Monday, October 16, 2006

Same-sex marriage and religious liberty

Most Christians of my acquaintance believe both in the preservation of traditional marriage between a man and a woman and in the toleration by society, government and law of what are often called "alternative lifestyes." That is to say, while not condoning homosexual behavior, there is no desire to inflict hardship or even inconvenience.

Consequently many orthodox Christians [myself included] favor laws prohibiting discrimination, or protecting inheritance rights, or hospital visitation rights, etc., for same-sex couples. That doesn't mean we favor "gay marriage."

But legal recognition of same-sex marriage may, quite apart from moral, social and religious considerations, raise serious questions about religious liberty. The evangelical outpost:
"When same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, can the government force religious groups to treat it like traditional marriage? Will non-discrimination laws trump five thousand years of tradition? Would Christians be silenced and treated as 'bigots' for refusing to accept the normalcy of gay marriages? [...]

[Maggie] Gallagher asked the Beckett Fund, one of the leading law firms that defend religious liberty, about the seriousness of the threat. Last December, the firm brought together ten religious liberty scholars of right and left to look at the question of the impact of gay marriage on the freedom of religion. Anthony Picarello, President of the Beckett Fund, summarizes their findings: "All the scholars we got together see a problem; they all see a conflict coming. They differ on how it should be resolved and who should win, but they all see a conflict coming."
"The impact will be severe and pervasive," Picarello says flatly. "This is going to affect every aspect of church-state relations." Recent years, he predicts, will be looked back on as a time of relative peace between church and state, one where people had the luxury of litigating cases about things like the Ten Commandments in courthouses. In times of relative peace, says Picarello, people don't even notice that "the church is surrounded on all sides by the state; that church and state butt up against each other. The boundaries are usually peaceful, so it's easy sometimes to forget they are there. But because marriage affects just about every area of the law, gay marriage is going to create a point of conflict at every point around the perimeter."
The scholars at the Beckett Fund agreed that when traditional values clash with the homosexual agenda, religious freedoms are likely to lose."

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