Making distinctions in religious liberty cases

Fordham theology professor Michael Peppard says that the religious liberty issues being raised by gay marriage need to make some careful distinctions.  For example, the different roles in weddings played by bakers and photographers.

from Michael Peppard, Religious conscience vs. civil rights in the move toward gay marriage – The Washington Post:

Anyone familiar with weddings knows that the photographer is often more involved in the ceremony than the baker is. In some weddings, the photographer is a kind of supplementary liturgist for the ceremony: orchestrating participants’ movements, suggesting placements of the couple, encouraging romantic gestures, walking in front of them down the aisle and spending precious moments alone with the couple. Some photographers are next to the altar or under the chuppah.

We may need more reflection on what the law could force a citizen to do at a wedding or other religious ritual. The argument doesn’t have to slide down a slippery slope. One could imagine several footholds: Can the state compel someone, under anti-discrimination law, to assist in orchestrating the movements of another’s religious ritual? Perhaps the state can compel a photographer only to document the event but not to offer guidance in its execution? Or maybe the state can compel one to serve at a civil ceremony but not one sanctioned by a religious officiant? . . .

Drawing distinctions to maintain a precise balance of religious conscience protections and publicly accommodated civil rights is neither a sign of fastidious hairsplitting nor a distraction from prophetically proclaimed truths on either side. Rather, it is necessary to preserve and perfect our experiment in diversity.

Read Prof. Peppard’s complete argument.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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