Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Freedom: Is Illinois Legislation a Harbinger of Things to Come?


The trial of Sir Thomas More (1535)


According to the Thomas More Society, a group dedicated to the promotion and protection of religious liberty, proposed same-sex marriage legislation in Illinois omits some very important protections:


Other states that have legalized same-sex marriage have included language in the relevant bills designed to protect religious freedom.  Is this omission in Illinois unintentional, an oversight, or is it, as some fear, a sign that, as the gay rights movement gains confidence, it will increase its pressure on dissenting religions and on traditional religious freedoms?


On a perhaps related note:  Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School has long been at the forefront of defending religious freedom worldwide.  After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Professor Cole Durham created the International Center for Law and Religion, which has been instrumental in helping to enact laws and to draft constitutional amendments intended to protect religious liberty around the world.


Such liberty should not be taken for granted.  It has been hard -won, and is still being secured, in countries around the globe, often with enormous difficulty and against considerable resistance.  And, perhaps surprisingly, it now seems to be under fire in the West, where it was first achieved.  As Western society becomes increasingly secular, even in some cases militantly so, the forces arrayed against free expression and practice of religion became more and more vocal, and less and less shy.


I encourage you to become informed regarding this still rather subtle but deeply important topic by subscribing to the free daily email that the Center sends out, which features links to national and international news stories about religious freedom.  Here’s the link to sign up:


It’s quite painless to do.



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  • Lucy Mcgee

    Does this worldwide protection of hard won religious liberty include protecting the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men which excuses slavery, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime and almost demand honor killings in some Islamic nations?

    Such religious liberty, at its worst, denies millions of women fair access to employment, education, health and influence as they are discriminated against using scripture attributed to a Higher Authority. As you certainly realize, the impact of these beliefs in many nations, means that boys are educated before girls, girls are told when and who to marry, and are often restricted in their movements. And if a women is raped, she is often severely punished or even killed as the guilty party.

    • DanielPeterson

      What on earth would possibly lead you to believe that my concept of liberty includes subjugation?

      • Lucy Mcgee

        I did not mean to infer that your worldview and concept of liberty would include subjugation. I’m somewhat surprised though, in reading your blog for nearly a year, and a paper you wrote on Islam a decade ago, that you’ve not that I can remember discussed the patriarchal domination and subjugation of women and girls within the world of Islam. And it isn’t like the issue isn’t mainstream. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been a quite critical, vocal and important voice bringing women’s issues within Islam to the attention of the West.

        Since, in this posting, you did not specify which religious liberties were worth protecting, I assumed that you included Islamic religious liberties as well.

    • Raymond Swenson

      Lucy, I believe you will note that the nations that practice the kind of subordination of women you describe are NOT bastions of religious freedom, either. Indeed, in many of them the open preaching of non-Islamic religion is suppressed, and conversion to Christianity is punished, sometimes as a capitol offense.

  • Raymond Swenson

    Religious freedom in the United States was hard won, because it required the founding of separate states in order to accommodate the religious diversity of colonists from the United Kingdom , including Puritans and Quakers and Catholics. It was hard won because much of the sentiment supporting the Revolution was resentment of the established Church of England. It was hard won because the first right that Americans insisted on in return for adopting the Constitution was the prohibition of a federal established church, and prevention of federal interference with churches in the states. It was hard won because laws enacted to injure minority religions like Catholics, Jews and Mormons were still being enacted a century ago.

  • Raymond Swenson

    Here in Washington State, the Attorney General is prosecuting a florist in the politically more Republican eastern part of the state, ostensibly for discriminating against gay customers on religious grounds. His press release does not indicate that he even considered the religious freedom protections in the Federal and state constitutions as relevant.

    The facts are that the gay men had been happy customers of the florist for nine years, but when they asked her to do all the floral decorations for their wedding under the new state law, she declined on religious grounds.