Religious Liberty and Gay Marriage

A friend of mine sent me this piece by Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission on the core issue concerning the gay marriage debate:

This week should bring two significant Supreme Court decisions on the matter of same sex marriage, in the cases of Hollingsworth v. Perry (the California Proposition 8 case) and the United States v. Windsor (the DOMA issue). Personally, I think it would be a shame for the Court to hand down any sweeping ruling on the issues involved. Just like it did in Roe and Doe, the Court could stop the conversation, halting the ability of voices to be heard and for this to play out in a representative political sphere. Representative politics ought to represent, and the people and their representatives should decide what marriage is, and whether they wish to change their minds on it, not the Court.

The Summer 2013 issue of The City, which mails this week, is full of smart writing on the issue of marriage and religious liberty. In editing the issue, I read a great deal of the work from Robbie George, Ryan T. Anderson and others who have been making essentially the natural law argument in defense of the traditional definition of marriage The core of their argument is here Upon closer inspection, I think they have really been arguing against the rise of something which has a much larger impact than just a small number of homosexuals getting married – they have instead been arguing against the modern concept of sexual identity. And this is a much tougher task, considering how ingrained this concept has become in our lives.

During the sexual revolution, we crossed a line from sex being something youdo to defining who you are. When it enters into that territory, we move beyond the possibility of having a society in which sex acts were tolerated, in the Mrs. Patrick Campbell sense – “I don’t care what they do, so long as they don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses” – and one where it is insufficient to be anything but a cheerleader for sexual persuasion of all manner and type, because to be any less so is to hate the person themselves. Sex stopped being an aspect of a person, and became their lodestar – in much the same way religion is for others. As Walker Percy wrote, “Pascal told only half the story. He said man was a thinking reed. What man is, is a thinking reed and a walking genital.”

The problem with gay marriage is not about gay people getting married – they’ve already been doing that, or living that way. The problem with gay marriage is not that it will redefine marriage into a less valuable social institution in the eyes of the populace – that is already happening, has been for decades, and will continue regardless of whether gays are added to it or not. And the problem with gay marriage is not about the slippery slope of what comes next – though yes, the legal battle over polyamory and polygamy is inevitably coming, as the principle of marriage equality demands it does (these relationships already exist below the radar, albeit with more poly than amory involved – of the 500 gay couples followed in the respected San Francisco study, about half of the partners have sex with someone else with their partner knowing).

No, the real problem with gay marriage is that the nature of the marriage union is inherently entwined in the future of the first line of the Bill of Rights: our right to religious liberty. Orthodox believers of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths were slow to understand this. I’m talking about something much bigger here than the discrimination lawsuits brought across the country against bakers and photographers: I’m talking about whether churches will be able to function as public entities in an era where their views on sin, particularly sexual sin, are in direct conflict with not just opinion but the law – and proselytizing those views from the pulpit or in the public square will be viewed as using the protection of religious expression to protect hateful speech.

Marriage is the MacGuffin in this movie… that thing everyone is talking about that, while important, isn’t really the main goal. The First Amendment is “first” for a reason… freedom of conscience — expressed (and fought for tooth and nail by Baptists in the 17th and 18th centuries often under the pain of lash and jail in Connecticut, Virginia, Massachusetts, etc.) in the First Amendment is THE core issue. Freedom of religious expression and conscience is the font from which the protection of all the rest of our rights flows. Go read the read the rest of this piece where Moore makes that argument… a point I’ve been stressing for years in my Con Law classes.

The Supreme Court will just accelerate the trip to real and consequential religious persecution. Freedom of worship means nothing without the freedom to live ones faith. The battle is most likely lost anyway on that front, but a decision to leave it to States puts that scenario off for decades perhaps.

6 comments to Religious Liberty and Gay Marriage

  • goozer

    We no longer have a government — or populace — who not only believe but understand just what John Adams meant: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

  • Rufus

    Some very good points there, and your summation is well stated also, Floyd. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I still think the only viable way out of this is getting Gov’ment out of marriage altogether. People are free to enter into legal agreements with whomever they choose, and they are free to distribute their assets to whomever they choose. That’s Uncle Sam’s jurisdiction. My wife and I believe God has jurisdiction over our union, no matter what the Supreme Court says. But, I have no problem with someone who doesn’t recognize the tenants of my Church. They are free to believe what they wish, as long as it doesn’t infringe on my rights or faith.

  • Peter Simm

    Rufus, I’m glad you wrote: “I have no problem with someone who doesn’t recognize the tenants of my Church.” I’m afraid I’m guilty of not recognizing your Church’s tenants, and I wish to apologize for that oversight on my part. Frankly, I was completely ignorant of the fact that your Church is a landlord that has leased out premises to someone. I will try to discreetly monitor the tenants’ comings and goings for a while. As long as they’re not wearing disguises, I’m fairly confident that, with a bit of diligence, I’ll soon learn to recognize them.

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