When same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, can the government force religious groups to treat it like traditional marriage? Will non-discrimination laws trump five thousand years of tradition? Would Christians be silenced and treated as “bigots” for refusing to accept the normalcy of gay marriages?
Those were some of the questions raised last night during Family Research Council’s “Liberty Sunday” simulcast. I was initially skeptical by the claim that same-sex marriage poses a threat to religious liberty. My doubts vanished, though, after reading Maggie Gallagher’s Weekly Standard article, “Banned in Boston.”
Gallagher asked the Becket Fund, one of the leading law firms that defend religious liberty, about the seriousness of the threat. Last December, the firm brought together ten religious liberty scholars of right and left to look at the question of the impact of gay marriage on the freedom of religion. Anthony Picarello, President of the Becket Fund, summarizes their findings: “All the scholars we got together see a problem; they all see a conflict coming. They differ on how it should be resolved and who should win, but they all see a conflict coming.”
“The impact will be severe and pervasive,” Picarello says flatly. “This is going to affect every aspect of church-state relations.” Recent years, he predicts, will be looked back on as a time of relative peace between church and state, one where people had the luxury of litigating cases about things like the Ten Commandments in courthouses. In times of relative peace, says Picarello, people don’t even notice that “the church is surrounded on all sides by the state; that church and state butt up against each other. The boundaries are usually peaceful, so it’s easy sometimes to forget they are there. But because marriage affects just about every area of the law, gay marriage is going to create a point of conflict at every point around the perimeter.”
The scholars at the Beckett Fund agreed that when traditional values clash with the homosexual agenda, religious freedoms are likely to lose. Redefining marriage will radically change such areas as housing, education, charitable giving, and employment. The speakers at Liberty Sunday testified to how this is already occurring in Massachusetts. For example, when the state demanded that adoption agencies place children with homosexual couples, Boston Catholic Charities chose to get out of the adoption business altogether. Other religious groups may be forced to make similar choices or lose their tax-exempt status for refusing to conform.
There is still time to protect our religious freedoms. Twenty states have already added constitutional amendments to protect the traditional definition of marriage; next month eight more states will vote on the issue. All Christians need to speak up now. Or we may soon find that we have no choice but to forever hold our piece.