Friday, May 19, 2006

The Coming Conflict Between Same-Sex "Marriage" and Religious Liberty

Maggie Gallagher writes in The Weekly Standard on "the coming conflict between same-sex marriage and religious liberty":

CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF BOSTON made the announcement on March 10: It was getting out of the adoption business. "We have encountered a dilemma we cannot resolve. . . . The issue is adoption to same-sex couples."

It was shocking news. Catholic Charities of Boston, one of the nation's oldest adoption agencies, had long specialized in finding good homes for hard to place kids. "Catholic Charities was always at the top of the list," Paula Wisnewski, director of adoption for the Home for Little Wanderers, told the Boston Globe. "It's a shame because it is certainly going to mean that fewer children from foster care are going to find permanent homes." Marylou Sudders, president of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said simply, "This is a tragedy for kids."

How did this tragedy happen?

It's a complicated story. Massachusetts law prohibited "orientation discrimination" over a decade ago. Then in November 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ordered gay marriage. The majority ruled that only animus against gay people could explain why anyone would want to treat opposite-sex and same-sex couples differently. That same year, partly in response to growing pressure for gay marriage and adoption both here and in Europe, a Vatican statement made clear that placing children with same-sex couples violates Catholic teaching.

Then in October 2005, the Boston Globe broke the news: Boston Catholic Charities had placed a small number of children with same-sex couples. Sean Cardinal O'Malley, who has authority over Catholic Charities of Boston, responded by stating that
the agency would no longer do so.

But getting square with the church didn't end Catholic Charities' woes. To operate in Massachusetts, an adoption agency must be licensed by the state. And to get a license, an agency must pledge to obey state laws barring discrimination--including the decade-old ban on orientation discrimination. With the legalization of gay marriage in the state, discrimination against same-sex couples would be outlawed, too.

Cardinal O'Malley asked Governor Mitt Romney for a religious exemption from the ban on orientation discrimination. Governor Romney reluctantly responded that he lacked legal authority to grant one unilaterally, by executive order. So the governor and archbishop turned to the state legislature, requesting a conscience exemption that would allow Catholic Charities to continue to help kids in a manner consistent with Catholic teaching.

To date, not a single other Massachusetts political leader appears willing to consider even the narrowest religious exemption. Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, the Republican candidate for governor in this fall's election, refused to budge: "I believe that any institution that wants to provide services that are regulated by the state has to abide by the laws of the state," Healey told the Boston Globe on March 2, "and our antidiscrimination laws are some of our most important."

This March, then, unexpectedly, a mere two years after the introduction of gay marriage in America, a number of latent concerns about the impact of this innovation on religious freedom ceased to be theoretical. How could Adam and Steve's marriage possibly hurt anyone else? When religious-right leaders prophesy negative consequences from gay marriage, they are often seen as overwrought. The First Amendment, we are told, will protect religious groups from persecution for their views about marriage.

So who is right? Is the fate of Catholic Charities of Boston an aberration or a sign of things to come?

My Comments:
Not to sound all gloom and doom, but I have long believed that this will be the issue that will eventually drive the Church underground to practice "in the catacombs" once again.

At one point in the Gallagher's piece, this quote appears:

The problem is not that clergy will be forced to perform gay marriages or prevented from preaching their beliefs. Look past those big red herrings: "No one seriously believes that clergy will be forced, or even asked, to perform marriages that are anathema to them."
Sorry, but I seriously do foresee just that. I can easily forsee a day when the government will use "anti-discrimination" law to punish churches who "discriminate" against same-sex orientation - first by denial of tax-exempt status, and then by allowing discrimination lawsuits, etc.

And when that day comes, don't look for the courts to interpret the 1st Amendment in a manner that would protect churches from such action.

A more pressing concern with possible immediate repercussions, however, arises with respect to religious education:
Consider education. Same-sex marriage will affect religious educational institutions, he argues, in at least four ways: admissions, employment, housing, and regulation of clubs. One of Stern's big worries right now is a case in California where a private Christian high school expelled two girls who (the school says) announced they were in a lesbian relationship. Stern is not optimistic. And if the high school loses, he tells me, "then religious schools are out of business." Or at least the government will force religious schools to tolerate both conduct and proclamations by students they believe to be sinful.
Please do go read the whole thing.


At 5/19/2006 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Constitution declares that we, as Americans, have a freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
Forcing the Catholic Church to abandon their religious beliefs and adopt children into a same-sex marriage goes against the core of America! It's not like the Catholic Church will not give food to needy gay people, they simply will not adopt to the couples. Same-sex marriages can find children to adopt elsewhere.
When public school children do not want to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, they are not forced to recite. They can remain seated. Let the Catholic Church remain seated on this issue, while allowing the church to continue performing a service to needy children everywhere.

At 5/19/2006 10:17 PM, Blogger Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

Jay, while I share your concern, and I wouldn't be surprised to see things get worse before they get better, I do believe that a backlash is coming, and in some respect is already here. The Church will not be driven back into the catacombs.

At 5/21/2006 2:01 PM, Blogger St. Jimbob of the Apokalypse said...

I wonder if the Church in america didn't burn all its political currency with the abuse scandals. Otherwise, it would seem reasonable to let catholic organizations have certain latitude. But no, bishops covered for chickenhawk queens in collars, and now the Church has no credibility in the eyes of just about any government level.

Colorado was a close scrap, and a sign of battles yet to come.

At 5/22/2006 11:49 AM, Blogger Darwin said...

I have the feeling that several forces will come into play to push the US back in a more conservative direction, but it certainly could happen as she describes. I think certain political forces already on the table would like to see Catholicism and other sources of religious conservatism shut down forcibly, or at least rendered insolvent. (As with Dean's comment about religions needing to shut up or lose their tax status.)

But I would tend to bet that we'll get pulled back towards equalibrium instead.


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