Yes, efficient government is what we need
10 reasons this is no longer the land of the free

Part Three of A Critique of MARRIAGE AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together

The authors then go on to discuss some scenarios, some of which are out-of-context, and some of which are accurate.  The basic gist is:

Even where religious people and groups succeed in avoiding civil liability in cases like these, they would face other government sanctions—the targeted withdrawal of government co-operation, grants, or other benefits.

 In a number of jurisdictions across the country Roman Catholics, Salvation Army, and others have quit performing various services because they refused to accept the strings attached to government money.  Newt Gingrich, in the recent debates, has made this out that the state has forced the churches to do something.  Not the case.

It is perfectly legitimate for secular, civil government to attach criteria to agencies receiving government money.  Sometimes those criteria will run counter to the religious beliefs of various people and faith groups.  The easy solution is to simply not accept government funds.  It doesn't mean you have to quit performing your services or threaten governments in some attempt to blackmail them.

Many denominations, including the baptists I came from, refuse government funds anyway, because they acknowledge that operating with the civil authorities could compromise your religious beliefs.  What the groups whining here are really afraid of is not an infringement upon their religious beliefs, but a loss of privilege and establishment power.

The other options is to choose as a religious group that you won't discriminate even against those who differ from your own religious views.  Plenty of faith groups, including my own, have done that.  First Central, for instance, even allows our sanctuary to be rented for weddings for those of different or no faith.  We've even had evangelicals wed in our sanctuary -- some church members have objected to this or agonized over it.  Our view is just because we welcome others to use our space does not mean we endorse anything about them or their views.  These conservatives need to understand that.

 This failure to understand that providing welcome and services does not mean agreeing with, also gets to the problem with this claim from their letter:

For then, government will compel special recognition of relationships that we the undersigned religious leaders and the communities of faith that we represent cannot, in conscience, affirm. 

Government is not compelling anyone to affirm anything.  But, if you truly think that you will be seriously tainted by American life in the twenty-first century, then America allows you the freedom to do what various sectarian groups have always done, and then separate yourselves from the overall society in order to practice your religion.  This is what the Amish do, what fundamentalist Mormons do, what some liberal utopian groups, even what radical separatist lesbians do.  This is one of the blessed things about the US -- if you truly want to separate yourself, you can do so, and still benefit from our national security, overall economy, etc.

Another example is the Mennonite conscientious objector.  That the state legalizes forms of violence, even can coerce citizens' involvement in violence, does not mean that the Mennonite who believes in non-violence is forced or compelled to act against his or her religious views.  

When you take a breath and consider these examples, then you realize the fear-mongering.  Our country bends over backwards to make sure your religious views are allowed space, but it does not have to accomodate them as part of the mainstream civil norms.


Okay, I think I'm done, unless another point arises.  

Any comments on any of these three posts?


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Dan Morrow

Good Work, Scott. THanks for the time you put into this. In some of our upcoming Forums at church we'll be discussing Political Involvement and Spirituality. In this election year the voice of the Progressive Church must be heard alongside that of our our more regressive brothers and sisters.

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