Next week, I'll be back in Colorado for an extended time, and expect to be providing bulletins from the Colorado Bible Institute otherwise known as the state legislature.
Last week, two back benchers received a measure of notoriety for their remarks about a bill to extend health benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees and one requiring HIV/AIDS testing bill for pregnant women.
Both men immediately drew fire from their political opponents. This excerpt from an email is typical of how their positions are being represented.
Sen. Schultheis' comments came just two days after another Colorado Republican, State Sen. Scott Renfroe, on the state Senate floor during a debate, compared homosexuality to murder and suggested that gay people should be "put to death."
I'm no fan of either senator, and I disagree with their positions. But I also disagree with distorting their inarticulate statements into even more extreme positions. Reality is bad enough.
Let's start with Renfroe. He's a small-town jock, who like Sarah Palin, spent each year of college in a new school, managing to emerge with a degree — but apparently without having one's thinking challenged or broadened.
He decried the benefits bill as "just a continuation in the detraction of the family," which is the ordained earthly counterpart to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit — and not the other way around.
I suppose it's not totally inaccurate to say Renfroe suggested "that gay people should be 'put to death'" when he quoted a minor Old Testament prophet. But I think this quote from his senate floor statement better captures his tangled reasoning:
The problem with legislators like Renfroe is their Biblical fundamentalism functions as a quasi-Constitutional authority. Whatever stray bit he can dredge out of Leviticus doesn't just guide his life. He believes the rest of us ought to submit to the Bible, too.
I'm inclined to cut a bit more slack for Schultheis, who has been pilloried for this statement to a reporter:
This strikes me as one of those comments that can occur when you start answering a question without fully forming the thought. I don't think "What I’m hoping" is anything more than a preamble as he constructs a response on the fly.
Yes, he's hung up on sex and not very well informed about how HIV/AIDS spreads. The senator thinks promiscuity is bad and he hopes that people draw lessons from bad outcomes. But his written explanation makes more clear, his position is also based on the principle that "the role of government should not be to protect individuals from negative consequences of their actions."
That's actually a discussion worth having — and also whether government has a proper role in protecting others from the negative consequences of an individual's actions.
Mandating medical testing can conflict with informed consent and doing it "to protect the unborn baby" seems to forget that the mother has a big stake in the outcome, too.
Name calling and further simplifying simplistic thinking doesn't get us to the meat of issues.