January 11th was the release date of "Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods that Stand or Fall Together," an open letter opposing same-sex marriage. The document has been signed by almost three dozen American religious leaders, mostly conservative Christians, including Salvation Army national commander William A. Roberts, National Association of Evangelicals president Rev. Leith Anderson , LDS presiding bishop H. David Burton, New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, and Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president Dr. Richard Land.
The letter defines marriage as the union of one man and one women, declaring it to be a universal good and the foundation of all societies. Opposite-sex marriage, it claims, is "bound up" within the human nature of male and female. The letter argues that the "true definition" of marriage must be protected for the well-being of society. Alterations such as same-sex marriage allegedly threaten to interfere with the religious freedom of those who affirm opposite-sex marriage.
The greatest peril posed by same-sex marriage, it insists, is pressure on religious organizations and individuals to treat sexual conduct by same-sex partners as the "moral equivalent" of opposite-sex marital sex. The letter laments that changing the civil definition of marriage to include same-sex unions will compel religious people and organizations to acknowledge same-sex marriages in their occupations and ministries (i.e., schools, hospitals, counseling services). Failure to do so could result in the withdrawal of government funds and other benefits, it suggests. For instance, religious adoption services would be required to place children with same-sex couples, and religious employers would be required to give health benefits to same-sex spouses. The horror!
The letter concludes by urging "those entrusted with the public good" to support legislation that upholds opposite-sex marriage as the only valid form of marriage, and in doing so safeguard religious freedom.
Where do I begin? First, the letter's assertion that the meaning of marriage transcends society and religion is incorrect, as notions of marriage and family differ across cultures and eras. Along these lines, the document's assumption that one particular concept of marriage is a "universal good" is incorrect. To boot, the idea that opposite-sex marriage is inscribed upon human nature ignores people who are LGBT, asexual, or single by choice.
In keeping with common anti-LGBT rhetoric, "Marriage and Religious Freedom" frames equal rights for LGBT couples and religious freedom as mutually exclusive. Discrimination against same-sex married couples by religious institutions is framed as an exercise of religious freedom, not unfair treatment. However, as more Americans, including religious Americans, acknowledge the rights of LGBT people, will "Marriage and Religious Freedom" resonate with the populace?
To read "Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods that Stand or Fall Together," visit manhattandeclaration[dot]org/media/MarriageandReligiousFreedom.aspx. For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.
Washington Post: Religious leaders: Same-sex marriage threatens religious freedom
MyQuest: My Thoughts on Life's Journey: A Critique of MARRIAGE AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Fundamental Goods that Stand or Fall Together, Parts I, II, and III
Lez Get Real: Religious Leaders Want to Fight Marriage Equality on Religious Liberty
Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Faith leaders deliberately mislead about marriage equality