Silence on gay rites and clergy

monks gay The California Supreme Court, you might have heard, changed my native state’s definition of marriage. Marriage had been defined as the union between one man and one woman. Now marriage is defined as the union between two people of any gender.

Surely religious leaders had something to say about this profound change. After all, they took the lead eight years ago when state residents voted on whether to keep the traditional definition of marriage. The Catholic Church and Mormon Church mobilized strongly in support of the initiative, while liberal and progressive religious groups actively opposed it.

In other words, the voices of religious leaders matter. What do bishops and pastors think of the majority’s ruling that changes the definition of marriage? Do they equate sexual orientation with race?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but reporters failed to include religious voices in their stories. Only the The Los Angeles Times even acknowledged religious leaders:

The campaign over that measure began within minutes of the decision. The state’s Catholic bishops and other opponents of same-sex marriage denounced the court’s ruling.

None of the other major papers mentioned religious leaders at all. The Washington Post did not mention them. The New York Times did not mention them. (The LAT certainly elaborated on what my hometown’s mayor had to say).

Come on. The absence of religious voices is a serious error. It leaves readers in the dark about how churches will respond to the ruling. For example, I think readers would like to know what religious leaders have to say about this passage:

The majority opinion went to some length to say the ruling had no effect on the religious institution of marriage. “No religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples,” George wrote, “and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs.”

Mollie often points out, rightfully, that reporters focus on politics and ignore religion. But in the case of the California Supreme Court’s ruling, politics and religion cannot be divided. Just consider the effort underway to overturn the court’s decision. You can bet that the state’s religious institutions will play a major role on both sides of that issue; and that, inevitably, religious leaders will be heard from.

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  • http://feminine-genius.typepad.com gsk

    The “lack of curiosity” about the religious leaders’ thoughts on this reveal the true agenda of the SSAD crowd (as aided and abetted by the media). It isn’t about an honest assessment of what revealed religion thinks about a sacrament, or the family. The end-game is to destroy marriage from the inside. This is why our state (RI) is approaching it from the back-end: not whether same-sex couples can marry in RI, but can they divorce in RI (being married elsewhere).

    As outlandish as it sounds, they don’t want marriage (and never seriously have), but to detonate all families and replace them with free “love.” This is clearly in their liturature.

  • Martha

    “no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs”

    And how long will that last? I ask out of curiosity, does anyone really think that somewhere down the line there won’t be a case taken by Joe and Jim because Church C is legally allowed to solemnize marriages both civilly and religiously and so since the law says Joe and Jim are just as much entitled to be married as Jack and Jane, Church C better get with the programme as an arm of the civil state?

    Maybe the answer is for churches to get out of the business of registering civil marriages – I would have no objection to that. Even so, does everyone really think that there will be no attempt to push forward from someone down the line?

  • Michael

    Since priests and pastors and imams and rabbis can reject people now when it comes to performing marriages, there’s no reason to believe that this would change in the future just because the marriages involve same-sex marriages.

    This points to the need to have solid, balanced reporting where viewpoints are viewed skeptically on all sides and that reporters challenge spokespeople or at the very least, provides balance.

    The objective press can play the role of informer and moderator and need not get sucked into hysteria or hyperbole on either side.

  • Jimmy Mac

    Martha:

    It is time that government/State stops deputizing religious groups to act on its behalf and requires that anyone who wants to be “married” must enter into a civil union for legal benefits. As a further step, religious groups can define whatever conditions they wish when it comes to “matrimony.”

    This results in no mingling of church and state and no basis for a discrimination suit against those groups who exclude same-sex couples from their rites. The legal benefits of a civil union will be assigned to anyone who participates therein and whatever spiritual benefits that a couple may wish will come from their religious ceremony.

    End of problem, except for those religionists who simply can’t handle the loss of control over those who don’t buy into their tenets. My response to that: get over it!

  • Gerry

    Wrong!

    There are so many instances when civil “marriage” will conflict with the free practice of religion.

    One example: A religious college would have to let same-sex couples into married student housing.

  • Martha

    Jimmy Mac, I wonder.

    There’s always going to be someone out there with hurt feelings. I am given to understand that in England, people are church-shopping because they want to have the ceremony in a particular picturesque rural church, and when told that since they don’t belong to the parish this can’t be done, they get extremely huffy about it.

    The religious element takes a very distant back seat sometimes.

    I can imagine some couple in the near future getting very upset that they aren’t permitted to have their ceremony in the same church that has sentimental family ties (“But my grandparents got married here!”) and possibly going to court over it. If Jack and Jane can get married here, why can’t we? It’s perfectly legal – the courts said we’re entitled to be married and that a civil partnership is not sufficient – for true equality, we must be married on the same grounds as anyone else.

    Personally, I’d be happy with civil unions for everyone – gay, straight, what have you. This whole debate strikes me as a matter of natural justice, and I don’t see why a civil ceremony that has the legal protections for the spouses and children should be any less valuable. I’d be perfectly happy if heterosexual couples engaged in these instead of undergoing religious ceremonies that they don’t really believe in and are just doing to keep the parents happy or because they want a big day out with all the traditional trappings.

    That’s part of my problem understanding just exactly what this decision in California means – am I correct that there were civil unions available, that there were comparable legal provisions for couples in these, and yet the court said that nothing less than ‘marriage’ would do? Why? If we’re redefining marriage in ways that it was never used before, then why should an old-fashioned label pasted onto a new-fangled construct be of any use whatsoever?

    That, I think, is at least partially at the root of the unease about what this decision means for religous bodies that do not think their rules allow them to perform same-sex marriages: if someone feels they are being discriminated against because a church does not consider their (civil) marriage to be equal to a (church rite) marriage, will they have recourse to the law to force the church body to say it recognises their marriage as a marriage not just according to the civil law, but the religious one?

  • Martha

    What I meant by that last is, will it be considered hate speech and incitement to a hate crime if a church teaches or states that a civil marriage is not, by its doctrine, the same as a religious marriage?

    “By our beliefs, you are not married in the eyes of God. The civil partnership you have entered into is not the same as the sacramental marriage this couple have entered into.”

    “That’s discrimination! That’s homophobia and hate speech! This is illegal and will be reported.”

    For example, this report about a protest in Rochester, Kent, which links in the protest at the Cathedral with the police urging the reporting of hate crimes, homophobia and transphobia (the first time I’ve heard that term):

    “http://www.kentnews.co.uk/kent-news/Gay-rights-campaigners-to-protest-at-cathedral-newsinkent12950.aspx

    Campaigners are staging a demonstration outside Rochester Cathedral today against the Bishop of Rochester’s stance on gay rights.

    The protest has been planned to coincide with International Day Against Homophobia (Idaho) and will see members of the county’s gay community gather at the cathedral from noon.

    Ray Duff, one of the organisers, said: “Dr Michael Nazir-Ali has regularly opposed gay rights measures; for example, adoption by gay and lesbian partnerships.

    “He has himself received threats because of his conversion from Islam to Christianity. Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) people fully condemn such threats unreservedly.

    “Thus, we, the LGBT community in Kent and the UK, will urge the bishop to now extend his support and sympathy to the LGBT community, who have suffered for centuries because of Church homophobia.”

    In a statement, the Bishop of Rochester said: “I acknowledge and respect the equal dignity of all – regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, there is no place for the harassment or persecution of anyone for whatever reason.

    “We are thankful that in this country there is freedom of meeting and expression for all.

    “The Bible and the Church teach that the proper expression of our sexuality is in the context of marriage. This has to do with God’s purposes in creating us, respect for persons and the importance of the family as a basic unity of society.”

    Kent Police marked Idaho with a new appeal to gay people to report homophobic and transphobic crimes using a free 24-hour phone line.

    Assistant Chief Constable Dave Ainsworth said: “Hate crime is unacceptable and we are working with partner organisations to ensure the community understands this behaviour is not tolerated and Kent Police will investigate each reported incident thoroughly.

    “We urge the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community to use it so we can work together to ensure offenders are prosecuted. We believe hate crime is under-reported.”

  • John

    I believe that one thing missing from the entire debate is that marriage — a RELIGIOUS institution in the U.S. — has VERY strong CIVIL benefits. These include reduced taxes, inheritance, medical decision making, child care, insurance, etc., etc. This, in my opinion, flies in the face of separation of church & state, not to mention equality.

    If there were no CIVIL benefits to being married, no problem. So, either allow gays to marry, or eliminate the civil benefits of marriage. In many countries, they’ve done just that — the actual ‘marriage’ is a civil ceremony, the religious part is optional.

  • Chris Bolinger

    The objective press can play the role of informer and moderator and need not get sucked into hysteria or hyperbole on either side.

    And that objective press exists where?

  • Stephen A.

    Lovely debate about the merits of gay marriage, or lack thereof.

    And irrelevent here, of course.

    Re: the Religion News coverage…

    I’m not at all surprised by the lack of coverage of the religious angle of this earthquake of a story, and if we see it, I will guarantee that the religious folks they DO interview will be Unitarian Universalists, Episcopalians (TEC), and liberals from Mainline churches.

    My so-called conservative hometown paper, the New Hampshire Union Leader, has been as silent as the grave on this issue, and apparently, every religious leader in the state has gone blind, deaf and dumb in the past 48 hours or so, given the media blackout of this story here.

    BTW, found one example of SOME news coverage, from San Jose Mercury News:
    http://www.mercurynews.com/peninsula/ci_9298016

    The “it’s no big deal” and “been doing gay marriages for years” mantra is clear, and for that part of America, that’s probably an accurate portrayal. There is, however, an attempt at balance, and IDing “liberal congregations” as those that were celebrating was a particularly interesting bit of accuracy, and kind of impressive.

  • str1977

    If there were no CIVIL benefits to being married, no problem. So, either allow gays to marry, or eliminate the civil benefits of marriage.

    Why?

    The state does give those benefits because it considers marriage (as traditionally defined) as an institution worth receiving these benefits. Maybe other institutions are worth these too but it is not for you decided that but for the state.

    Secondly, didn’t civil unions receive benefits too? The same benefits or a little less? Again, it is up for the state to decided that.

    There is no innate right for homosexuals to receive equak benefits if they do something different from what the state has set out to benefit.

    In many countries, they’ve done just that — the actual ‘marriage’ is a civil ceremony, the religious part is optional.

    What is actual marriage? Isn’t your take a bit onesided? For many couples civil marriage is just a formality, with little actual feelings attached.

    And BTW, most of these “many countries” do not have homosexual “marriage”.

  • John

    Why?

    The state does give those benefits because it considers marriage (as traditionally defined) as an institution worth receiving these benefits

    It’s called discrimination, something that the United States specifically disclaims ‘… That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’

    The same benefits or a little less?

    Which the Supreme Court has said is not constitutional (‘separate, but equal’ was outlawed)

    What is actual marriage?

    What the two individuals entering into a lifetime commitment decide it is.

  • Gerry

    If there were no CIVIL benefits to being married, no problem.

    It’s amazing how people don’t think before spouting off on this issue. Marriage is the bedrock of our societal structure. It can’t be bent out of shape without a multitude of effects, predictable or not.

    Simple example of non-civil problem: religious colleges would be forced to allow same-sex couples into married student housing

  • Commander Keen

    Sodom and Gamorra here we come. When that Earthquake/Tsunami falls on Californias shores, will you begin to repent then?

  • Jay

    Stephen,

    Since you decided (like the others) to speak to media (rather than civil/theological) question, I’ll respond in kind.

    The state constitutional initiative this fall will bring the Catholic church and some fundamentalist churches into greater visibility, so eventually their voices will be covered. However, the “objective” press (yes Chris) will “balance” every traditionalist leader with a liberal one — even though the ballot box fight will mainly be between the most active churchgoers and the casual/non-churchgoers or secular humanists. So the inactive believer — one who doesn’t set foot in a church and thus doesn’t know what’s being said — will be led to believe that the church is divided when the majority will be supporting the initiative.

    The press will also portray this as some dastardly right wing “wedge issue”, even though the whole controversy was created by a tawdry politician who needed something to grab attention (and distract from his cronyism (cf. http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=9571)).

  • John

    Hi Gerry,

    It’s amazing how people don’t think before spouting off on this issue.

    Perhaps some people, but please don’t include me in that group.

    Marriage is the bedrock of our societal structure.

    Too bad, then, that over half of marriage fail — yet society continues. I would postulate that society is not founded on marriage. It’s founded on the ability to civilly disagree. And part of the reason is that religion is, by and large, left out of the civic arena.

    … non-civil problem: religious colleges would be forced …

    And you reach this conclusion how? As I recall, if a college does not accept state funding, it can pretty much dictate whatever it wants to.

    from http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED288754&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED288754

    Title IX, the only federal law intended to prohibit all aspects of sex discrimination in education, mandated that, if an institution received funds from the federal government, it could not discriminate in any of its activities

  • Dave

    John:

    I suspect you didn’t read the Weekly Standard report that tmatt linked to the previous post on this topic. I recommend it. It lays out how, under some fairly plausible set of reforms over the next 10 years, religiously based intitutions could be under legal pressure such as Gerry proposes.

  • John

    Dave,

    I have now. The issues faced by Catholic Charities & Bob Jones university are understandable. First, Catholic Charities’ license as an adoption agency was revoked in MA because of the church’s refusal to place children in a gay marriage. This is the case of a religious organization providing a CIVIL service. The care of abandoned / abused / neglected children is one of the responsibilities of the state.

    Catholic charities, as a licensed adoption agency was required to obey the state guidelines. They chose not to, therefore their license was revoked. In this case, the church failed in the words of Jesus Christ: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”

    Bob Jones’ loss of tax exemption (8-1 SCOTUS) is simply the state saying that it could not sanction nor support (via tax exemption) racial discrimination.

    The Court declared that racial discrimination in education violated a “fundamental national public policy.”

    In both cases, and in any case going forward, the guidelines may be changed to reflect an unwillingness of the state to sanction or support, via tax exemptions or licensing, discrimination against the gay population.

    This is not the same as prohibiting the exercise of religious liberty.

    Therefore, Bob Jones university (and the Goldsboro Christian School) are free to discriminate against blacks. They just can’t expect public support to do so.

  • Dave

    John writes:

    Bob Jones university (and the Goldsboro Christian School) are free to discriminate against blacks. They just can’t expect public support to do so.

    Absolutely. But the “public support” consists of continuation of their 501[c][3] tax-exempt status. That is so important to the operation of a religious institution these days that the threat of its removal is tanatmount to coercion.

    Of course, this does *not* apply to sexual-orientation discrimination these days. Gallagher outlines the changes in political climate that might bring that about, but it’s not a sure thing by any means.

  • John

    Dave,

    On that point, I strongly agree with you. The free exercise of religion is, and will continue to be, a fundamental right. I think the difficulty that religious organizations face will be in the periphery of their missions, where they must grapple with the questions of ‘What is Caeser’s?’ and ‘What is God’s?’

  • http://www.myspace.com/7558749 Michael Ejercito

    While we do not live in a theocracy, many voters do not leave their faith at the ballot box.

    At seventh and last, people are ruled by the ideas in their heads as well as guns and clubs without. Religion, rightly or wrongly, does influence what ideas people have.

    Back in 1850′s India, one of the major causes of the Sepoy Rebellion was the rumor that Enfield rifle cartridges contained pork or beef grease, offending the religious sensibilities of the sepoys.

  • Gerry

    Gee, thanks for that highly relevant comment.

  • MJBubba

    Many thanks to Jay, # 15, for showing so clearly why a liberal press is a danger to society.
    John, do you really want to end tax exemptions for religious institutions? Presuming that you would like to see social services continued at the level currenty available to those in need, would you care to guess how high taxes would have to go to replace the social services currently provided to non-members by churches? Do you think that the U.S.A. could possibly provide adequate social services on a nanny-state basis the way Sweden does?

  • John

    John, do you really want to end tax exemptions for religious institutions?

    No. I did not say anything of the kind. What I am saying is that churches that accept state funding for activities at the periphery of their mission should recognize that those services are subject to “Caeser’s” laws. Catholic Charities losing their adoption agency license is the unfortunate victim of, in my opinion, misguided dogma.

    As far as funding for social services? I believe that discussion is outside the scope of this article.

  • str1977

    It is a matter of distinguishing between God’s and Caesar’s – such conflicts, as usual, arising when Ceasar oversteps his bounds – in the name of ending pseudo-discrimination.

  • str1977

    John,

    It’s called discrimination, something that the United States specifically disclaims ‘. . . That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’

    Nonsense. There is actually no discrimination involved. You misuse the Declaration of Independence – how come they didn’t have homosexual “marriage” for over two centuries.

    Discrimination means that men (persons) are not treated equally. But there was perfect equality before this decision: every man and every woman were allowed to marry. Marriage being the union between two persons of the opposite sex. Homosexuals were never barred from doing that if they wanted to.

    If this constituted discrimination, no one can be denied to marry – not by age, not by blood ties, not by anything, as long as the other person agrees.

    The same benefits or a little less?

    Which the Supreme Court has said is not constitutional (‘separate, but equal’ was outlawed)

    Nonsense again. I was not talking separate but equal but separate but not equal for two different institutions. The state has no real interest in homosexual unions. The body of the state to decide that is the lawmakers, not judges being inventive.

    What the two individuals entering into a lifetime commitment decide it is.

    And why should that be so. You cannot invent your world. Your definition turns marriage into something meaningless.

    So if this really leads to actions against churches, what we will have is violations of freedom of religion, an actual fundamental and human right, in the name of an invention.

  • str1977

    This is the case of a religious organization providing a CIVIL service. The care of abandoned / abused / neglected children is one of the responsibilities of the state.

    If that were so, the state would have to move all abandoned children into state homes. Since it doesn’t do that it should not attack those that actually care for these children and only mean to act in the children’s best interest (even if you disagree with these intentions).

  • Dave

    str1977 asks John:

    You misuse the Declaration of Independence – how come they didn’t have homosexual “marriage” for over two centuries.

    For the same reason they had slavery for 90+ years after the Declaration was written. They didn’t fully understand the power of their own words.

  • John

    str1977:

    Nonsense. There is actually no discrimination involved.

    I won’t engage you in a rational debate, as you seem unable to respect differing opinions — however, for your edification:

    Discrimination is the failure to treat people in the same way because of a bias toward some of them because of some characteristic–such as race, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, disability

  • Julia

    There will probably be a separation of civil marriage from church marriage, whith the religious ceremony of no civil effect.

    But will the civil authority allow people to have a religious marriage and skip the civil ceremony with its civil consequences? I’m thinking of all the senior citizens who are now living in sin to avoid the loss of Social Security widow’s benefits. Will they now be able to have a church wedding and keep the benefits? I’m for that.

  • John

    Hi Julia,

    But will the civil authority allow people to have a religious marriage and skip the civil ceremony with its civil consequences.

    Where I live, they already do that — you can have a marriage in the church, but if you don’t file the license at city hall, you aren’t ‘legally’ married. That, by the way, is also the technique that the polygamists use. They have one ‘legal’ marriage, the rest are ‘spiritual’ marriages.

  • Stephen A.

    Jay said (#15):

    However, the “objective” press (yes Chris) will “balance” every traditionalist leader with a liberal one — even though the ballot box fight will mainly be between the most active churchgoers and the casual/non-churchgoers or secular humanists. So the inactive believer — one who doesn’t set foot in a church and thus doesn’t know what’s being said — will be led to believe that the church is divided when the majority will be supporting the initiative.

    This is exactly right, and it’s what I call the “National Public Radio” treatment.

    The “balance” is there, but conservatives act as a foil to the REAL warriors, the liberals, who are always portrayed as fighting the good fight, and almost always get the opening and closing statement. (“But Jones vows to continue fighting conservative attempts to…”)

    The technique is rampant in these stories, where conservatives and Traditionalists of all kinds are demonized and portrayed as standing in the school room door.

    The ‘crusading reporter’ mentality is nauseating.

  • Jimmy Mac

    “John, do you really want to end tax exemptions for religious institutions?”

    In England the government has allowed that tax exemption for charitable activities (including religious organizations) is based on the public benefit they provide. This has resulted in excluding many organizations which, in the US, would be eligible for tax exemption, i.e., cloistered orders of nuns, etc. The legal reasoning was that they did not do any “external work” or interact with society or help people in a material way.

    The argument has been made that the “advancement of religion” should be high on a list of charitable purposes.
    In a secular society such as the US, I find that argument insupportable in and of itself. If the organization can show that it performs a public service then it should be able to qualify for a tax exemption on its property and for the donations thereto. However, a small congregation with dwindling participation and a piece of property wouldn’t and most likely shouldn’t qualify for tax benefits that result in other agencies’ tax bills being made proportionately higher.

    I can agree that, unless there is a public benefit to the work of any given charitable organization, be it secular or religious, there should be no state-granted tax exemption.

  • Dave

    Jimmy Mac wrote:

    [...A] small congregation with dwindling participation and a piece of property wouldn’t and most likely shouldn’t qualify for tax benefits that result in other agencies’ tax bills being made proportionately higher.

    Jimmy,

    This would obliterate thousands of churches of all theological stripes across the US. The logic behind church tax exemptions, as I understand it, is that religion is so important that it should not have to compete with economy-based enterprises.

    The US is a secular state governing a multifaceted religious society — not quite the same as a secular society.

  • Jimmy Mac

    Dave:
    This secular government operates under a constitution that makes it unconstitutional to either favor religion or to prevent the free exercise thereof. Tax exemptions for religious property and donations to religions favor them over non-religious taxable enterprises. Unless there can be a clear demonstration of the public benefit to the point that a tax exemption is warranted, it should not happen.

    I happen to belong to a small congregation. If we can’t afford to keep it going in the same manner that a small business does, then we need to consider alternatives, i.e., amalgamation or dissolution. Small businesses sink or swim based upon their ability to raise income.

    Our ongoing existence should not depend on the largesse of the taxpayers unless, as I said, we can demonstrate that we provide a clear public benefit. Just existing doesn’t make it.

  • Dave

    Jimmy Mac writes:

    This secular government operates under a constitution that makes it unconstitutional to [...] favor religion [...]

    That is not the way the Establishment Clause has been interpreted. It’s a political position that some on the left hold, and probably others too, but it’s not a legal reading.

    Small businesses sink or swim based upon their ability to raise income.

    So do churches, whether they get tax exemption or not.

    Our ongoing existence should not depend on the largesse of the taxpayers unless, as I said, we can demonstrate that we provide a clear public benefit.

    The public benefit is making it possible for religious minorities to create religious institutions without undue financial stress.

  • Jimmy Mac

    “The public benefit is making it possible for religious minorities to create religious institutions without undue financial stress.” And the public benefit part of what you just said is ….???? I see NO benefit to the public in what you aver. There is a RELIGIOUS benefit, most assuredly, but public ….. I don’t think so!

    For those still reading this posting, read this:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/26/us/26tax.html


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