Religious Liberty: One Casualty in the War Over Marriage

Posted on March 26, 2013 by


by  Derrick G. Jeter ‏@derrickjeter

The next twenty-five years will see an increased assault on religious liberty.

One such subtle assault is in the misuse of language—cleverly changing “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship.” A more pernicious assault, however, is afoot—the attempt to redefine marriage and thereby open the way for federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Wedding RingsCurrently, nine states and the District of Columbia have redefined marriage and allow same-sex couples to marry. The Supreme Court is now hearing oral arguments against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (which for federal purposes defined marriage as being between one man and woman) and California’s Proposition 8 (which amended the state’s constitution and affirmed the traditional definition of marriage).

If the high court overturns DOMA and nullifies the voice of the people in California by redefining marriage as simply an emotional union among persons, they will unmoor America’s moral heritage, unleash life altering consequences upon all Americans, and set us adrift on a sea of societal and political troubles. One of the first casualties cast overboard will be religious liberty. This is true for at least three reasons.

First, religious people will face an increasingly hostile culture.

Those who hold to the traditional view of marriage based on religious convictions would, in time, be seen as holding to a malicious prejudice against same-sex marriage. Already, to speak out against homosexuality in general as sin, as contrary to God’s design for human sexuality, or as unhealthy to practitioners, children, and society, is deemed bigoted and labeled homophobic.

Second, religious people will face an increasingly hostile administrative state.

Proponents of traditional marriage who do business with government agencies will, in time, be forced to promote or embrace gay marriage as a precondition of securing contracts. It is conceivable that employees of the government will suffer censorship if they express their religious/traditional views of marriage, leaving them open to discipline, denial of promotions and benefits, “sensitivity” training, or termination. The state can (and has) require(d) school children to take classes about same-sex marriage and other alternative lifestyles, while condemning religious people for holding views at odds with “official” doctrine.

Third, religious people will face an increasingly hostile legal system.

Bill of RightsNondiscrimination laws will, in time, make private citizens and organizations—businesses, civic associations, and religious institutions—liable to civil suits for refusing to treat same-sex marriages as traditional marriages. We already see similar strong-arming from the Health and Human Services’ application of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) on Catholic hospitals and clinics in regard to contraception, abortifacients, and abortions.

One doesn’t have to look far to find examples of how redefining marriage and accepting same-sex unions has already limited religious liberty.

In Massachusetts, which grants same-sex couples marriage rights, the Catholic Charities of Boston was forced to choose between its religious convictions about marriage and placing orphaned children with same-sex couples. They chose to discontinue their adoption services rather than violate their principles.

Also in Massachusetts, public schools began teaching grade-school children about same-sex marriage, defending their decision by saying they were “committed to teaching about the world [children] live in, and in Massachusetts same-sex marriage is legal.”

You might think Massachusetts parents could opt their children out of the course. You’d be wrong. An appellate court ruled that parents had no right to exempt their children from learning about same-sex marriage.

In Georgia a counselor was fired after referring a client in a same-sex relationship to another counselor. Owners of a bed and breakfast in Illinois were sued for violating the state’s nondiscrimination law when they refused to rent their facility to a same-sex couple for their civil union ceremony and reception.

In California doctors were successfully sued for refusing to inseminate a woman in a same-sex relationship. And in New Mexico the state’s Human Rights Commission prosecuted a photographer for declining to photograph a gay “commitment ceremony.”

These are just a few examples. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty reports that “over 350 separate state anti-discrimination provisions would likely be triggered by recognition of same-sex marriage.”

Chai Beldblum, Georgetown University law professor and appointee to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sums up nicely, if not chillingly, the threat that redefining marriage has on religious liberty:

For all my sympathy for the evangelical Christian couple who may wish to run a bed and breakfast from which they can exclude unmarried, straight couples and all gay couples, this is a point where I believe the “zero-sum” nature of the game inevitably comes into play. And, in making the decision in this zero-sum game, I am convinced society should come down on the side of protecting the liberty of LGBT people.

It seems in the debate over the nature of marriage, not all rights are equal, especially the ones specifically stated in the Constitution . . . like the free exercise of religion.

I invite you to follow me on Twitter @derrickjeter.

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