[GCFL-discuss] Alamaba Amendments
gcfl-discuss at gcfl.net
gcfl-discuss at gcfl.net
Thu Nov 11 18:41:45 CST 2004
I'm going to take this slowly and carefully, because there are some very
sincere reasons why people vote as they do, and perhaps some less sincere
reasons for various criticisms all around.
Lance, when you say " I could never imagine true Christians supporting
segregation" the operative phrase is "(these days)." At one time or
another, almost everything under the sun has been justified in the name
of Christianity, often sincerely, although we can now recognize it as
contrary to Scripture. Belief in racial superiority is no longer
fashionable, but we have to expect that some still deep down believe it,
and are operating under some more social acceptable language.
I am not referring to you John. I don't know if I am referring to Roy
Actually, not all are even bothering to be socially acceptable. The Aryan
Nations crowd that used to have a compound near Hayden Lake, Idaho, had
their own church, which they called The Church of Jesus Christ,
Christian. You and I can agree that they are not true Christians, but
they think they are.
Before I go out on a limb, I also know enough about the history of
Alabama and Mississippi to know that both states entered the union with
strong antislavery sentiment among the family farmers who first settled
the territories, and Mississippi had a kind of peaceful revolution in
1830 which resulted in a constitution authorizing the legislature to
outlaw slavery. Unfortunately, by 1840, when that authority kicked in,
cotton plantations had come to be politically dominant, and the balance
of power slipped the other way. Likewise, the Baptist church almost
unanimously condemned slavery as early as the 1790s. So we are not
talking about any state or any religion being anything in particular.
Power shifts, styles come and go, attitudes change, for better, and for
But here is where things get more slippery. The reason the Southern
Baptist Convention separated from all the other Baptists was precisely
the belief that slavery is supported and approved of by Scripture.
(Christians will find a way to justify anything that seems essential to
the way they make their living). Baptists were also, originally, a
pacifist religion which expelled members who joined the military on the
same basis as those who committed adultery or consumed alcohol (just to
show how much our understanding of what a true Christian would do can
change over time).
Up to 1970, many Christian ministers (not limited to Baptists) were
openly teaching that segregation was mandated by Scripture, and that
people of African descent were intended by God to be field workers and
house servants. (Even abolitionist ministers sometimes bought into this
nonsense in pre-Civil War days). On other conservative fronts, the
National Review was writing into the 1960s that "at this time the white
race is the superior race."
The Scriptural citations were totally out of context: Noah's curse upon
Canaan, and Joshua's sentence on the Canaanite city that cut a deal with
the Hebrews (you shall be hewers of wood and drawers of water). But they
were still being cited as reasons to keep people with dark complexions in
the back of the bus and out of colleges and not let them vote -- less
than 50 years ago.
The provision of the Alabama constitution about not guaranteeing an
education was adopted in 1956, specifically in response to Brown v Board
of Education. It was a common response in states with legal segregation
-- in one way or another, they tried to withdraw from a commitment to
public schools, with the intent that white students would go to private
academies, leaving only blacks in the "integrated" public schools, which
the state would then refuse to support at all, while finding indirect
ways to subsidize the "private" academies.
I expect that is why the school provision was included in the proposed
amendments. While I agree that it is beyond the ability of the courts to
order a good education, it appears from coverage I did track down from
the Montgomery Advertiser that the federal judges cited as a concern have
all been over-ruled by federal appellate courts and by the U.S. Supreme
Court. So the danger of massive litigation seems remote, and the argument
sounds to me like a smoke screen for shooting down the entire set of
amendments. Of course many voters sincerely accepted the argument. Smoke
screens are intended to appeal to the legitimate and genuine concerns of
voters who would never support the true intentions of the authors.
So, I don't know, but I take the argument with a grain of salt.
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