Religious Freedom and Gay Marriage: Are They Intrinsically Inimical?


Does the First Amendment apply to individual people or only to the institutional church, inside its church building?

This question would have been unthinkable even a decade ago. But that was before President Obama used Obamacare as a method to coerce churches and private citizens in areas where it had never gone before.

The HHS Mandate was the brainchild of a star chamber committee at the Department of Health and Human Services. It was signed by the president. It has the force of law, but it is not a law. It is a regulation, that was not written by elected officeholders who are answerable to the people. In fact, it is in direct violation of public promises that President Obama made to elected officials in order to get the votes to pass Obamacare.

As such, the HHS Mandate was, from its beginning, an end-run around Democracy.

It was and is an autocratic attack on religious freedom by a few people with a vested interest in the outcome.

It also ushered in an era of direct attacks on religious freedom by government such as has never been seen in America since its founding.

One manifestation of this is the demand by gay marriage advocates that the government force one-person business owners to provide services such as cake-baking, flowers and wedding photography for their “wedding” services. They have managed to successfully use the government to coerce people, even in states where same-sex marriage is not legal.

I recently wrote a post asking the if it was possible to have personal freedom of conscience and gay marriage. In other words, is it possible to find a compromise between gay marriage advocates and traditional Christians that would allow both to exist without government coercion? If the response to that post is in any way indicative of the larger culture, the answer is no.

Gay marriage advocates swarmed the post. Most of them got deleted, but there weren’t any serious attempts to even address the issue of how to balance rights. Instead, the combox response to the post devolved down to the question of homosexuals’ “rights” in this matter trumping everything else.

Rather than give up, I’m going to ask the question again. Are religious freedom and gay marriage intrinsically inimical?

To put it another way, are we bound to decades of warfare over this issue in much the same way that we’ve suffered through the abortion debacle? The salient point is that this gay marriage debate comes after forty years of bad blood. This country is already divided in a dangerous manner. Can the government maintain its authority if those who seriously profess Christ come to believe that they have to chose between obeying their government and following their Lord?

The games that certain people in insulated thought communities are playing with these matters are far more dangerous than they allow themselves to understand.

The Supreme Court needs to turn back the HHS Mandate with a clear-cut decision that leaves no questions. Anything less will precipitate a Constitutional crises of generational proportions. Elected officials need to refuse to accede to demands from gay marriage advocates that they use the power of government to force people to participate in gay marriages against their will. We are talking about one-person or small family businesspeople who are being faced with losing their livelihoods if they do not violate their faith. There is no legitimate reason for this.

The questions at hand are not, as some like to claim, questions of civil rights such as that engendered by segregation. They do not pertain to basic matters of accommodation for a group of people who are forced to drink at separate drinking fountains, attend separate schools, sleep in separate hotels and watch movies in separate rooms. We are talking about isolated instances of one baker out of many or one photographer out of many saying they will not participate in a specific event based on their religious belief.

The businesses in question that I’ve read about have routinely served homosexual people. They just do not want to participate in this one specific event because it violates their religious teaching.

In this instance, the shoe of persecution and discrimination is on the other foot. Using the government to force people to violate their faith so that you feel validated is not only coercive, it is bigoted.

Gay marriage advocates have every right to advocate for their position by petitioning their government and working through the courts. But elected officials have a responsibility to honor the Constitutional freedom of religion of all citizens, including Christians.

No government can successfully enforce any law if a committed minority of people refuse to accede to it. That is a fact. The two political parties have manipulated and exacerbated the culture wars in order to get campaign donations and win elections until they have seriously damaged this country and all but destroyed themselves.

The political parties, for all their power and destructive force, are nothing. They do not care about this country or its people. Their silo mentality has contributed to this situation we now face in so many ways I cannot enumerate them all.

Given all this, it takes a person of stubborn hopefulness to ask the question: Can we reach a compromise?

I’ve never thought of myself that way, at least not the hopefulness part. But I’ve always had stubbornness aplenty. It would be easy to say that stubbornness is what drives me to put this question out there again.

However, that’s not true.

I am motivated by the stakes. I know which side I will come down on if I must choose.

I choose Christ.

But as an American, I do not believe that I should have to make that kind of choice. I believe that it is my right — my Constitutional right — to follow the dictates of my faith without government interference.

Which leads me back to the question with which I began: Are religious freedom and gay marriage intrinsically inimical?

Are gay marriage advocates and their allies in government seriously going to force me, and every other committed Christian, to chose between our country and following the Lord Jesus Christ?



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Where’s My Princess Purse?


Convos with My Two-Year-Old.

This one is about playing princess with Daddy.


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Convos with My 3-Year-Old: Ferngully and Gas Prices


Convos with My 3-Year-Old. My fav YouTube.


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Is It Possible to Have Individual Freedom of Conscience and Gay Marriage?


The debate is boiling down to a wall-punching, head-butting disaster.

On the one side, there are gay marriage advocates who decry religious freedom and personal conscience exemptions to participation in gay marriage except for the most isolated cases, and even that quickly comes into question as discussions proceed.

On the other side, are gay marriage opponents who decry the loss of personal freedom of expression and religious liberty. They quickly move to a position of banning gay marriage to preserve their freedoms.

Those who advocate each position have worked themselves into such a froth that they are incapable of civil discussion, much less actual compromise. I have been a victim of this myself. I lost a friend who I thought of as my brother, a friendship spanning decades of our lives and which had given both of us a great deal of love, loyalty, fun and support. He ended this friendship with the finality of an amputation because I could not support gay marriage.

That is the level of acrimony and nastiness this issue raises.

But in truth, the argument itself is based on considerations which have ample precedence in American life and jurisprudence to allow any and all of us to live together in harmony. America has a historic tradition of honoring freedom of conscience as it pertains to religious faith. The most poignant example of this is the exemptions we allow for those whose religious faith demands that they not participate in combat.

We even extend this to people who are not members of a faith which demands it.

I know because a friend of mine obtained conscientious objector status after he was in the military during the Viet Nam war. He made this request based on his personal conviction that killing anyone was murder. It was not based on his faith, since he was a member of a church that did not teach this.

The United States Army granted him conscientious objector status. I have also known Mennonite men who were granted conscientious objector status because of their faith.

So why can’t we work out something for gay marriage? I am not talking about exemptions for established churches, even though that is absolutely necessary if America is going to be America. I am talking about preserving the conscience rights and right to religious freedom of all American citizens.

Gay marriage zealots can be single-minded, intolerant and destructive in how they approach their cause. They resort far too often to labeling everyone who disagrees with them as bigots or some such and then excoriating and slandering these people and institutions in a concerted way that can only be described as character assassination.

My own friend, who I would have trusted with my life, has gone on the internet and written things about me to hurt me. None of these things he’s said advance the cause of gay marriage. They are simple expressions of hatred because we disagree over this issue.

I’m not sure what causes this level of ugliness. People who fought the great Civil Rights battles of the mid twentieth century did not engage in it, and the level of oppression and suffering they were battling makes any complaints that homosexuals have pale by comparison.

Perhaps the difference is that Martin Luther King Jr led from a Gospel standpoint. He based his cause in the inalienable human rights found in the Gospels of Jesus Christ. People sang hymns, prayed and talked about how they were saving the soul of America before they left to face the firehoses that were turned on them in Civil Rights marchers.

Their bravery and their powerful witness to their own humanity not only won the day, it did indeed, ennoble the soul of this nation.

No cause can do that if it stoops to the level that some of the gay rights advocates have chosen in their work for gay marriage. There is no nobility in slander, name-calling and bald-faced bullying. There is certainly nothing of a higher calling in attempts to advance your desires by attacking and limiting the basic human rights of other people.

That, at root, is what freedom religion and freedom of personal conscience are: Basic human rights. The freedom to believe in God and to follow your own faith is second only to the basic right to life and freedom from violence in the hierarchy of human rights. It is what separates us from the animals.

Alone of all the creatures on this planet, we know that we are going to die. Also alone of all the creatures on this planet, we know that there is right and wrong and dignity to every human soul.

Can there be human rights for gay people and freedom of religion for everyone?


Is gay marriage a human right for gay people? I don’t think so.

To be honest, I think that gay marriage, if it is regarded as the same as marriage between a man and a woman, is a delusion. Two men or two women are not the same as a man and a woman. There are basic legal rights that gay couples should have, simply because the laws of America have to be for everyone. But marriage between two men or two women is simply not possible. We can all pretend and call it marriage. But that won’t make it so.

The next question is, should gay people have the same civil rights as other Americans?

Of course.

Should every American, gay or straight, have the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion?

Absolutely. That’s not only imperative, it’s easily done if people of good will try to do it.

We can work it out. We can even work it out if we change the definition of marriage.

But will we?

I don’t know the answer to that.

We have the means and the power. The last question is simply, do we have the will?

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Helping Others … Helps You


What sort of people take part in Catholic Volunteer Services? How does volunteering affect their lives?

The short answer is good people, whose lives are enhanced by the experience.

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Message to the Vatican: Traditional Families Need Your Help


After all the hullaballoo, it turns out that the Vatican is not seeking input from the laity about it teachings, procedures, or anything else.

The survey the Vatican announced a week ago is designed to collect raw data at the diocesan level. It is not, as the popular press implied, a poll of the laity on Church doctrine and discipline. The data will be used as a resource in the 2014 Synod.

I’ve seen the survey, and I hope that it is not fully reflective of the issues that will be considered in the Synod. I am concerned that it is too focused on the needs of “new” family structures and not enough on how the Church can better support the traditional family.

I realize that the problems and the noise from those in “new” family structures tends to focus Vatican attention. But while those in “new” family structures are making all the demands and creating all the fuss, traditional families are quietly foundering.

Men and women, husbands and wives, in traditional Catholic families need a lot — and I mean a lot — more teaching and support, both spiritual and practical, from their Church. I hope that the bishops do not have the idea that what the Church is doing now to support traditional families within their care is enough. It simply is not, and I point to the need for this survey on “new” family structures as an indication of how serious the problem is becoming.

The huge increase in these “new” family structures which predicates surveys and Synods on how to deal with them is, to a great extent, testimony to the fact that traditional families have been suffering and failing. Traditional family has been under unremitting, concerted attack for almost 5 decades now. The Church needs to change how it supports traditional families to reflect this reality.

We need new and more inclusive ways of nurturing healthy Catholic families for the simple reason that traditional Christian families are under such enormous destructive pressure in this post Christian society. This destructive pressure bears down on every area of family life, from the way jobs are constructed, to social pressures, to the propaganda our children are inundated with in the public schools.

As Yogi Beara said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

If the church truly is a community, building healthy Catholic families by providing practical support of many types has to be part of its ministry.

From the National Catholic Register:

Vatican Collecting Diocesan Data, Not Lay Opinions in Worldwide Survey (2030)

Multiple media reports have given rise to the misconception that Pope Francis is polling Catholics for their views on Church teaching and practices.

 11/08/2013 Comments (3)

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi and Archbishop Bruno Forte, special secretary of the 2014 Synod of Bishops, speak Nov. 5 at the Vatican.

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis wants to know about the state of marriage and the family in the Church, before the bishops meet in Rome for an extraordinary synod next year. However, the lay faithful should not expect to be receiving a survey on their views from the Vatican anytime soon.

For one thing, the Vatican’s survey is being handled at the diocesan level, and the aim is to collect raw data, not opinions on Church doctrine or discipline, in advance of the 2014 synod. The data will help inform the bishops as they develop pastoral solutions for the challenges faced by modern families.

“Each bishop determines what is the most useful and reasonable manner of consultation to assist him in preparing his report for the Vatican,” said Don Clemmer, assistant director of media relations at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Clemmer said once a diocese completes its report, the data will be sent back to the USCCB and then forwarded on to the Vatican.


Read more:

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Will Illinois’ Proposed Gay Marriage Law Violate Religious Freedom?


Will Illinois create discrimination in the name of ending discrimination?

Illinois’ bill redefining marriage to include same-sex “marriages,” is on the governor’s desk, awaiting his signature.

Proponents of the bill say that ti will end discrimination against homosexuals. Others are concerned that a lack of exemptions for individuals and small business owners, including one-owner businesses, will allow coercion and a violation of these citizen’s basic right to religious freedom.

One thing that is commonly (and I think, deliberately) overlooked in discussions of this issue is that religious freedom and freedom of conscience are basic human rights.

From The Chicago Tribune:

Illinois’ gay marriage bill that awaits the governor’s signature doesn’t force religious clergy to officiate at same-sex weddings or compel churches to open their doors for ceremonies. But similar safeguards aren’t spelled out for pastry chefs, florists, photographers and other vendors who, based on religious convictions, might not want to share a gay couple’s wedding day.

The lack of broader exceptions worries some who fear an erosion of religious freedoms, even as supporters of the law say it will eliminate discrimination.

“We’re going to have to wait for lawsuits to arrive,” said Peter Breen, an attorney with the Thomas More Society, a socially conservative legal group.

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ENDA and Bully Politics


The United States Senate is quietly passing a law, known by the acronym ENDA, (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) that will place homosexuals in the same protected class as African Americans.

Personally, I am in favor of civil rights for gay people. They have the right to live their lives as they chose and to love whomever they want. They definitely should not be subjected to unjust discrimination. Homosexuals are human beings and American citizens.

However, I want the laws we pass to be just for everyone. Laws that seek to create a super category of citizen whose rights trump those of other citizens are, on their face, unjust laws. I am particularly concerned about issues of religious freedom.

I am also concerned about the way that Congress approaches legislation these days. I would wager that there are two incentives behind this particular bill. One is to pass a “hero deal” for the gay rights community. The motive for his is to pull gay activists and their dollars even closer to the Democratic Party. The other is to force the Republican House to either pass the bill and thus enrage a large part of their own base, or to kill and it and thus motivate the Democratic base.

One thing I’m reasonably sure is not under serious consideration is the impact ENDA would have on the lives and freedoms of ordinary Americans. I doubt if the question as to whether or not this is a good piece of legislation has been seriously discussed in the halls of Congress by either side of the debate.

According to a letter that the United States Conference of Bishops sent to members of the United States Senate, this proposed law would threaten religious liberty, support the redefinition of marriage, and reject the biological definition of gender. Those are serious charges, which should open the legislation for debate and amendment.

In the current climate, it is a stand-up action for the bishops to speak against this legislation. They, the Church, and faithful Catholics along with them, will be excoriated and called bigots and worse for having the temerity to suggest that the language of this legislation is flawed and too one-sided.

All this raises a couple of questions. First, is every piece of legislation that the gay rights community supports, by definition, good legislation that should not be debated, amended or critiqued for its content? Second, is expressing concern about bad language and specific components of a piece of legislation that is supported by gay rights advocates automatically, and by definition, an act of bigotry?

Have we reached the point where people of good will are unable to discuss legislation on its merits because of the mindless rhetoric and name-calling that is used to promote it?

I have the impression that Congress has moved past being a deliberative body and entered the arena of bully politics and don’t-read-the-bill-it-will-only-make-it-harder-to-vote-for-it.

I’ve done some of this myself, so I know a little bit about the emotions that push it. When a powerful special interest group wants something, every law-maker knows that the political price of opposing it will be terrible. If the special interest — in this case, gay rights advocates — wants something, and they are known for being a group that can turn on a dime and attack with intent to destroy in a personal way anyone who opposes them, the stakes grow higher.

If the special interest in question is also one that a law-maker has supported and been supported by in the past, the hill to climb to vote against or even amend a piece of legislation the special interest wants becomes a job-losing mountain.

Hence, the motivation to not read the bill. It’s easier to vote for a bad bill if you don’t read it or think about it or let yourself listen to requests to revise it.

I imagine the bishops would be happy to support a piece of legislation that addressed genuine discrimination against any group of people, and certainly something that addressed genuine discrimination against homosexuals.

It is truly a shame that Congress no longer deliberates about the legislation it passes, but just lines up the votes according to political consideration and then rams things through to see if they will hurt the opposing party in the next election.

I miss Congress. Congress matters.

Here is a copy of the letter issued by the USCCB concerning this law.


Bishop s end letter

Bishop s letter 2

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Book Review: People Pleasing, Miss Perfection, and Following God

To join the discussion about A Confident Heart, or to order a copy, go here BC AConfidentHeart 1

There’s an old story about Abraham Lincoln and his horse. It seems that the president was trying to get on his horse, but the horse started hopping around and got his back hoof hung in the stirrup. Lincoln stopped, looked at the horse, and said, “If you want to get on, I’ll get off.”

I think that God sometimes says something similar to us. Women, in particular, are afflicted with the Miss Perfection syndrome. I think it comes from our strivings to be good girls. We share an all-too-human craving for approval and validation from the people around us. For women, this is intensified by our intuitive understanding of others.

Make no mistake about it, women are better at people skills than men. When it comes to human interaction, we have a whole other level of intelligence that is just not there in most men. This intelligence can cripple rather than empower if we turn it on ourselves in the guise of people-pleasing.

The truth is, if we are trying to please others 24/7, then we aren’t in sync with the God Who made us. We aren’t doing what He made us to do. Read the Scriptures through from “In the beginning” to “Come Lord Jesus.” You will not find admonitions to make people pleasing a life’s goal in there anywhere.

On the contrary. We are a exhorted to please God, even if it displeases other people.

That’s a tough order for most of us with double x chromosomes, wired as we are with antennae that respond to the slightest change in the emotional weather of those around us.

Renee Swope wrote a book from her heart to other women when she wrote A Confident Heart. The subtitle, How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Live in the Security of God’s Promises, says it all.

Mrs Swope talks directly to women with this book. She frames her message by sharing the life lessons she has learned, first from growing up in a broken home with a distant father, and then walking the high-wire act of care-giver, mom, writer, ministry leader.

The truth is, the average American woman’s life is an insanity-making brew of conflicting demands based on conflicting roles. Most women work almost non-stop at their various jobs, and most women feel that they are failing at least a little bit at each of those jobs. We live, as Henry David Thoreau said, “lives of quiet desperation.”

We drive ourselves to get it all right, at least on the outside, and often end up neglecting the inside of our lives and the lives of those around us. Miss Perfection doesn’t have time to follow God because she is too busy trying to prove something that can’t be proven to people who really don’t care all that much, anyway.

We are not the sum of our successes with our failures subtracted to give us a net worth. We are children of the Living God, and He loves us, just exactly as we are.

People pleasing is a poison that drives us to drink deep of the unhealthy brew of perfectionism and pretense. God pleasing is simply being who we are.

People pleasing perfectionism is all about lying on the outside, hiding the flaws that make us human and hoping that no one ever finds out. It is about self-isolating fear and fraudulent living under the whip of our own demands. God pleasing is a matter of letting go and simply knowing … accepting … that He is God. God pleasing is as simple as saying yes in a long sigh of relief.

We don’t have to do anything for God to love us. No matter what we accomplish, He will not love us any more. No matter how often we fail, He will not love us any less.

Unconditional love is the answer to people pleasing, and the only place we will ever find it is at the foot of the cross.

Mrs Swopes takes her women readers through a discussion of the gifts of the spirit and how they apply to their own lives. That is the one place where I part company with her in this book. Catholics and Protestants both encourage people to spend time looking for what God wants of us. Catholics call it discernment, Protestants call it seeking God’s will.

I think — and I realize that I am almost alone in this — that all we have to do is just follow. Follow Christ. Obey the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes and trust Him. You don’t need to chase yourself around, looking for God’s plan for your life. It has been my experience that if God wants you to do something, you won’t be able to get out of it.

It is a mark of how much this book got to me that I say that. I got engaged with it, and found myself in quite a few of the things that Mrs Swopes wrote. I did this to the point that I found myself dialoging with the author — and now the people reading this blog — in my head.

A Confident Heart is designed to be used either in personal reading or in small group settings. It comes with a dvd to help the study group setting.

If you are a woman who is struggling to find spiritual balance in your life (which of us isn’t?) then A Confident Heart is a good place to find some answers.

I’m going to offer a free giveaway of this book to three of Public Catholic’s women readers. It will be very simple. The first three women commenters who ask for it, will receive a free copy.


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Pope Francis: Pray Together as a Family

How many family problems would simply go away if families prayed together?

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