Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Christian Laws

North Dakota, depending on who you ask, boasts anywhere from a 70% to 85% Christian rate. According to, it's at 85.4% of the ND households are Christian.

Most of the time, this is okay as far as I'm concerned. Most of the people here are what I'd like to call "King of the Hill" Christians, nice people who are secure in their faith so don't really feel the need to preach and convert because, as Peggy Hill said, "Don't get self-righteous on me, I've Bingo-ed and Bake Sale-d my way into heaven, the same as you". The vast majority of the population is old-school Lutheran, which I honestly prefer over Catholics or Southern Baptists, because it's not quite as sexist. Anyone who's gone to a Lutheran church here knows that even if there's a male pastor, women run the church. (And there's a good chance there isn't: Lutheran allows women to take vow, and Lutheran is just Catholic-lite, so a lot of raised-Catholic women and Protestant-raised women who find the need to preach go Lutheran). Nothing direct, of course: it's just the majority of the people on the Church's board are women. The ones who organize the bake sales are women. The ones that cook for said bakes sales are women. The one who publicizes the events are women. The ones who organize the events are women. So, the guys are there, but it's pretty even for when it comes to gender roles, even though we're still taught from the hideously gender-biased book called the Bible.

Still, the fact that there ARE so many Christians here means that we get a lot of crazy, dangerous, and/or stupid policies. And it means that I'm the weird "other" in a lot of my classes.

As an example of these stupid/crazy/dangerous policies, I've compiled a list of the worst legislation to ever come out of North Dakota. This will not include their abortion policies, as I already covered that
  • here
  • .

    1) Measure One
    In 2004, a group that called themselves
  • North Dakota Family Alliance
  • got together and decided to propose an amendment to the state constitution banning civil unions. Aside from the fact that it was useless (sodomy laws still haven't been taken off the books, and gay marriage was and is illegal) and blatantly homophobic and religiously biased, it was so poorly written as to have horrible consequences to many people. Namely, civil unions made it possible for people who were widowed to have relationships without losing social security benefits, now grandma has to choose between being able to see her new beau at the hospital or losing her $351.35/ month. A copy of the law can be found
  • here
  • . 73% went and voted for this measure, 91% of the state's total population supported it.

    2) Cohabitation
    North Dakota has had a law on the book that dates from the 1800s (although it was rewritten in 1970) makes it a class B misdemeanor to live "openly and notoriously with a person of the opposite sex as a married couple without being married to the other person". The harshest punishment one could get is 1000 dollar fine, and 30 days in jail. Now, one could chalk this up to idiotic laws that no one ever bothers with, right? Wrong. In 2005, it was moved to decriminalize cohabitation, which failed 52-37.

    3) Gambling
    Gambling is pretty much limited to the Native American reservations. This one is losing its steam: ND recently created a state lottery (mainly out of necessity: we need the money).

    4) Alcohol
    North Dakota, which although the common mythos is the hard-working, industrious, traditionally minded farmer, actually has a spotty and scandalous history. One of the more interesting pieces of history is the corrupt governors we've had, and the mafia involvement we had during prohibition. National prohibition started in 1919 and ended 1933, but North Dakota was a temperate state way back in 1905, and continued after the 21st amendment. Remnants of this anti-alcohol sentiment remain, we still have a law on the book that says it's illegal to serve pretzels with alcohol, bars cannot be open passed 2 am (and that was hard won change from 1 am), you have to wait until the day after you turn 21 to go to the bar, and it's illegal to sell alcohol before noon on Sunday. I through this in with the "crazy Christian" camp of ideas because most of the arguments used (and all of the groups behind it) have used religious language for this laws, back in 1905 when the Temperance movement was going at it, and to today's time when religious groups resisted the movement to let the bars stay open as long as they wanted.

    5) Strip joints
    This varies on a community to community level; there is no state law (which is why I'm including it last). There are a few permanent strip joints (with female dancers). The Thunder from Down Under was going to perform outside of Jamestown, recently, but the local pastor convinced his church to boycott them out, so they couldn't perform.

    Those are the big ones: occasionally, we have a problem with people wanted to teach abstinence-only education in school and creationism, but one of the very few things North Dakota boasts of is our school's high test scores, North Dakota has always been in the top 20 of the schools in unbiased ranking, and this is normally higher. We also have the most colleges per capita of any state in the nation. So, education is normally pretty respected in the state, and while most people here believe in creationism and no-sex before marriage, they aren't willing to deal with an ever dumber populace and a teen pregnancy explosion.

    The state of North Dakota is the only state in the union experiencing negative growth. No one wants to live in a place so miserably cold, barren, with no jobs, and a bunch of humorless crazies. There are a number of things that people could do to encourage migration, (Not the least of which are create some jobs), but they refuse to do if they even acknowledge a problem. And these laws just further alienate more people: I know I'm not staying here after college.

    We have this because of busy-body Christians.


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