That’s a very big order, and I’m not convinced this piece convincingly “explains” English. Although somewhat problematic: What is meant by explaining a language and just how does one accomplish this? Nonetheless this offers some interesting insights into how we’ve arrived with our contemporary language and some hints of the directions its many strands may be travelling…
English is the language of Shakespeare and the language of Chaucer. It’s spoken in dozens of countries around the world, from the United States to a tiny island named Tristan da Cunha. It reflects the influences of centuries of international exchange, including conquest and colonization, from the Vikings through the 21st century. Here are 25 maps and charts that explain how English got started and evolved into the differently accented languages spoken today.
The origins of English
Where English comes from
English, like more than 400 other languages, is part of the Indo-European language family, sharing common roots not just with German and French but with Russian, Hindi, Punjabi, and Persian. This beautiful chart by Minna Sundberg, a Finnish-Swedish comic artist, shows some of English’s closest cousins, like French and German, but also its more distant relationships with languages originally spoken far from the British Isles such as Farsi and Greek.
Where Indo-European languages are spoken in Europe today
Saying that English is Indo-European, though, doesn’t really narrow it down much. This map shows where Indo-European languages are spoken in Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia today, and makes it easier to see what languages don’t share a common root with English: Finnish and Hungarian among them.
The Anglo-Saxon migration
Here’s how the English language got started: After Roman troops withdrew from Britain in the early 5th century, three Germanic peoples — the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes — moved in and established kingdoms. They brought with them the Anglo-Saxon language, which combined with some Celtic and Latin words to create Old English. Old English was first spoken in the 5th century, and it looks incomprehensible to today’s English-speakers. To give you an idea of just how different it was, the language the Angles brought with them had three genders (masculine, feminine, and neutral). Still, though the gender of nouns has fallen away in English, 4,500 Anglo-Saxon words survive today. They make up only about 1 percent of the comprehensive Oxford English Dictionary, but nearly all of the most commonly used words that are the backbone of English. They include nouns like “day” and “year,” body parts such as “chest,” arm,” and “heart,” and some of the most basic verbs: “eat,” “kiss,” “love,” “think,” “become.” FDR’s sentence “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” uses only words of Anglo-Saxon origin.
The next source of English was Old Norse. Vikings from present-day Denmark, some led by the wonderfully named Ivar the Boneless, raided the eastern coastline of the British Isles in the 9th century. They eventually gained control of about half of the island. Their language was probably understandable by speakers of English. But Old Norse words were absorbed into English: legal terms such as “law” and “murder” and the pronouns “they,” “them,” and “their” are of Norse origin. “Arm” is Anglo-Saxon, but “leg” is Old Norse; “wife” is Anglo-Saxon,” but “husband” is Old Norse.
The Norman Conquest
The real transformation of English — which started the process of turning it into the language we speak today — came with the arrival of William the Conqueror from Normandy, in today’s France. The French that William and his nobles spoke eventually developed into a separate dialect, Anglo-Norman. Anglo-Norman became the language of the medieval elite. It contributed around 10,000 words, many still used today. In some cases, Norman words ousted the Old English words. But in others, they lived side by side as synonyms. Norman words can often sound more refined: “sweat” is Anglo-Saxon, but “perspire” is Norman. Military terms (battle, navy, march, enemy), governmental terms (parliament, noble), legal terms (judge, justice, plaintiff, jury), and church terms (miracle, sermon, virgin, saint) were almost all Norman in origin. The combination of Anglo-Norman and Old English led to Middle English, the language of Chaucer.
The Great Vowel Shift
If you think English spelling is confusing — why “head” sounds nothing like “heat,” or why “steak” doesn’t rhyme with “streak,” and “some” doesn’t rhyme with “home” — you can blame the Great Vowel Shift. Between roughly 1400 and 1700, the pronunciation of long vowels changed. “Mice” stopped being pronounced “meese.” “House” stopped being prounounced like “hoose.” Some words, particularly words with “ea,” kept their old pronounciation. (And Northern English dialects were less affected, one reason they still have a distinctive accent.) This shift is how Middle English became modern English. No one is sure why this dramatic shift occurred. But it’s a lot less dramatic when you consider it took 300 years. Shakespeare was as distant from Chaucer as we are from Thomas Jefferson.
The spread of English
The colonization of America
The British settlers coming to different parts of America in the 17th and 18th centuries were from different regional, class, and religious backgrounds, and brought with them distinctive ways of speaking. Puritans from East Anglia contributed to the classic Boston accent; Royalists migrating to the South brought a drawl; and Scots-Irish moved to the Appalaichans. Today’s American English is actually closer to 18th-century British English in pronunciation than current-day British English is. Sometime in the 19th century, British pronunciation changed significantly, particularly whether “r”s are pronounced after vowels.
Early exploration of Australia
Many of the first Europeans to settle in Australia, beginning in the late 1700s, were convicts from the British Isles, and the Australian English accent probably started with their children in and around Sydney. Australia, unlike the US, doesn’t have a lot of regional accents. But it does have many vocabulary words borrowed from Aboriginal languages: kangaroo, boomerang, and wombat among them.
British Loyalists flooded into Canada during the American Revolution. As a result, Canadian English sounds a lot like American English, but it’s maintained many of the “ou” words from its British parent (honour, colour, valour). There’s also some uniquely Canadian vocabulary, many of which is shown in this word cloud. Canada is undergoing a vowel shift of its own, where “milk” is pronounced like “melk” by some speakers. But unlike British and American English, which has a variety of regional accents, Canadian English is fairly homogenous.
English in India
The British East India Company brought English to the Indian subcontinent in the 17th century, and the period of British colonialism established English as the governing language. It still is, in part due to India’s incredible linguistic diversity. But languages from the subcontinent contributed to English, too. The words “shampoo,” “pajamas,” “bungalow,” “bangle,” and “cash” all come from Indian languages. The phrase “I don’t give a damn” was once speculated to refer to an Indian coin. This probably isn’t true — the Oxford English Dictionary disagrees — but it shows that language exchange during the colonial era was a two-way street.
Tristan da Cunha
Tristan da Cunha is the most remote archipelago in the world: it’s in the South Atlantic Ocean, more or less halfway between Uruguay and South Africa. It’s also the furthest-flung locaction of native English speakers. Tristan da Cunha is part of a British overseas territory, and its nearly 300 residents speak only English. Tristan da Cunha English has a few unusual features: double negatives are common, as is the use of “done” in the past tense (“He done walked up the road.”)
English around the world
Countries with English as the official language
Fifty-eight countries have English as an official language. This doesn’t include most of the biggest English-speaking countries — the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom don’t have official languages. This map shows where English is either the official or the dominant language. Particularly in Africa, it also doubles as a fairly accurate map of British colonial history.
Which countries in Europe can speak English
English is one of the three official “procedural languages” of the European Union. The president of German recently suggested making it the only official language. But how well people in each European Union country speak English varies considerably. This map shows where most people can — and can’t — have an English conversation.
Where people read English Wikipedia
English dominated in the early days of the Internet. But languages online are getting more diverse. In 2010, English no longer made up the majority of the text written online, as advancements in technology made it easier for non-Roman alphabets to be displayed. Still, English is the dominant language of Wikipedia — both when you consider the language articles are written in, and where people use the English-language version, as is shown in this map.
Where new English words come from
This fascinating chart based on data from the Oxford English Dictionary shows where words originally came from when they first started to appear in English. Most words come originally from Germanic languages, Romance languages, or Latin, or are formed from English words already in use. But as this screenshot from 1950 shows, words also come to English from all over the world.
How vocabulary changes based on what you’re writing
Borrowing words from other language didn’t stop when Old English evolved into Middle English. The Enlightenment brought an influx of Greek and Latin words into English — words for scientific concepts that moved into broader use as science developed. Scientific vocabulary is still usually based on Greek or Latin roots that aren’t used in ordinary conversation. On the other hand, Mark Twain, master of the American dialect, relied heavily on good old Anglo-Saxon words in his work, a reflection of the endurance of those very old words for the most ordinary concepts in everyday life.
Vocabulary of Shakespeare vs. rappers
Designer Matt Daniels looked at the first 35,000 words of artists’ rap lyrics — and the first 35,000 words of Moby-Dick, along with 35,000 words from Shakespeare’s plays — to compare the size of their vocabularies. He found that some have bigger vocabularies than Shakespeare or Melville. Of course, vocabulary size isn’t the only measure of artistry. But it’s an interesting look at how English has changed.
Learning English as a second (or third) language
Where English learners speak the language proficiently
English is the second most-spoken language in the world. But there are even more people learning English (secondary speakers) than people who claim English as their first language. Here’s where people tend to score well and poorly on tests of English from Education First. Green and blue countries have higher proficiency levels than red, yellow and orange ones. Scandinavian countries, Finland, Poland, and Austria fare best. The Middle East generally lacks proficient English speakers.
Scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is required for foreign students from non-English-speaking countries to enroll at American universities, among other things. Here’s where students tend to perform well. (English-speaking countries are included on the map, but the test is only required for people for whom English is not a first language.) The Netherlands gets the top score: an average of 100 points out of a possible 120.
Immigrants to the US are learning English more quickly than previous generations
Concerns about whether immigrants are assimiliating in the US often focus on criticisms that they’re not learning English quickly enough (think of outrage over phone systems that ask you to select English or Spanish). But in fact immigrants to the US today are learning and using English much more quickly than immigrants at the turn of the 20th century. More than 75 percent of all immigrants, and just less than 75 percent of Spanish-speaking immigrants, speak English within the first five years, compared to less than 50 percent of immigrants between 1900 and 1920.
Dialects and regionalisms
Where Cockneys come from
The traditional definition of a Cockney in London is someone born within earshot of the bells of St.-Mary-le-Bow church — the area highlighted in tan on this map. (The smaller circles within it are where the bells can be heard more loudly in the noisier modern world.) The distinctive Cockney accent or dialect is best known for its rhyming slang, which dates back to at least the 19th century. The slang starts as rhymes, but often the rhyming word is dropped — “to have a butcher’s,” meaning “to take a look,” came from the rhyming of “butcher’s hook” with “look.” The phrase “blow a raspberry” — which has spread far beyond London — originally comes from the rhyming of “raspberry tart” with “fart.”)
Dialects and accents in Britain
There are three general types of British accents in England: Northern English, Southern English, and the Midlands accent. One of the most obvious features is whether “bath” is pronounced like the a in “cat” (as it is in the US and in Northern English dialects) or like the a in “father” (as it is in Southern English dialects). The generic British accent, meanwhile, is known as “Received Pronunciation,” which is basically a Southern English accent used among the elite that erases regional differences. Here’s a video of one woman doing 17 British accents, most of which are shown on the map.
North American vowel shift
There’s another vowel shift going on in American English right now. In the Great Lakes region, short vowel sounds are changing. This is remarkable because short vowel sounds (think of the short “a” in “cat,” rather than the long a in “Kate”) actually survived the Great Vowel Shift in the 17th century. Short vowel sounds haven’t changed for hundreds of years — but now they are, in Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, and other cities and even small towns around the Great Lakes, at least among white speakers. “Buses” is pronounced like “bosses.” “Block” comes out like “black.” Nobody’s sure why, but it appears to have started as long ago as the 1930s. The map shows which areas have adopted various stages of the vowel shift.
Here’s a detailed map of how Americans talk. The bright green dialects are all subsets of “general Northern” — a generic American accent used by about two-thirds of the US, according to linguist Robert Delaney, who built this map. But it includes many subsets. The Eastern New England accent is the “pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd” accent. In the South, you can see how English has and hasn’t changed over generations. The South Midland accent retains some words from Elizabethan English. And the Coastal Southern accent retains some colonial vocabulary, like “catty-corner.”
You guys vs. y’all
One thing that English lost over time is the useful second-person plural. “You” became standard sometime in the 1500s, and unlike French (which differentiates between talking to one person and talking to several, and between talking to someone you’re intimate with and someone you’re not), it’s pretty much a catchall. But American English has found plenty of ways to fill the gap. There’s the Southern “y’all,” the Pittsburghian “yinz,” and the Bostonian “youse.” Here’s how people in the US address more than one person, from the invaluable dialect maps from North Carolina State’s Joshua Katz.
One of the rare charms of an otherwise dismal several months spent in Albuquerque was the time spent watching the prairie dog colonies along Tramway Blvd.
They build their own towns, they help the environment, and they even talk about us.
By: Laura Moss
Wed, Feb 18, 2015
Travel through the grasslands of central and western America and you’ll likely see and hear countless prairie dogs.Millions of the adorable burrowing rodents call these plains home, and while they may be a common sight, they have many unique characteristics.Read on for some fascinating facts about prairie dogs.1. They were once the most abundant mammals in North America.There are five species of prairie dog — black-tailed, white-tailed, Gunnison’s, Utah and Mexican — and black-tailed prairie dogs once numbered in the hundreds of millions.However, hunting, poisoning and habitat loss decreased the population by more than 95 percent, and today the species numbers somewhere between 10 million to 20 million.2. They have well-organized homes.Prairie dogs live in complex underground burrows with designated areas for nurseries, sleeping and toilets. The tunnel system is designed to allow air to flow through them, providing ventilation, and every exit also has a listening post.3. They live in towns.Prairie dogs are social animals, and they live in family groups called coteries that typically contain an adult male, one or more adult females and their young. Coteries are grouped together into wards, and several wards of prairie dogs make up a town or colony.The largest town ever recorded belonged to a large group of black-tailed prairie dogs in Texas and was about 100 miles long.4. They ‘kiss.’Prairie dogs often “kiss” when they come and go in the area around their burrow. When they do so, they’ll touch noses and lock their teeth with one another, which allows them to determine if they’re members of the same family group.5. They’re ecologically important.As a keystone species for the prairies, entire ecosystems rely on these tiny mammals. Their tunneling aerates the soil, and their dung is high in nitrogen, which improves soil quality.Prairie dogs are also a food source for many animals, and their deserted burrows provide nesting areas for a variety of species, including snakes and burrowing owls.6. They have their own language.Prairie dogs have a complex means of communication that’s even better than that of chimpanzees and dolphins.After recording and analyzing prairie dog calls for more than 30 years, Con Slobodchikoff of Northern Arizona University found that the animals have barks and chirps that communicate numerous messages.Many of these messages are designed to alert others in a colony about the presence of a predator, and the animals’ communication is so advanced that not only do they have different calls depending on the type of predator, but they also make sentences that describe the predator.Prairie dogs can embed information about the predator’s size, color, direction and speed in a single bark, and a colony — which can include hundreds of animals — consistently uses the same barks to describe the same predators. Prairie dogs even have a specific call that describes a human with a gun.By showing captive prairie dogs a series of shapes, Slobodchikoff has also found that the animals can develop new calls to share information about items they’ve never seen before.7. They do ‘the wave.’Prairie dogs are under constant threat from predators like hawks and coyotes, so they protect themselves by staying in continuous communication. This often results in contagious behavior where one prairie dog’s action is mimicked by others.One of these often-mimicked displays is the jump-yip, in which one animal stands on its hind legs, stretches its arms out, throws back its head and yips. Upon hearing the sound, other prairie dogs copy the behavior, and jump-yips spread throughout the colony.Why do they do this? Researchers have been studying the behavior for decades, trying to discern why the animals jump-yip in a variety of situations: when predators arrive, when predators leave, when keeping watch or when defending territory.Recently, scientist at the University of Manitoba suggested that the wave-like response is an indicator that everyone in the group is being vigilant. By initiating a jump-yip, one prairie dog is reminding the others to pay attention, which explains why prairie dogs jump-yip in many different situations.Watch some jump-yipping prairie dogs in the video below.Related on MNN:
More than two decades of cooperation in guarding weapons-grade stockpiles comes to an end, leaving the world ‘a more dangerous place’
One of the greatest boons brought to the world by the end of the Cold War was the agreement been the US and the countries of the former Soviet Union to cooperate in securing the USSR’s vast nuclear arsenal.
Under the 1991 Cooperative Threat Reduction agreement, better known as the Nunn-Lugar programme (after the two senators who persuaded Congress to pay for it) 900 intercontinental ballistic missiles were destroyed, and over 7600 warheads were deactivated. Some 250 tons of bomb-grade fissile material, scattered across the disintegrating superpower, was locked up and put under guard, so it could not be stolen and sold to the highest bidder. Tens of thousands of former Soviet nuclear weapons scientists and technicians were found jobs and salaries to help reduce the incentives to offer their expertise to rogue states and terrorists.
All in all, a pretty big deal, whose benefits will only be fully appreciated in their absence.
The spirit of cooperation that underpinned the programme has crumbled over recent years. Under Vladimir Putin’s leadership, Russia has increasingly bristled at the premise that it was unable to ensure the security of its own arsenal and fretted about Americans using the programme to spy on its nuclear secrets. In 2012, Moscow announced it would not extendNunn-Lugar, but a replacement US-Russian bilateral nuclear security deal was cobbled together in its place a year later.
That deal, under the framework of the Multilateral Nuclear Environment Programme in Russia (MNEPR), was more limited. The US would not longer take part in the dismantling of weapons but would continue to assist safeguarding stocks of fissile plutonium and uranium.
Now, even that has fallen apart. In December, Congress voted to cut funding, in part because the Ukraine war, although unspent money in the programme could still have been used. A few days later however, as the Boston Globe reported, Russian officials broke the news to their American counterparts in a hotel overlooking Red Square that they were cutting off almost all cooperation.
As a result, no US-funded security work will be done at any Russian nuclear weapons sites nor will there be any joint security upgrades at any Russian facility where substantial amounts of weapons-usable nuclear material are stored.
Speaking by phone from the US, former Senator Sam Nunn, half of the Nunn-Lugar partnership that started the programme, said “the world is a less safe place because of this”.
There has been a race between cooperation and catastrophe, when you look at the possibility of catastrophic acts of terrorism. Cooperation has been running rapidly over the past twenty years, but this is a real setback…The Russians says they are going to spend resources to secure their materials and we have to hope they will. They have the expertise to do it, but they are under heavy economic pressure.
Matthew Bunn, a Harvard University professor and one of the world’s leading experts on the issue, said: “Nuclear security is dramatically better than it was in the 1990’s. The question now is how much those improvements will be sustained. Will there sufficient protection against insiders? Because all thefts up to now have been by insiders, not 20 guys coming in from the outside with guns blazing.”
Of the new US-Russian rift, Bunn said:
It makes the world a more dangerous place. It will make it more likely there will be nuclear security incidents in the world’s biggest nuclear stockpile.
I need a cuddle buddy, must be ok with listening to my music and spending 13 hours in bed together
Damn! It appears I’ve been rumbled; my left wing politics, I must admit, are about more than mere principle.
One of the longest-running studies of adult development in history delivers four surprising findings.
July 15, 2014
Between 1939 and 1944, researchers at Harvard University recruited 268 of the best and brightest members of the student body to participate in a long-term psychological study. The purpose of the Harvard Grant Study—so called for its original funder, chain-store magnate William T. Grant—was to determine which traits best predict a successful life. To track a wide range of factors, including income, physical and mental health, and happy marital and parental relationships, the chosen students (all men, as Harvard wouldn’t become coed until 1977) participated in regular interviews, physical and psychiatric exams, and surveys with researchers. The surviving participants are now in their 90s, making the Grant Study one of the longest-running prospective studies of adult development ever conducted. Triumphs of Experience, a recent book published by George Vaillant, who directed the study for more than three decades, reveals some of the most interesting findings.
1. Beware of Alcohol Abuse
On its own, this statement isn’t too surprising; it’s long been known that sustained heavy drinking can lead to severe health problems. But Vaillant, who calls alcoholism a “disorder of great destructive power,” insists it has other equally significant, devastating consequences. For example, alcoholism is the single strongest cause of divorce between the Grant Study men and their wives. The Harvard researchers also found that it was strongly coupled with neurosis and depression, with these psychological traits following alcohol abuse rather than preceding it. And together with cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse was the #1 cause of morbidity and death among the study participants.
2. Liberals Have More Sex
In one of the oddest discoveries, researchers found that aging liberals had much more active sex lives than their conservative counterparts. Though political ideology had no bearing on overall life satisfaction, the conservative participants ended their sex lives at around age 68 on average, while most liberal men continued having sex regularly well into their 80s. Vaillant was himself puzzled by this, noting that he’d consulted urologists about the findings but “they have no idea why it might be so.”
3. Moms Matter
The relationship between participants and their mothers was found to be a critical factor in determining lifelong well-being. While researchers found a powerful correlation between the warmth of the men’s relationships generally and their health and happiness later in life, the dynamic between mother and son was found to be particularly influential. According to their findings, men who had “warm” childhood relationships with their mothers earned $87,000 more annually than men who had distant maternal ties. Fittingly, their boyhood relationships with their mothers were also associated with effectiveness at work. Among the other physical and psychological benefits: men who had poor childhood relationships with their moms were much more likely to develop dementia in old age.
4. Personality Is Not Static
One of the main advantages of longitudinal studies is the ability to track change over time. What Vaillant found in his decades of speaking to and studying the Grant Study men is that personality is a constantly shifting, evolving set of traits, not an ironclad description of what a human being is like. From his perspective, adult development continues long after adolescence, as people experience and are altered by major life events like marriage, divorce, career changes and the birth of children. The participants who were determined to have the most successful lives accepted the fundamentally haphazard courses of their lives, rather than fixating on regrets and missed opportunities. As one of the participants, Charles Boatwright (all names have been changed), explained at the age of 79, “The things you felt so passionate about when you were young, you learn to let go of. You realize that all those things you thought you were going to be, you ain’t. As I have often said, at this stage in life it’s not what you’ve accomplished in a day, but how the day felt.”
The Grant Study is flawed in many ways, including the small sample size and lack of gender, economic or racial diversity. But it is a fascinating look at how patterns of growth, development and nurturing can determine patterns of life satisfaction. Vaillant’s most important finding, in his own estimation, is one that all of us can relate to: “The 75 years and $20 million expended on the Grant Study points to a straightforward five-word conclusion: Happiness is love. Full stop.”
Sep. 27 2012
It would appear that ants that are kept as slaves by more powerful species aren’t as helpless as they might appear. New research from Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany shows that enslaved ants conduct their own form of civil disobedience, by neglecting and killing the offspring of their oppressors. And by doing so, the ants may be preventing their comrades outside the nest from being enslaved themselves.
This discovery was made by ant researcher Susanne Foitzik who started to observe this behavior back in 2009. But what she has since discovered is that this is not an isolated trick limited to one species; over the course of her studies, Foitzik has observed at least three different ant populations in which these acts of rebellion occur. It would appear, therefore, that it may be a fairly common way for enslaved ants to fight back.
Ants such as Temnothorax longispinosus become enslaved when workers from the slave-making ant colony, Protomognathus americanus, attack their nests. The parasitic master ants kill the adults of the subjugated population, and steal their offspring. Once back at their nest, the master ants force the new generation to feed and clean their larvae, thus compelling them to raise the offspring of their oppressors (what’s called “brood parasitism”).
At least up until a certain point — but it would appear that the enslaved ants have evolved a fairly potent countermeasure.
Foitzik observed that 95% of the brood survives the larval stage — but things change dramatically once the larvae starts to pupate. At this point, the pupae give off a chemical signature that the enslaved ant recognizes as being foreign. In turn, the slave ants ignore and even outright kill the baby ants by tearing them apart — as much as 65% of them (normally, 15% don’t survive). Foitzik’s research even showed some survival rates that were as low as 27%.
Clearly, the slave ants are making a difference — and at no benefit to themselves. But their free relatives back home (as much as it can be said that ants are “free”) are clearly benefiting from their enslaved brethren working behind the front lines. And in fact, slavemaker colonies damaged by slave sabotage have been observed to grow slower and smaller slave-making colonies, while conducting fewer and less destructive slave raids.
What’s particularly fascinating about this discovery is that the enslaved ants are not the ones passing the “destroy enemy pupae” genes to the next generation. Instead, this characteristic is arising and being reenforced among the free ants.
This research was financed since October 2011 by the project “The evolution of resistance and virulence in structured populations” funded by the German Research Foundation.
The entire study can be read at Evolutionary Ecology.
By Tom Boggioni
Monday, April 28, 2014
In a twist on the conservative argument over the separation of church and state, a group of clergymen filed suit in North Carolina today challenging state laws that make it illegal for them to perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples within their congregations.
The clergymen, representing the United Church of Christ, as well as Lutheran, Baptist, and Unitarian congregations jointly filed a federal challenge to Amendment One – recently passed by voters – in Western District of North Carolina.
The addition to the North Carolina Constitution prohibited the state from recognizing or performing same-sex marriages or civil unions.
The 2012 initiative was approved by voters 61% to 39%.
According to a plaintiff in the case, Rev. Joe Hoffman, Senior Minister of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Asheville, NC, “As senior minister, I am often asked to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples in my congregation. My denomination – the United Church of Christ – authorizes me to perform these ceremonies. But Amendment One denies my religious freedom by prohibiting me from exercising this right.”
According to the Campaign for Southern Equality, today’s suit is the first of 66 marriage equality suits filed nationally to evoke the First Amendment’s right to the free exercise of religion.
“The core protection of the First Amendment is that government may not regulate religious beliefs or take sides in religious controversies,” said attorney Jonathan Martel. “Marriage performed by clergy is a spiritual exercise and expression of faith essential to the values and continuity of the religion that government may regulate only where it has a compelling interest.”
The full complaint can be read here (pdf)
[Minister blessing a gay couple on Shutterstock]
by Gagandeep Singh Chaney
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