As a minister in a faith tradition that practically invented religious freedom, I really hate it when bigots use religious freedom as an excuse for their bigotry.
I read the article below today and got irritated again. It doesn’t take too much these days.
Back in Utah, I am tired of my recent legal marriage in California not being recognized here.
The anti-marriage equality folks seem to be falling all over themselves trying to pretend their main concern is protecting religious liberty. Give me a break! What about the religious freedom of churches and clergy who believe in marriage equality and have for a long time? Unitarian Universalist ministers, myself included, have officiated at same gender weddings ceremonies that are exactly the same as those we have done for opposite gender couples. The only difference has been that some of those marriages were not recognized by the state or the federal government.
Why is civil marriage a religious concern anyway? Why are clergy even authorized to sign legal documents for the state? Whatever happened to the separation of church and state?
From the article:
“In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, Jonathan Johnson, Executive Vice Chairman of Overstock.com, grew worried. While he liked the federalist arguments he heard, he worried about the equal protection arguments. At some point,” he remembers thinking, “equal protection and free exercise of religion are going to run into each other. This makes sense. What happens, for example, when a same sex couple comes to an Orthodox rabbi, asking to be married in a synagogue?”
That last question is beyond absurd. What would happen if a Hindu couple asks to be married in a synagogue? It would depend on the synagogue’s rental policy I suppose, but they could certainly say, “We only do Jewish weddings here.”
Different faith traditions have a LOT of different rules for who they will and will not marry. Catholics can’t be divorced and marry in the church. Interfaith couples will often seek out a Unitarian Universalist minister to marry them because their own clergy won’t unless one of them converts. Some clergy require extensive premarital counseling. Some clergy (FLDS for example) will marry several young girls to one old man.
As a minister, I can refuse to officiate at any marriage that violates my ethical or religious beliefs. For example, if I believed a couple was in an abusive relationship, I would refuse to marry them. They could not sue me, even if I was wrong about the nature of their relationship. If I wanted to, I could also refuse to marry a couple because they both had blue eyes and I believed that more genetic diversity is important for couples planning to have children. Even for a dumb reason like that, they couldn’t sue me.
Yuck. These arguments aren’t about religious freedom; they are about bigotry.
Trust me, every couple wants to be married by someone who will bless their union with an open and willing heart. They might complain about the difficulty ordering a cake or flowers when they run into bias there, but they definitely aren’t going to ask a hostile clergy person to have a major role in their special day.
Pat Robinson and the Westboro Baptist Church are not on anyone’s list for who they want for their gay wedding.