political equality for women was “an outrage on decency and order utterly abominable …that would have shocked any apostle or other Scripture writer.”

The Bible has also been misused to justify persecution of Jews. For example, in 1555, Pope Paul IV found biblical support for his decree that Jews “are to be limited to the trade of rag picking,” and that they must live in a confined area “to which there is only one entrance and from which there is but one exit.” And Martin Luther frequently cited the Bible in his book where he likened Jews to the devil and proposed that “their synagogues be burned down” and that they be “forbidden on pain of death to praise God … .”

The foregoing examples show how holy scripture has been misused throughout history to justify unholy oppression of various peoples, and that Shakespeare was correct when he wrote that “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.” One day, hopefully soon, Louisiana’s law banning same-sex marriage will be dumped into the trash heap of history, where it will rot alongside other laws which were once thought to be sanctioned by the Almighty, including those which supported slavery, oppressed women and condemned Jews.

Stephen R. Doody


Baton Rouge