Thursday, January 12, 2012

Marriage and Religious Freedom: An Open Letter

The following statement, Marriage and Religious Freedom, was issued today by leaders of some of the largest religious communities in the US, joining together in an open letter to all Americans to voice their shared concern for marriage and religious freedom. Signatories include leaders from Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Lutheran, Mormon, and Pentecostal communities in the United States. (The Lutherans are LCMS President Matthew Harrison and NALC Bishop John Bradowski.) Below the signatures to this fine letter I'm posting the "Executive Summary." Pastor Zip

Hat tip to James Gale at
ALPB Forum Online.

Marriage and Religious Freedom:

Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together
pdf verson here
An Open Letter
from Religious Leaders in the United States
to All Americans

Released January 12, 2012

Dear Friends:

The promotion and protection of marriage—the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife—is a matter of the common good and serves the wellbeing of the couple, of children, of civil society and all people. The meaning and value of marriage precedes and transcends any particular society, government, or religious community. It is a universal good and the foundational institution of all societies. It is bound up with the nature of the human person as male and female, and with the essential task of bearing and nurturing children.

As religious leaders across a wide variety of faith communities, we join together to affirm that marriage in its true definition must be protected for its own sake and for the good of society. We also recognize the grave consequences of altering this definition. One of these consequences—the interference with the religious freedom of those who continue to affirm the true definition of "marriage"—warrants special attention within our faith communities and throughout society as a whole. For this reason, we come together with one voice in this letter.

Some posit that the principal threat to religious freedom posed by same-sex "marriage" is the possibility of government’s forcing religious ministers to preside over such "weddings," on pain of civil or criminal liability. While we cannot rule out this possibility entirely, we believe that the First Amendment creates a very high bar to such attempts.

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.

So, for example, religious adoption services that place children exclusively with married couples would be required by law to place children with persons of the same sex who are civilly "married." Religious marriage counselors would be denied their professional accreditation for refusing to provide counseling in support of same-sex "married" relationships. Religious employers who provide special health benefits to married employees would be required by law to extend those benefits to same-sex "spouses." Religious employers would also face lawsuits for taking any adverse employment action—no matter how modest—against an employee for the public act of obtaining a civil "marriage" with a member of the same sex. This is not idle speculation, as these sorts of situations have already come to pass.

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.

For example, in New Jersey, the state cancelled the tax-exempt status of a Methodist-run boardwalk pavilion used for religious services because the religious organization would not host a same-sex "wedding" there. San Francisco dropped its $3.5 million in social service contracts with the Salvation Army because it refused to recognize same-sex "domestic partnerships" in its employee benefits policies. Similarly, Portland, Maine, required Catholic Charities to extend spousal employee benefits to same-sex "domestic partners" as a condition of receiving city housing and community development funds.

In short, the refusal of these religious organizations to treat a same-sex sexual relationship as if it were a marriage marked them and their members as bigots, subjecting them to the full arsenal of government punishments and pressures reserved for racists. These punishments will only grow more frequent and more severe if civil "marriage" is redefined in additional jurisdictions. 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. Because law and government not only coerce and incentivize but also teach, these sanctions would lend greater moral legitimacy to private efforts to punish those who defend marriage.

Therefore, we encourage all people of good will to protect marriage as the union between one man and one woman, and to consider carefully the far-reaching consequences for the religious freedom of all Americans if marriage is redefined. We especially urge those entrusted with the public good to support laws that uphold the time-honored definition of marriage, and so avoid threatening the religious freedom of countless institutions and citizens in this country. Marriage and religious freedom are both deeply woven into the fabric of this nation.

May we all work together to strengthen and preserve the unique meaning of marriage and the precious gift of religious freedom.

Sincerely Yours:
Rev. Leith Anderson
President
National Association of Evangelicals


Johann Christoph Arnold
Senior Pastor
Bruderhof Communities


Randall A. Bach
President
Open Bible Churches


Dr. Gary M. Benedict
President
The Christian and Missionary Alliance


The Rev. John F. Bradosky
Bishop
North American Lutheran Church


Glenn Burris, Jr.
President
The Foursquare Church


Bishop H. David Burton
Presiding Bishop
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Dr. Ronald W. Carpenter, Sr.
Presiding Bishop
International Pentecostal Holiness Church


Rabbi Abba Cohen
Vice President for Federal Affairs
Washington Director
Agudath Israel of America


Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone
Bishop of Oakland
Chairman, USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage


Nathan J. Diament
Executive Director for Public Policy
Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America


Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


Dr. Barrett Duke
Vice President for Public Policy and Research
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission


The Most Rev. Robert Duncan
Archbishop, Anglican Church in North America
Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh


Rev. Jim Eschenbrenner
Executive Pastor
General Council of Christian Union Churches


Dr. William J. Hamel
President
Evangelical Free Church of America


Rev. Dr. Ron Hamilton
Conference Minister
Conservative Congregational Christian Conference


Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison
President
Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod


John Hopler
Director
Great Commission Churches
Dr. Bill Hossler
President
Missionary Church, Inc.


Clyde M. Hughes
General Overseer
International Pentecostal Church of Christ


Rev. Kenneth D. Hunn
Executive Director
The Brethren Church


David W. Kendall
Bishop
Free Methodist Church USA


Dr. Richard Land
President
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission


Most Rev. William E. Lori
Bishop of Bridgeport
Chairman, USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty


Dr. Jo Anne Lyon
Chair Board of General Superintendents
The Wesleyan Church


James W. Murray
Executive Director
General Association of General Baptists


Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades
Bishop of Ft. Wayne - South Bend
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth


Commissioner William A. Roberts
National Commander
The Salvation Army


Rocky Rocholl
President
Fellowship of Evangelical Churches


Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
President
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference


David T. Roller
Bishop
Free Methodist Church USA


Matthew A. Thomas
Bishop
Free Methodist Church USA


Dr. Joseph Tkach
President & Pastor General
Grace Communion International


Berten A. Waggoner
National Director
Vineyard USA


W. Phillip Whipple
Bishop
United Brethren in Christ Church, USA


Dr. John P. Williams, Jr.
Regional Director
Evangelical Friends Church, North America


David P. Wilson
General Secretary
Church of the Nazarene


Dr. George O. Wood
General Superintendent
Assemblies of God




Executive Summary:

We, as representatives of a broad array of faiths, join together to affirm that marriage, the union of one man and one woman, must be promoted and protected for its own sake and for the common good. We also agree that redefining marriage will incur grave consequences, including a deleterious impact on religious liberty. Altering the definition of marriage will change not just one law but hundreds, even thousands, of laws. There will be government mandates, requiring the recognition and accommodation of so-called same-sex "marriages," that pose a critical threat to institutions and individuals who for reasons of faith and conscience will resist the law’s compulsion. Cases involving criminal and civil penalties and the denial of grants and other government benefits are already occurring and will only increase in number and severity if more jurisdictions redefine marriage. The law not only will coerce and impose disincentives, but will also teach that religious objectors must be marked as if they were bigots. We encourage all people of good will to protect marriage as the union between one man and one woman, and to consider carefully the far-reaching consequences for the religious freedom of all Americans if marriage is redefined. May all of us work together to strengthen and preserve the unique meaning of marriage and the precious gift of religious liberty.

Signatories come from the following communities:

Agudath Israel of America
Anglican Church in North America
Assemblies of God
The Brethren Church
Bruderhof Communities
The Christian & Missionary Alliance
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Church of the Nazarene
Conservative Congregational Christian Conference
Evangelical Free Church of America
Evangelical Friends Church, North America
Fellowship of Evangelical Churches
The Foursquare Church
Free Methodist Church USA
General Association of General Baptists
General Council of Christian Union Churches
Grace Communion International
Great Commission Churches
International Pentecostal Church of Christ
International Pentecostal Holiness Church
Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod
Missionary Church, Inc.
National Association of Evangelicals
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
North American Lutheran Church
Open Bible Churches
The Salvation Army
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
United Brethren in Christ Church, USA
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
Vineyard USA
The Wesleyan Church

3 comments:

Curtis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curtis said...

The first sentence, based on the most current sociological data, is simply not true. Marriage is NOT an inherent good. GOOD marriage is inherently good. How many women and children suffer in dysfunctional marriages? Thousands. Why is the focus on heterosexual marriage instead of GOOD marriage?

The second sentence is anthropologically inaccurate. Marriage is NOT a universal human trait. At least not without making the definition of marriage so broad as to be meaningless.

edited because I left out one word. And that word was "not." So it kind of mattered. :)

Pastor Zip said...

That "most current sociological data" seems to be in conflict with what sociologists have been finding since the beginning of that discipline, along with contradicting the experience and philosophical underpinnings of at least 2 1/2 millenia of Western Civilization.

And if you are suggesting "heterosexual marriage" is a subset of "marriage," it's rather peculiar to complain about others positing "a definition of marriage so broad as to be meaningless."