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

The crux of the authors' argument is "the interference with the religious freedom of those who continue to affirm the true definition of 'marriage'."  It is to this which we shall now turn.

First, there is no acknowledgement of the current state of affairs which discriminates against the religious views of those denominations and churches and non-believers who do practice marriage equality.  For example, the United Church of Christ performs marriages of couples regardless of their gender; we have adopted that as teaching of the national church (we aren't the only faith group that does so).  Right now federal and most state laws discriminate against our marriages, only acknowledging some of them as legal.  In fact, there have been hints, such as in Oklahoma a few years ago, that there might even be attempts to criminalize the performance of marriage ceremonies when the state does not acknowledge them as legal -- this would be a horrendous violation of religious liberty, far more than the authors fears.  My point is that we in the UCC and other denominations and faith groups currently have our religion discriminated against, and we don't take it as a mortal threat to our faith, our churches, or the future of humanity.  The currently privileged denominations may have to surrender some privilege, but they are not mortally threatened.

Let's take the next stage of their argument:

Instead, we believe the most urgent peril is this:  forcing or pressuring both individuals and religious organizations—throughout their operations, well beyond religious ceremonies—to treat same-sex sexual conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct.  There is no doubt that the many people and groups whose moral and religious convictions forbid same-sex sexual conduct will resist the compulsion of the law, and church-state conflicts will result.

These conflicts bear serious consequences.  They will arise in a broad range of legal contexts, because altering the civil definition of “marriage” does not change one law, but hundreds, even thousands, at once.  By a single stroke, every law where rights depend on marital status—such as employment discrimination, employment benefits, adoption, education, healthcare, elder care, housing, property, and taxation—will change so that same-sex sexual relationships must be treated as if they were marriage.  That requirement, in turn, will apply to religious people and groups in the ordinary course of their many private or public occupations and ministries—including running schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other housing facilities, providing adoption and counseling services, and many others.

It is important that we understand the fundamental flaw in this thinking, because if we were to adopt their viewpoint, it would radically alter the United States of America.  What these authors are claiming is that if the state recognizes as legal the marriage of same-gender couples, then that does a few things:  1)  it forces (their term) religious people to treat these marriages as morally equivalent to opposite-gender marriages; 2) it will require employers and business owners to not discriminate against same-gender marriages and persons in such marriages; and 3) it will deny religious organizations the right to discriminate based upon their religious views.

First, number three is false.  It is clearly established in US constitutional law, and affirmed just this week by the Supreme Court (in a unanimous ruling), that religious organizations themselve can discriminate based upon their religious views.  We've known for some time that the right has been over-reacting and fear-mongering on this point, and SCOTUS just affirmed that.  

Second, number one is also false.  The government cannot "force" anyone to treat anyone else with a moral equivalency.  Racists and sexists, for example, can still be racists and sexists in our society.  They must treat people fairly and justly, but they can continue to morally judge them all they want.  That, of course, will not change.  To imply it will is more fear-mongering.

The main point to argue is number 2 and this is the area in which they propose a radical change to the United States of America.  The implications of the authors' argument is that a religious person should be able to deny someone in a same-gender marriage the same services that are given to people in opposite-gender marriages.  To put it quite simply, the authors want to make it okay for religious people to discriminate not in their religious and moral beliefs but in how they treat other people.  Let's consider some parallels.

Let's get right to religion in order to make this point.  Currently in the US it is illegal to discriminate against someone based upon their religion.  That means that a Roman Catholic employer cannot fire an employee who converts to Islam, say, even if that Roman Catholic employer believes Islam to be a moral evil.  A Lutheran Church-Wisconsin Synod business person cannot refuse to sell goods or supply services to a Roman Catholic customer even if that Lutheran businessman believes the Pope to be the anti-christ.  A Southern Baptist cannot refuse to provide the same services to an atheist that they provide to fellow Baptists.

The authors of this letter are in fact arguing that because you have a religious difference with someone, you should be able to treat them differently, to not do business with them, to refuse them services, in other words, to discriminate against them based upon religion.  They violate the very religious liberty they pretend to uphold.

We do not want a country wherein Catholic business refuses to serve Mainline Protestant customers.  We do not want a country wherein Evangelical physicians refuse to care for Muslim patients.  I could go on, but you get the point.

The authors of this letter would destroy the very fabric of the pluralist, secular, constitutional, civil society of the United States.  What they seem to desire is some form of theocracy wherein only their religious opinion is accomodated by the state, rather than the state remaining neutral and ensuring that all religious and non-religious viewpoints are respected.

Consider this question:  "Does a Roman Catholic employer have a right to fire a gay worker because of the employers religious views rather than the workplace performance of the worker?"  No, the employer does not have that right. 

Can you imagine a society wherein only like-minded people associate with one another?  If you can, it is not the United States.  

The state cannot compel or force anyone to change their religious or moral views.  People can continue to be homophobic and heterosexist all they want.  What they should not be able to do is to discriminate against people they disagree with.

And that is what the authors of this letter are arguing FOR.  An America in which people should discriminate against people they disagree with or are different from themselves.  Take that to its logical conclusion and you have country clubs that do not admit Jews, businesses that do not employ women, and lunch counters that do not serve blacks.


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Scott Jones

Let me add something.

The full implication of the authors' line of argument is something akin to apartheid.

Let's not forget that even it was endorsed by some of the Christian denominations in South Africa while being vehemently opposed by others.

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