Today’s Opinion: The law of the land

POSTED: 03/21/11 6:07 PM

The law of the land or the law of God? Which one has the upper hand? For believers this question is a no-brainer. Just read the letter to the editor by Paul Rogers (God’s standard for marriage). But while the position of believers is unshakable, it still stands on shaky grounds for the simple reason that in parliamentary democracies the law of the land takes precedent over God’s law.

Believers will present what they read in their Bible as God’s word and therefore as facts. But they conveniently forget that everything that has ever been written about “above” comes from down here. The Bible was written by man, and edited for convenience at the appropriate time too. While believers take their Bible as the Holy Grail, non-believers have been known to describe it as a fairytale of which they would not mind owning the copyright.

In a world divided between believers, non-believers and those in the middle who don’t care either way, it is tough to claim anything. It is certain that millions of people use the Bible as their guide in life. That’s fine, but it does not give it the exclusive right to moral authority.

Believers have the freedom to believe, as long as they obey the law of the land. That’s a pretty simple constitutional principle that many believers choose to ignore when it suits their purpose. In a democracy there are ample choices, but one cannot opt to live under democratic rule and at the same time flaunt its most basic principles.

This is what staunch believers tend to do, by calling on their Bible and by citing endless verses to prove their point.

Again, in our democracy everybody is free to believe whatever she or he wants. That is a valuable aspect of the world we have created for ourselves. But this right to freedom does not belong to an exclusive group of believers – or to an exclusive group of non-believers for that matter. It belongs to all of us.

And because this is so, citizens living under democratic rule are expected to respects other people’s choices, no matter how ill-advised some of those choices may seem.

Moral crusaders like to get off on topics like same sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia and birth control. These are all options in a free democratic society – that is to say: the society decides what is permissible and what isn’t. In St. Maarten there is no political (or moral) majority to allow same sex marriage, abortion or euthanasia. Fine. Things are the way they are, until they change.

But St. Maarten is also part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Nobody is putting a gun to our heads saying: you have to be part of the Kingdom. We have chosen to be part of it.

As we all know, choices have consequences. One of these consequences is that the countries in the Kingdom have to respect each other’s legal documents. Somebody gets married in the Netherlands does not have to get married again when moving to St. Maarten.

In the Caribbean culture marriage between partners of the same sex is not generally accepted.  Whether this is right or wrong does not matter – it is simply so. In the Netherlands these marriages are legal, and when a married same sex couple from the Netherlands moves to our island, the census office has to register the marriage.

What is the problem? Believers like to scream blue murder about the immorality of it all, but isn’t domestic violence immoral as well?

The thing is we are part of a world wherein we must live and let live. Being against same sex marriage is fine by us – just make sure you don’t marry somebody of the same sex and you’re gonna be okay. But do not intrude upon the constitutional freedom of others. That, we think, is rather immoral.


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