Controversy

United for Marriage

Leaders of some of the largest religious communities in the United States have joined together in an open letter to all Americans to voice their shared concern for marriage and religious freedom….Signatories include leaders from Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Lutheran, Mormon, and Pentecostal communities in the United States.  Here is the letter. Dear Friends: The promotion and protection of marriage—the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife—is a matter of the common good and serves the wellbeing of the couple, of children, of civil society and all people.The meaning and value of marriage precedes and transcends any particular society, government, or religious community.It is a universal good and the foundational institution of all societies.It is bound up with the nature of the human person as male and female, and with the essential task of bearing and nurturing children. As religious leaders across a wide variety of faith communities, we join together to affirm that marriage in its true definition must be protected for its own sake and for the good of society. We also recognize the grave consequences of altering this definition. One of these consequences—the interference with the religious freedom of those who continue to affirm the true definition of “marriage”—warrants special attention within our faith communities and throughout society as a whole.For this reason, we come together with one voice in this letter. Some posit that the principal threat to religious freedom posed by same-sex “marriage” is the possibility of government’s forcing religious ministers to preside over such “weddings,” on pain of civil or criminal liability.While we cannot rule out this possibility entirely, we believe that the First Amendment creates a very high bar to such attempts. Instead, we believe the most urgent peril is this:forcing or pressuring both individuals and religious organizations—throughout their operations, well beyond religious ceremonies—to treat same-sex sexual conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct.There is no doubt that the many people and groups whose moral and religious convictions forbid same-sex sexual conduct will resist the compulsion of the law, and church-state conflicts will result. These conflicts bear serious consequences.They will arise in a broad range of legal contexts, because altering the civil definition of “marriage” does not change one law, but hundreds, even thousands, at once.By a single stroke, every law where rights depend on marital status—such as employment discrimination, employment benefits, adoption, education, healthcare, elder care, housing, property, and taxation—will change so that same-sex sexual relationships must be treated as if they were marriage.That requirement, in turn, will apply to religious people and groups in the ordinary course of their many private or public occupations and ministries—including running schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other housing facilities, providing adoption and counseling services, and many others. So, for example, religious adoption services that place children exclusively with married couples would be required by law to place children with persons of the same sex who are civilly “married.”Religious marriage counselors would be denied their professional accreditation for refusing to provide counseling in support of same-sex “married” relationships.Religious employers who provide special health benefits to married employees would be required by law to extend those benefits to same-sex “spouses.”Religious employers would also face lawsuits for taking any adverse employment action—no matter how modest—against an employee for the public act of obtaining a civil “marriage” with a member of the same sex.This is not idle speculation, as these sorts of situations have already come to pass. Even where religious people and groups succeed in avoiding civil liability in cases like these, they would face other government sanctions—the targeted withdrawal of government co-operation, grants, or other benefits. For example, in New Jersey, the state cancelled the tax-exempt status of a Methodist-run boardwalk pavilion used for religious services because the religious organization would not host a same-sex “wedding” there.San Francisco dropped its $3.5 million in social service contracts with the Salvation Army because it refused to recognize same-sex “domestic partnerships” in its employee benefits policies.Similarly, Portland, Maine, required Catholic Charities to extend spousal employee benefits to same-sex “domestic partners” as a condition of receiving city housing and community development funds. In short, the refusal of these religious organizations to treat a same-sex sexual relationship as if it were a marriage marked them and their members as bigots, subjecting them to the full arsenal of government punishments and pressures reserved for racists.These punishments will only grow more frequent and more severe if civil “marriage” is redefined in additional jurisdictions.For then, government will compel special recognition of relationships that we the undersigned religious leaders and the communities of faith that we represent cannot, in conscience, affirm.Because law and government not only coerce and incentivize but also teach, these sanctions would lend greater moral legitimacy to private efforts to punish those who defend marriage. Therefore, we encourage all people of good will to protect marriage as the union between one man and one woman, and to consider carefully the far-reaching consequences for the religious freedom of all Americans if marriage is redefined.We especially urge those entrusted with the public good to support laws that uphold the time-honored definition of marriage, and so avoid threatening the religious freedom of countless institutions and citizens in this country.Marriage and religious freedom are both deeply woven into the fabric of this nation. May we all work together to strengthen and preserve the unique meaning of marriage and the precious gift of religious freedom. Sincerely Yours: Rev. Leith Anderson President National Association of Evangelicals Johann Christoph Arnold Senior Pastor Bruderhof Communities Randall A. Bach President Open Bible Churches Dr. Gary M. Benedict President The Christian and Missionary Alliance The Rev. John F. Bradosky Bishop North American Lutheran Church Glenn Burris, Jr. President The Foursquare Church Bishop H. David Burton Presiding Bishop The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Dr. Ronald W. Carpenter, Sr. Presiding Bishop International Pentecostal Holiness Church Rabbi Abba Cohen Vice President for Federal Affairs Washington Director Agudath Israel of America Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone Bishop of Oakland Chairman USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage Nathan J. Diament Executive Director for Public Policy Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan Archbishop of New York President United States Conference of Catholic Bishops The Most Rev. Robert Duncan Archbishop, Anglican Church in North America Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Dr. Barrett Duke Vice President for Public Policy and Research Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission Rev. Jim Eschenbrenner Executive Pastor General Council of Christian Union Churches Dr. William J. Hamel President Evangelical Free Church of America Rev. Dr. Ron Hamilton Conference Minister Conservative Congregational Christian Conference Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison President Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod John Hopler Director Great Commission Churches Dr. Bill Hossler President Missionary Church, Inc. Clyde M. Hughes General Overseer International Pentecostal Church of Christ Rev. Kenneth D. Hunn Executive Director The Brethren Church David W. Kendall Bishop Free Methodist Church USA Dr. Richard Land President Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission Most Rev. William E. Lori Bishop of Bridgeport Chairman USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty Dr. Jo Anne Lyon Chair Board of General Superintendents The Wesleyan Church James W. Murray Executive Director General Association of General Baptists Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades Bishop of Ft. Wayne – South Bend Chairman USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth Commissioner William A. Roberts National Commander The Salvation Army Rocky Rocholl President Fellowship of Evangelical Churches Rev. Samuel Rodriguez President National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference David T. Roller Bishop Free Methodist Church USA Matthew A. Thomas Bishop Free Methodist Church USA Dr. Joseph Tkach President & Pastor General Grace Communion International Berten A. Waggoner National Director Vineyard USA W. Phillip Whipple Bishop United Brethren in Christ Church, USA Dr. John P. Williams, Jr. Regional Director Evangelical Friends Church, North America David P. Wilson General Secretary Church of the Nazarene Dr. George O. Wood General Superintendent Assemblies of God // So… your thoughts? On the content of the letter? Will it do any good?