Letter to the President-Elect about the Invocation

December 20th, 2008

I’m sure many of us wish we could discuss an issue with Barak Obama personally. And we all realize it is highly unlikely that any message we attempt to get to him will be personally read. If we feel passionately about something, the best we can do is send our thoughts and hope for the best. Following is a message I sent to the President-Elect today. God willing, if enough people send their thoughts, the gist of the message will get to him and he will feel how passionately we feel about this issue.


Dear Mr. Obama

This is to express my extreme disappointment at the choice of Rick Warren to give the Invocation at your inaugural. I believe it is a mistake of a greater import than you or your advisors realize. I will explain why I believe this.

My wife and I were among those who expressed to each other hope in what it would mean to our country if you ran for the presidency. This was long before you announced your candidacy. Our hope strengthened as your campaign progressed. We rejoiced that we, among others, helped turn our state, Florida, for you. We rejoiced along with the country and the world at your election. We are pleased at the care and attention you have taken in the naming of your advisors and cabinet, even if we might not totally agree with all the choices. These are just some of the reasons we have, for the first time in decades, felt genuine optimism for the future of our country.

Your choice Rick Warren as the symbolic “pastor” who will pray our nation into this future has yanked that optimism from our hearts. It has opened our eyes to the real probability that your character and intelligence are not even close to what we had hoped. We do not understand how an intelligent person could even countenance the homophobic and anti-choice attitudes and speech of a person like Warren, let alone put him in such a prominent position. You, of course, have the right to think privately in whatever way your upbringing and religious heritage lead, but we had hopes that you would rise above these private irrational prejudices for the sake of the nation. We seem to have been sorely mistaken, and our disappointment is the deeper because you raised our hopes so high.

Yours despairingly,

Enoch Sherman


Observations on the “Florida Marriage Protection” amendment

October 14th, 2008

Political discourse should, in my opinion, principally involve issues that affect the health and well-being of citizens, and as such are the legitimate subject of legislation.  So, in order to determine where the issue of “Gay Marriage” belongs in the political debate, we need to examine how the “problem” we are trying to solve affects our health and well-being.

Marriage, from the standpoint of the State, is merely regulating two people entering into a contract.  The State gives some special privileges to people entering into, and provides certain legal provisions covering the creation and dissolution of this contract.  The fact that two people can enter into and dissolve a marriage without any religious involvement is proof of its secular nature.  It would not seem that there is any secular reason to place gender limitations on entering into this contract.  If a reason is proposed, it should be backed by verifiable research, not knee-jerk fear.

There is more to marriage, for many people, than just its secular purpose.  For them it carries significant religious purpose, involves sacred vows, and perhaps defines the nature of their relationship with God.  Those of us for whom it carries such significance have a legitimate interest in maintaining it as a viable practice, however it is not the American way to ask the State to do this for us. We criticize countries where religious beliefs have been legislated, and yet we are drawn in by politicians proposing to do the same thing in our country.

Although in the past there was some convergence of roles between religion and the State when it came to marriage, for many years the State has not attempted to enforce these religious vows. Where fidelity and mutual care have been legislated, there is no longer any attempt at enforcement. Nor is there any attempt to enforce the duration provisions, which are part of the religious vows.  As a matter of fact, most religions don’t try to enforce these provisions either.  Possessed with the moral right to do so, few offer more than mild rebuke for violating them.  And despite its being revered so greatly, the marriage failure rate is as high among the religious as among nonbelievers.

So we have a secular contract, which is entered into and terminated at will by the parties (one of the least successful contracts in existence, by the way, with a very high default rate), with no good reason not to open it to all adults.

I have one final observation.  It appears that, for many supporters of laws “protecting” marriage, the issue is little more than an attempt to perpetuate a hidden, irrational prejudice. They realize that they have lost the long-running battle to outlaw and criminalize forms of sexual activity to which they (publicly) object.  So they cloak their prejudice in a smoke screen of religious belief.  And then they attempt to force others to accept this belief by legislating it. 

Whichever way you turn it, this issue has no rational place in our governing priorities. And so we should insist that the political debate be about the many important issues affecting our health and well-being, and not about this “red herring” which seems merely designed to stir up our emotions and fears (and money).