Opinion: Will gay rights infringe on religious liberty?

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It was inevitable that the debate over same-sex marriage would have a
strong religious component. This is partly because it involves such
questions as the interpretation of biblical passages that, on their
face, condemn homosexuality as a sin. But it also involves squaring the
authority of ancient texts with modern theological understanding and
developments in biology. And of course, the importance of love and human
autonomy as religious values should be considered.

Those issues surfaced in
the various briefs filed in the Supreme Court, some of which are written
as if the court must inevitably choose one religious point of view as
the winner and the other as the loser. This is a false choice. The Court
can make all winners, or at least avoid allowing one side to suppress
the other’s deepest beliefs.

The U.S. Supreme Court
has not been asked — nor could it possibly answer — the question of
what God or the Bible thinks about same-sex marriage. Religious groups
are divided on that question, some supporting and others opposing
same-sex marriage. And even if the religious viewpoint were clear, it
should play no direct role in deciding whether the Constitution requires
the states or the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage.
Our government should not act to further one or another religious view
of contested moral issues.

Neither the court nor government may referee religious disputes. Under
the Constitution, religious groups are free to urge and put into
practice their different visions of the good, of moral life, and compete
for adherents in the marketplace of ideas. Winners and losers are
determined by the “votes” of individuals and congregations, of believers
and nonbelievers, not by government bodies.

Written By: Marc D. Stern
continue to source article at cnn.com

60 COMMENTS

  1. Suppose gays create a religion, to join you have to sign a document professing your gayness and advertisie in a local newspaper, and this church only sanctifies marriages between gay couples because that’s what the doctrine says. Maybe the religion doesn’t even need to have a god or prophet. It’s a complete sham but with more members than other recognized shams. Ef- what the Bible says, write your own and make them challenge it on the basis of scientifically established historical facts.

    Now, isn’t any law or policy that fails to accept or recognize the sanctity of these marriages or discriminates in spousal benefits just plain unconstitutional as a violation of religious freedom? Okay, maybe it isn’t a happy home for principled secularists but an interesting test case?

    • In reply to #1 by whiteraven:

      Suppose gays create a religion, to join you have to sign a document professing your gayness and advertisie in a local newspaper, and this church only sanctifies marriages between gay couples because that’s what the doctrine says.

      What constitutes a marriage is usually defined by an act of parliament. If you set up your own gay religion and hold ceremonies they won’t be marriages unless the law says they are.

      Michael

  2. It was inevitable that the debate over same-sex marriage would have a strong religious component. This is partly because it involves such questions as the interpretation of biblical passages that, on their face, condemn homosexuality as a sin. But it also involves squaring the authority of ancient texts with modern theological understanding and developments in biology.

    No it doesn’t. If the constitution separates church and state, with a freedom of religion, then NO holy books or dogmas, are admissible as evidence.

    That is NONE!
    No Quorans, no Bibles, no golden tablets, no Egyptian temple hieroglyphics, etc!

    The U.S. Supreme Court has not been asked — nor could it possibly answer — the question of what God or the Bible thinks about same-sex marriage.

    Of course it hasn’t!

    Religious groups are divided on that question, some supporting and others opposing same-sex marriage.

    And even if the religious viewpoint were clear, it should play no direct role in deciding whether the Constitution requires the states or the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage. Our government should not act to further one or another religious view of contested moral issues.

    So just keep religious views out of it then, and look at the even handed recognition of individuals’ rights equally without religious discrimination.

    Neither the court nor government may referee religious disputes.

    This is backwards! The religious may neither referee the court nor the government, in the secular administration of laws.

    Neither the court nor government may referee religious disputes.

    Actually they can, if the disputes are legal rather than theological. If one church owes another money having bought property or buildings from them, the courts CAN decide to uphold or reject a claim, according to the law!
    They can also impose fines if the church van is speeding! Religions are NOT above the law!

    • In reply to #2 by Alan4discussion:

      They can also impose fines if the church van is speeding! Religions are NOT above the law!

      Church van.. Makes me smile. They can also impose manslaughter or greater charges if someone gets hit by a church van, tonight! And dies slowly.

  3. Nope – gay rights will not infringe on any religious liberties. Christians will not be torn from their heterosexual marriages and forced to marry someone of the same sex. They won’t even be forced to attend gay weddings if they don’t wish to. Gay people will not be coming along and burning down their churches or preventing them from worshipping and as long as they don’t discriminate and make gay people feel uncomfortable in public then they can be as nastily homophobic and unpleasant as they like in private and in their own heads.

    Society will not collapse it will just become fairer for all. And the liklihood of their children becoming gay will be exactly the same as it was, peoples sexuality being independent of their rights and freedoms. And hopefully within less than a generation, sexuality will not be an issue for anyone.

    The state operates to give equal rights to all, and if special groups like the religious don’t like that well tough. Because the state has also given them the freedom not to like it and to be as silly about what they believe as they like.

  4. I still think legalising gay marriage was the wrong thing to do and that giving civil partnerships all of the legal rights of a marriage was the way to go. I’d rather leave the religious alone to trod down their chosen paths of discrimination which would alienate themselves yet further from the forward thinking minds of the general populous, which would hopefully lead to their destruction.

    • In reply to #4 by Virgin Mary:

      I still think legalising gay marriage was the wrong thing to do and that giving civil partnerships all of the legal rights of a marriage was the way to go.
      I’d rather leave the religious alone to trod down their chosen paths of discrimination which would alienate themselves yet further from the forward thinking minds of the general populous, which would hopefully lead to their destruction.

      But it won’t. A lot of people want to get married and will be unhappy about just having a civil partnership. So they will need to go cap in hand to some religious organisation to get married. You are handing over to the religious exclusive control of something that people want. In many countries they already have control over a lot of the education system that they use to blackmail people into attending church. You would just make things worse.

      Marriage isn’t about religion anymore. Whatever the history. In most countries I know it’ an act of parliament. The state confers on various groups the right to perform a marriage and have it recognised as a legal marriage. Religious are one such group.

      Michael

      • In reply to #6 by mmurray:

        In reply to #4 by Virgin Mary:

        But it won’t. A lot of people want to get married and will be unhappy about just having a civil partnership. So they will need to go cap in hand to some religious organisation to get married. You are handing over to the religious exclusive control of something that people want. In many countries they already have control over a lot of the education system that they use to blackmail people into attending church. You would just make things worse.

        Marriage isn’t about religion anymore. Whatever the history. In most countries I know it’ an act of parliament. The state confers on various groups the right to perform a marriage and have it recognised as a legal marriage. Religious are one such group.

        Michael

        That’s why I said I think that civil partnerships should have been amended to be as equal as marriage under the eyes of the law. An example would be adultery which isn’t recognised under a civil partnership but obviously is under marriage. Change one to be the equal of the other instead of forcing the poor old religious folk to accept what they clearly don’t want to.

        • In reply to #9 by Virgin Mary:

          That’s why I said I think that civil partnerships should have been amended to be as equal as marriage under the eyes of the law.

          But equal under the eyes of the law is not equal in the eyes of the people who want to get married. Neither is equal in the eyes of the law equal in the broader society of friends, relatives etc. Getting married isn’t just about legalities. It’s about social recognition of the relationship. There are gay couples who want to get married just like their heterosexual brothers and sisters can get married. I have yet to see a sensible argument for denying them that right.

          An example would be adultery which isn’t recognised under a civil partnership but obviously is under marriage. Change one to be the equal of the other instead of forcing the poor old religious folk to accept what they clearly don’t want to.

          Why complicate things by introducing a separate but equal marriage which doesn’t alleviate the discrimination anyway ? It doesn’t solve the problem of discrimination against homosexual couples. It’s just an attempt by gutless politicians to look like they are doing something. It is up to the State to decide who can get married, what constitutes a legal marriage and who can perform it. If anyones wants to be allowed to perform a marriage they have to follow the rules which should include marrying couples of the same gender. If some religious organisation doesn’t want to obey they rules they can invent some ceremony of their own. It just won’t be marriage in the eyes of the State.

          It’s just not that complicated.

          Michael

          • In reply to #11 by mmurray:

            But equal under the eyes of the law is not equal in the eyes of the people who want to get married. Neither is equal in the eyes of the law equal in the broader society of friends, relatives etc. Getting married isn’t just about legalities. It’s about social recognition of the relationship. There are gay couples who want to get married just like their heterosexual brothers and sisters can get married. I have yet to see a sensible argument for denying them that right.

            Why complicate things by introducing a separate but equal marriage which doesn’t alleviate the discrimination anyway ? It doesn’t solve the problem of discrimination against homosexual couples. It’s just an attempt by gutless politicians to look like they are doing something. It is up to the State to decide who can get married, what constitutes a legal marriage and who can perform it. If anyones wants to be allowed to perform a marriage they have to follow the rules which should include marrying couples of the same gender. If some religious organisation doesn’t want to obey they rules they can invent some ceremony of their own. It just won’t be marriage in the eyes of the State.

            It’s just not that complicated.

            Michael

            That simply doesn’t work. There are more civil marriages in the UK than church weddings so I’m inclined to think that they’re far more accepted by wider society than your argument suggests.

            Haven’t you got my point yet? I don’t want to alleviate discrimination, I want it to continue! And what business is it of the state how the religious run their religions? Like I said before, I want them to continue discriminating against the LGBT lot and everyone else who doesn’t fit with their beliefs. It is my belief that should they be allowed to carry on down that path uncontested then they’re going to alienate themselves yet further from the masses, and they’ve already succeeded in losing and continue to lose them at a rate which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside.

            The church is dying, but unfortunately the church’s influence doesn’t seem to be. Kill it off altogether and maybe next time when a reformation of the House of Lords is proposed we’ll actually go through with it.

          • In reply to #13 by Virgin Mary:

            That simply doesn’t work. There are more civil marriages in the UK than church weddings so I’m inclined to think that they’re far more accepted by wider society than your argument suggests.

            You are confusing the issue. Civil marriages and church weddings from a legal point of view are the same. They all end up with a couple getting married according the appropriate act of parliament. Civil partnerships are different and a different act of parliament.

            Haven’t you got my point yet? I don’t want to alleviate discrimination, I want it to continue! And what business is it of the state how the religious run their religions?

            If they want to perform ceremonies and have them recognised as legal marriages according to some act of parliament it is every business of the state.

            Like I said before, I want them to continue discriminating against the LGBT lot and everyone else who doesn’t fit with their beliefs. It is my belief that should they be allowed to carry on down that path uncontested then they’re going to alienate themselves yet further from the masses, and they’ve already succeeded in losing and continue to lose them at a rate which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside.

            So LGBT people should have to put up with discrimination for the greater good. I’m not to keen on that.

            Michael

          • In reply to #14 by mmurray:

            In reply to #13 by Virgin Mary:

            You are confusing the issue. Civil marriages and church weddings from a legal point of view are the same. They all end up with a couple getting married according the appropriate act of parliament. Civil partnerships are different and a different act of parliament.

            If they want to perform ceremonies and have them recognised as legal marriages according to some act of parliament it is every business of the state.

            So LGBT people should have to put up with discrimination for the greater good. I’m not to keen on that.

            Michael

            Yes, I know. And for the thousandth time that is why I want civil partnerships to be amended and afforded the same legal rights as marriages. Is that really such a difficult concept to grasp? Marriages and civil marriages are equal, civil partnerships are not. Make civil partnerships equal to the other two. Job done.

            Catholics and Muslims are still allowed to discriminate against LGBTs, it’s only the CofE that is now obliged to consider them. They’re not even obliged to marry them because it’s down to the individual church’s discretion so I fail to see how that’s even an argument either.

            Yes. They should take one for the team and the rest of the country should rally around in support of them and condemnation of the churches. If anything the state should be giving them equality under the eyes of the law themselves and then joining in with the condemnation of the churches.

          • In reply to #16 by Virgin Mary:

            In reply to #14 by mmurray:

            Yes, I know. And for the thousandth time

            Fourth at the most surely ?

            that is why I want civil partnerships to be amended and afforded the same legal rights as marriages. Is that really such a difficult concept to grasp? Marriages and civil marriages are equal, civil partnerships are not. Make civil partnerships equal to the other two. Job done.

            The job isn’t done until LGBT people can get married not civily partnered or whatever it is called. I would just abolish civil partnerships.

            Catholics and Muslims are still allowed to discriminate against LGBTs, it’s only the CofE that is now obliged to consider them. They’re not even obliged to marry them because it’s down to the individual church’s discretion so I fail to see how that’s even an argument either.

            OK this I would change although I can see it’s politically expedient for Cameron not to get into it.

            Yes. They should take one for the team and the rest of the country should rally around in support of them and condemnation of the churches. If anything the state should be giving them equality under the eyes of the law themselves and then joining in with the condemnation of the churches.

            I’m not convinced you will get that reaction. Won’t the rest of the country just say “well they’ve got their civil partnerships what’s all the fuss about” ? But I’m not in the UK so are probably a better judge of the politics.

            Michael

          • In reply to #17 by mmurray:

            I’m not convinced you will get that reaction. Won’t the rest of the country just say “well they’ve got their civil partnerships what’s all the fuss about” ? But I’m not in the UK so are probably a better judge of the politics.

            Michael

            Civil partnerships are not in any way equal to marriages which is pretty much what all the fuss is about. I’m sure there are LGBT couples who want equality under the eyes of god but I’m not really interested in them, I’m interested in the ones who want to be seen as legally equal under the eyes of the law, to have exactly the same rights as straight married couples. Which is why I propose that civil partnerships be made exactly equal to civil marriages.

          • In reply to #16 by Virgin Mary:

            Yes, I know. And for the thousandth time that is why I want civil partnerships to be amended and afforded the same legal rights as marriages. Is that really such a difficult concept to grasp? Marriages and civil marriages are equal, civil partnerships are not. Make civil partnerships equal to the other two. Job done.

            The easiest way to make something equal under law, is to make them identical. When social contracts grant the same legal rights and responsibilities, then why not use the same forms, enter into the same registry, and refer to them by the same name? It would negate redundancy and eliminate double entry..

          • In reply to #39 by Greyman:

            The easiest way to make something equal under law, is to make them identical. When social contracts grant the same legal rights and responsibilities, then why not use the same forms, enter into the same registry, and refer to them by the same name? It would negate redundancy and eliminate double entry..

            Easier said than done. Two many legal definitions would have to be altered to make it the easiest option. All you have to do is look at the opposition presented by ye olde Torries over the last few months to realise that it really cannot be as simple as that.

          • In reply to #13 by Virgin Mary:

            In reply to #11 by mmurray:

            Haven’t you got my point yet? I don’t want to alleviate discrimination, I want it to continue! And what business is it of the state how the religious run their religions? Like I said before, I want them to continue discriminating against the LGBT lot and everyone else who doesn’t fit with their beliefs because my belief is that should they be allowed to carry on down that path they’re going to alienate themselves yet further from the masses they’ve already succeeded in losing and continue to lose at a rate which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside.

            The church is dying, but unfortunately the church’s influence doesn’t seem to be. Kill it off altogether and maybe next time when a reformation of the House of Lords is proposed we’ll actually go through with it.

            By insisting on full-scale marriage rights our gay friends have unwittingly become our most powerful allies in the anti-theist project. By trying to impose what religions hold as the most vile god forsaking abomination -homosexuality on what religions pretend to hold as the holiest of holies -the sanctity of marriage.

            Compare how effective their efforts have been, i.e. destructive to the legitimacy of religion, (which the mainstream press seems to spare no effort to preserve, see the slavish unquestioning reporting on the new Pope’s every move) compared to all those high end academics and assorted intellectuals who remain firmly ensconced in the closet as atheists. Many of them engaging in corrosive politically correct accommodationist apologist multicultural relativism which is arguably the activity most damaging to our cause.

        • In reply to #9 by Virgin Mary:

          In reply to #6 by mmurray:In reply to #4 by Virgin Mary:But it won’t. A lot of people want to get married and will be unhappy about just having a civil partnership. So they will need to go cap in hand to some religious organisation to get married. You are handing over to the religious exclusive control of something that people want. In many countries they already have control over a lot of the education system that they use to blackmail people into attending church. You would just make things worse.Marriage isn’t about religion anymore. Whatever the history. In most countries I know it’ an act of parliament. The state confers on various groups the right to perform a marriage and have it recognised as a legal marriage. Religious are one such group.MichaelThat’s why I said I think that civil partnerships should have been amended to be as equal as marriage under the eyes of the law. An example would be adultery which isn’t recognised under a civil partnership but obviously is under marriage. Change one to be the equal of the other instead of forcing the poor old religious folk to accept what they clearly don’t want to.

          What on earth gives you the notion that marriage is a ‘religious’ thing? Lots of non believers are married and marriages haven’t been solely the preserve of the churches for a long time. Nor carried out in solely in churches for many years, registry offices have been in existence for years and can have all the trappings bar god (in fact you can have the trappings of flowers and music in registry offices and plain and simple nothing but the ceremony in places of worship) and now all sorts of centres are registered to carry out weddings.

          And even those carried out in churches are often between people who will never enter one again. People choose to get married for reasons other than religion and legality and civil partnerships do have the cold ring of legalality that marriage doesn’t have. Richard Dawkins is married isn’t he.

          If people can get married that should be open to all regardless of sexuality. It may well be a legal thing but is perceived by people as something much more than that. And I’m struggling to understand where the notion that marriage should just be a religious right and privilege has come from?

      • In reply to #6 by mmurray:

        Marriage isn’t about religion anymore. Whatever the history. In most countries I know it’ an act of parliament. The state confers on various groups the right to perform a marriage and have it recognised as a legal marriage. Religious are one such group.

        For instance, here in Australia, far more people get married each year by secular marriage celebrants than do by religious ministers, and it’s been an increasing trend over the passed decades. Indeed, in order to be a celebrant, secular or religious, you need government certification, so you can legally submit the required forms to the Department of Births, Deaths, and Marriages.

  5. The first question can be answered in the negative – if something is against the rules, it would be within the liberty of the priest to refuse to marry the couple. This is subject to the condition that the discrimination is proportional.

    However, the remaining questions are of a wholly different character. For example, there is there any religious rule that says an adherent must deny accommodation to same sex couples etc. A general anti-gay belief should not be allowed to be used to generally discriminate against gays – this would result in a non-specific and disproportionate discrimination against gays. In these cases, the discrimination is not based on a specific belief or teaching – it is based on an indirect notion which makes an analogy between the belief (cathos can’t have gay marriage) and the real life behaviour (since cathos can’t have gay marriage, cathos cannot treat non-cathos in gay marriage equally).

    • In reply to #5 by sjcfr:

      The first question can be answered in the negative – if something is against the rules, it would be within the liberty of the priest to refuse to marry the couple. This is subject to the condition that the discrimination is proportional.

      However, the remaining questions are of a wholly different character. For example, there is there any religious rule that says an adherent must deny accommodation to same sex couples etc. A general anti-gay belief should not be allowed to be used to generally discriminate against gays – this would result in a non-specific and disproportionate discrimination against gays. In these cases, the discrimination is not based on a specific belief or teaching – it is based on an indirect notion which makes an analogy between the belief (cathos can’t have gay marriage) and the real life behaviour (since cathos can’t have gay marriage, cathos cannot treat non-cathos in gay marriage equally).

      When I got married 31 years ago, I got married in a Catholic Church but had to do the necessary paperwork at the local register office and then take the legal paperwork to the Parish Priest in order that he could ‘marry’ us. The big difference was, and still is, it wasn’t just a marriage but in the eyes of the Catholic Church a sacrament, for which the participants had to fulfill certain criteria, one being that one of us had to be male and the other female. (We’d checked beforehand so we knew we were alright on that count)
      The question is should governments be forcing organisations to change their constitution to accommodate a notion of universal equality ? In which case the Women’s Institute had better amend article 9 of theirs to read ‘Membership of the WI is open to women………and men’.

      • In reply to #27 by Lancshoop:

        The question is should governments be forcing organisations to change their constitution to accommodate a notion of universal equality ?

        Clubs, learned societies, sports teams, employers, political parties, companies and corporations, are legally required to change their constitutions to meet the requirements of laws and new laws arising from legislation. They have been doing so for years. – It’s known as “operating legally”! – The courts deal with people who fail to do so!

        • In reply to #30 by Alan4discussion:

          In reply to #27 by Lancshoop:

          The question is should governments be forcing organisations to change their constitution to accommodate a notion of universal equality ?

          Clubs, learned societies, sports teams, employers, political parties, companies and corporations, are legally required to change their constitutions to meet the requirements of laws and new laws arising from legislation. They have been doing so for years. – It’s known as “operating legally”! – The courts deal with people who fail to do so!

          I’m glad we’re in agreement. Care to join the WI with me ? Oh and I’m going to see if my application to the local Conservative Club will be accepted if I refuse to tick the box stating I’m a supporter of the Conservative Party.

          • In reply to #32 by Lancshoop:

            In reply to #30 by Alan4discussion:
            >

            In reply to #27 by Lancshoop:
            >

            The question is should governments be forcing organisations to change their constitution to accommodate a notion of universal equality ?

            Clubs, learned societies, sports teams, employers, political parties, companies and corporations, are legally required to change their constitutions to meet the requirements of laws and new laws arising from legislation. They have been doing so for years. – It’s known as “operating legally”! – The courts deal with people who fail to do so!

            I’m glad we’re in agreement. Care to join the WI with me ? Oh and I’m going to see if my application to the local Conservative Club will be accepted if I refuse to tick the box stating I’m a supporter of the Conservative Party.

            The relevant legal phrase is “freedom of association“. Private organisations (clubs etc.) have a right to restrict membership to individuals who promote that organisation’s express purpose.

            This does not apply when the organisation provides a public service.

      • _In reply to [#27](#comment-box-27) by Lancshoop:_ The question is should governments be forcing organisations to change their constitution to accommodate a notion of universal equality ? In which case the Women’s Institute had better amend article 9 of theirs to read ‘Membership of the WI is open to women………and men’.

        No. It should be none of any government’s business what the beliefs and practices of any religion are (provided that they don’t directly harm anyone of course).

        What is equally important is that anyone should be free to have whatever religious beliefs they may want and set up a church that stands for those beliefs. That way, there will never be a need for compromise over issues such as same-sex marriage (or any issues at all, for that matter). Those who don’t believe in it will not belong to a church that carries out same-sex marriage, and those who do believe in it will belong to a church that carries out same-sex marriage (or no church at all). Simples.

        If, of course, people decide to belong to a church that doesn’t share their beliefs, such as Anglican’s who believe women should be bishops, then that’s their own stupid problem and they deserve not a shred of sympathy!

        • In reply to #34 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

          No. It should be none of any government’s business what the beliefs and practices of any religion are (provided that they don’t directly harm anyone of course).

          They clearly do, that’s the problem. It seems it’s not just women, fags also like the bells and smells.

          • In reply to #35 by Peter Grant:

            In reply to #34 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:No. It should be none of any government’s business what the beliefs and practices of any religion are (provided that they don’t directly harm anyone of course).They clearly do, that’s the problem. It seems it’s not just women, fags also like the bells and smells.

            Their problems are entirely of their own making through a gross failure to apply reason. I’m just offering free advice, though any gratuities are welcome.

          • In reply to #36 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

            Their problems are entirely of their own making through a gross failure to apply reason. I’m just offering free advice, though any gratuities are welcome.

            IDiots also have rights.

          • In reply to #37 by Peter Grant:

            IDiots also have rights.

            Not sure if we’ve misunderstood each other at some point. As I see it, there’s no need to compromise anyone’s rights.

          • In reply to #38 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

            In reply to #37 by Peter Grant:

            IDiots also have rights.

            Not sure if we’ve misunderstood each other at some point. As I see it, there’s no need to compromise anyone’s rights.

            As long as those “rights” aren’t actually based on their IDiocy, perhaps I should add. Wanting to get married in the church you grew up in is not an epistemic liberty, it’s a right to act.

  6. Resolving these conflicts will not be easy. In some instances the rights of same-sex couples will unavoidably trump religious liberty rights — for example, the much discussed question of visits to spouses in intensive care units. But there will be cases where religious liberty will trump, and same-sex couples will have to accept the reality that not everyone accepts their relationships as legitimate. This, too, is a price to be paid for religious liberty.

    I suspect that Mr Stern is trying to go for middle ground here, simply to negotiate the difference between the two sides. However, the assumption in the latter part is that religious liberty means religious citizens are free to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation, and that the victims simply can’t do anything about it. Imagine, if you will, what the response would have been had Mr Stern suggested that black people simply can’t appeal to the law if parts of the US tolerated racism for “religious reasons”.

    I would argue that religiously inspired discrimination is something that must be destroyed wherever it appears. The law should not tolerate any excuse towards discrimination on any grounds. Religious liberty is about allowing people to attend services, look after their churches (repairs, maintenance, and so on), follow their own holidays and fasting and feasting traditions, and express their cosmological and ethical views in public without harassment or censorship. But it is subservient to the law, and if secular discrimination is unacceptable, then to suggest religious discrimination is acceptable is a double standard.

    We simply must stop granting religion a free pass when its practitioners want special treatment, because it has done nothing to earn such treatment. Religions are, when you get down to it, a combination of superstition, dubious or outright false ethical expertise, and instructions on how to claim authority from the former to justify the latter.

    When the instructions simply become harmless and idiosyncratic rituals that people follow as a hobby or social activity, and when the superstition and “ethics” are confined to reasoned debate, then we can talk about religious liberty. Until then, attempts by religious people to subvert hard-earned principles of modern society should be treated no differently from attempts by secular people to do the same.

  7. Neither the court nor government may referee religious disputes.

    Actually they should in cases where the “religious dispute” is infringing on the constitution, secular law or puts innocent people’s health at risk. Helpless sick children in faith healing christian families for example. I’m sure there are plenty of other examples. The problem is that the religious have the annoying habit of taking almost any issue, social, legal or scientific and finding a way to turn it into a “religious dispute”.

  8. Having two of my four children choose to be gay (claiming they are following biological instincts) and having watched their lives develop now for over 50 years, having them choose to be married to their partners legally under the laws of the state of California for as long as that was allowed, watching them develop their relationships into obvious loving and caring ones, I have been forced to the following conclusions;
    1. The only interest the State has in marriage involves the State’s conclusion that all marriage is a form of civil contract.
    2. As such, the State is charged with the enforcement of its laws governing civil contracts. Such contracts may be entered into by two males, two females or a combination of males and females. End of State involvement!
    Whatever people imagine God’s involvement in marriage, especially nowadays with the divorce rate among religiously married people at 50%, “What God has joined together let no man put asunder” is laughable as a practical dictate of the results of a religious ceremony.
    There should be NO State consequences stemming from any religious pronouncement involving the civil contract entered into by witting people. The severing of such a contract is covered under the laws of the state whose civil contract laws govern the union.
    If religious people want to shun or otherwise dissociate themselves from others who they believe are violating the laws of God, they are free to do so. All the State should care about is how the civil contract is made and how its dissolution comports with the laws that are on the books. I simply do not understand what is so difficult to figure out about this.

  9. Is the main problem that religious institutions want to be able to hold sway over something (i.e. marriage, or whatever you want to call it) that has legal ramifications?

    So potentially the resolution is that the ceremonies of any institution that discriminate will not be recognised in law i.e. if the Catholic church does not want to hold gay marriage ceremonies then the law will not recognise any of the marriage ceremonies that they hold. They can go ahead and hold the ceremonies that they want, but then the people getting “married” would also have to go and get properly married somewhere else to get it legally recognised.

    Ok so a church does not want to be told what to do by the law, then the law does not have to recognise what the church does. A church can’t have it both ways.

    What do people think of an idea such as this?

    • In reply to #21 by Theo H:

      So potentially the resolution is that the ceremonies of any institution that discriminate will not be recognised in law i.e. if the Catholic church does not want to hold gay marriage ceremonies then the law will not recognise any of the marriage ceremonies that they hold. They can go ahead and hold the ceremonies that they want, but then the people getting “married” would also have to go and get properly married somewhere else to get it legally recognised.

      I think that is the case in a lot of places. I know for example, in France all marriage ceremonies are secular. If you want to have a church do as well, that’s fine, but the legal marriage takes place in the town hall or whatever beforehand. You can’t get legally married in a church, in essence.

  10. When it comes to the question of whether or not pastors should be obliged to marry or counsel same-sex couples, I don’t really understand the question.

    Surely, if a pastor belongs to a church that does not believe in same-sex marriage, the issue should never arise, because by definition nobody in that church is going to be in a same-sex relationship; if they are in a same-sex relationship, they are obviously in the wrong church and they are free to join or start a church of their own where they can precisely follow their beliefs. In societies that have freedom of religion, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for anyone to have to compromise their beliefs in those situations.

    The issue really only arises where religions are running state funded or subsidised institutions, such as schools or hospitals. This is a perfect example of exactly why state funded institutions should be entirely secular.

  11. The argument for civil partnerships as an adequate alternative to marriage dismisses a couple of things.

    First is the issue of perpetuating discrimination against homosexuals which has already been mentioned, but secondly is the fact that marriage itself is no longer a religious institution and thaa the religious never put up a fight to keep it that way.
    It used to be a purely religious thing, but then the state got involved, required that it become a contract between individuals, and openned it up to those of other or no religion.
    The Church of England should have fought tooth and nail to stop the state allowing heretics and blasphemers and pagans from getting married under the state, but they didn’t. So why the big deal now? It’s because it isn’t a religious issue, it’s a homophobic issue being masked under the issue of religious freedom.

    The fact is marriage isn’t religious, it’s the state, it’s secular. If the government are to continue with seperate civil marriage for heterosexuals and civil partnerships for homosexuals, it’s not the church that are discriminating against homosexuals, it’s the government that are doing it.
    The government are instigating a form of sexual apartheid at the whims of a completely irrelevant religious body.

  12. They got the headline wrong. Should read:

    “Will religious liberty infringe on gay rights.”

    Religion has no say on who can be married; though, I don’t think they should be forced to carry out the ceremony. Gay people who are being denied the meaningless theatrical event of church marriage should get the fuck out of their church. If you really believe in your religion and want your religion to break its rules for you, remember what the hell it is you are believing. The myth of a god’s will isn’t a buffet you can pick and choose, it’s the will of that imaginary god. If you believe you can change an imaginary god’s will because it suits you, you don’t believe in the will of your god, you may as well change everything—none of it means anything if it can be changed to suit the will of the individual. So, get the fuck out and start being reasonable.

  13. I think government should get out of the marriage business and let contract law handle all the legal details of forming a legal union. This would have the side effect of letting people read the contract and see exactly what they are getting into. Once the paper work is done the happy couple would be free to have whatever sort of public ceremony they wish.

  14. Is the Mormon church allowed to refuse to marry non-whites for being “cursed in the eyes of the Lord”? Are churches still allowed to refuse to marry mixed-race couples?

    I know here in San Francisco (the raging-liberal capital of the US) it would be unheard of. But what about in Salt Lake City?

    I don’t know the answer, but it might inform what we could expect churches to do regarding gay couples who wish to wed.

    • In reply to #42 by Uriel-238:

      Is the Mormon church allowed to refuse to marry non-whites for being “cursed in the eyes of the Lord”? Are churches still allowed to refuse to marry mixed-race couples?I know here in San Francisco (the raging-liberal capital of the US) it would be unheard of. But what about in Salt Lake City?I don’t know the answer, but it might inform what we could expect churches to do regarding gay couples who wish to wed.

      There should be no compulsion on any church to marry anyone (gay or straight), nor should anyone outside a church determine how that church should define marriage or any other service or tenet that church may hold.

      This is a very important principle of secularism. There must be complete freedom of and from religion. It must be entirely up to individuals to determine their own beliefs and practices, and to have the freedom to set up their own church that precisely follows those beliefs and practices. That way nobody loses. It will also serve radically to undermine the power and authority that churches currently possess once people realise they don’t have to belong to any established church that may not entirely reflect their own beliefs.

      • In reply to #43 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

        There should be no compulsion on any church to marry anyone (gay or straight), nor should anyone outside a church determine how that church should define marriage or any other service or tenet that church may hold.

        So racial discrimination would also be OK?

        This is a very important principle of secularism. There must be complete freedom of and from religion.

        You are once again conflating two different kinds of rights here. Freedom of religion is an epistemic liberty or a right to believe. Freedoms from religion are based on rights of conduct or rights to act.

        It must be entirely up to individuals to determine their own beliefs and practices, and to have the freedom to set up their own church that precisely follows those beliefs and practices.

        And everyone who joins has to believe the same? You cannot sign away your epistemic liberties.

        That way nobody loses.

        Everyone losses if religion gets any rights at all to act.

        It will also serve radically to undermine the power and authority that churches currently possess once people realise they don’t have to belong to any established church that may not entirely reflect their own beliefs.

        Assuming we are all rational agents.

        • In reply to #45 by Peter Grant:

          In reply to #43 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

          There should be no compulsion on any church to marry anyone (gay or straight), nor should anyone outside a church determine how that church should define marriage or any other service or tenet that church may hold.

          So racial discrimination would also be OK?

          Well, it’s not “OK” in a moral sense, but if that’s what they believe, that’s what they believe. Just leave them to believe it. A church should just be viewed as a group of people with a particular shared belief, in which case it doesn’t even make sense to consider a church as comprising people with incompatible beliefs.

          This is a very important principle of secularism. There must be complete freedom of and from religion.

          You are once again conflating two different kinds of rights here. Freedom of religion is an epistemic liberty or a right to believe. Freedoms from religion are based on rights of conduct or rights to act.

          I’m sorry, I’m still not sure what point you’re making here. Could you expand or re-phrase it?

          It must be entirely up to individuals to determine their own beliefs and practices, and to have the freedom to set up their own church that precisely follows those beliefs and practices.

          And everyone who joins has to believe the same? You cannot sign away your epistemic liberties.

          Nobody is obliged to join any church! And if they join one that doesn’t share their views, that’s their problem.That’s my whole point. If some people believe one thing and some people believe another, they are entirely free to set up separate churches that reflect those different beliefs. If they want to compromise and all be in one big church that’s absolutely fine too. Who are these people anyway? I’ve never heard of someone joining a tennis club and then complaining that it doesn’t provide for their wish to play golf. If they want to play golf they can join or start a golf club.

          That way nobody loses.

          Everyone losses if religion gets any rights at all to act.

          Only if they try and act outside the confines of their own church. As long as they remain a group of like-minded, consenting individuals indulging in their chosen method of worship, that’s nobody else’s concern. If their actions start causing problems to others who don’t share their views, then that’s obviously a concern.

          It will also serve radically to undermine the power and authority that churches currently possess once people realise they don’t have to belong to any established church that may not entirely reflect their own beliefs.

          Assuming we are all rational agents.

          There can still be laws to help protect vulnerable people from being indoctrinated or coerced into joining a particular church.

          • In reply to #47 by Peter Grant:

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rights/#5.5

            Thanks for the link. I think I now understand the general principles you mean but I’m not sure how it’s relevant to my views on how churches should be regarded by the state.

            I’ll try and explain again how I think churches should be regarded by the state and why I think there should be nothing legally wrong in a church refusing “membership” to anyone or refusing to carry out any service it does not wish to carry out.

            Churches should be regarded by the state as gatherings of people with common views. In effect, from the state’s point of view, they should not really be regarded any differently than a gathering of friends.

            The state should have no concern or need to understand any rituals, beliefs or practices of any religion. It is entirely up to each church to decide what they do. The church may or may not view a particular type of union or ceremony as a “marriage”, but the state should have no business whatsoever in recognising this “marriage” any more than it should have no business recognising any other service, practice of belief within that church. It’s absolutely nothing to do with the state.

            The state should have no business being concerned with the possible establishment of an authority within a church. That is entirely down to the members of the church. So if someone is refused membership of a church, or refused a particular service within a church, that is no different from the state’s point of view than someone not being invited out for a drink with a group of people, or if they are invited out, what arrangements are made for who buys the drinks.

            People can’t expect to be able to force themselves on a group of friends who, for whatever reason, don’t like them or don’t want them joining in their activities. The issue of joining a church should be viewed in exactly the same way. There is no reason for churches to be viewed any differently, especially if there is complete freedom for anyone to set up their own church and declare themselves “married” or anything else, even if there are no other members of that church!

            If people want their marriage to be recognised by the law, then they can have a state marriage irrespective of whether or not they may also have a religious “marriage”.

            Nobody loses because everyone is entitled to be married either under the state law or under their own religion, or both. The fact that people are not allowed to impose their beliefs on others is not a loss, because they can still have their marriage service. They just don’t have the right to draft in other people against their wishes to participate in that service.

          • In reply to #48 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

            Thanks for the link. I think I now understand the general principles you mean but I’m not sure how it’s relevant to my views on how churches should be regarded by the state.

            I seriously doubt it, because then you wouldn’t still be spouting the same libertarian nonsense. The point you need to absorb is that rights to believe, to feel and to want are not choices.

          • In reply to #49 by Peter Grant:

            I seriously doubt it, because then you wouldn’t still be spouting the same libertarian nonsense. The point you need to absorb is that rights to believe, to feel and to want are not choices.

            OK, let’s accept that I don’t understand exactly what you’re on about with regard to the meaning of certain “rights”. What is the problem with my “libertarian nonsense”. As long as everyone has freedom of religion to be in a church that 100% reflects their beliefs, I don’t understand what any individual would be losing by possibly not being allowed in another church that didn’t 100% reflect their beliefs. Well, the only thing they’d be losing would be the opportunity to interfere with other people’s beliefs.

            I don’t see how it could possibly even work in practice that Person A could go up to Person B and demand that Person B provides them with a religious ceremony or ritual that Person B does not believe in and may not even recognise or understand, which would be what you are arguing for if you disagree with my position.

          • In reply to #50 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

            OK, let’s accept that I don’t understand exactly what you’re on about with regard to the meaning of certain “rights”. What is the problem with my “libertarian nonsense”. As long as everyone has freedom of religion to be in a church that 100% reflects their beliefs, I don’t understand what any individual would be losing by possibly not being allowed in another church that didn’t 100% reflect their beliefs. Well, the only thing they’d be losing would be the opportunity to interfere with other people’s beliefs.

            Because no church will 100% reflect your beliefs, especially when your beliefs are as subjective as most theist’s are.

            I don’t see how it could possibly even work in practice that Person A could go up to Person B and demand that Person B provides them with a religious ceremony or ritual that Person B does not believe in and may not even recognise or understand, which would be what you are arguing for if you disagree with my position.

            I dunno, it’s not my problem. Dress one of them up in drag or something.

          • In reply to #51 by Peter Grant:

            Because no church will 100% reflect your beliefs, especially when your beliefs are as subjective as most theist’s are.

            You’ve missed my crucial point that freedom of religion should mean everyone is free to start their own church, thereby ensuring everyone has the opportunity (and an equal opportunity) to be in a church that 100% reflects their beliefs and conducts exactly the kind of ceremonies etc that they want. All churches to be regarded with equal disinterest by the state.

          • In reply to #52 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

            You’ve missed my crucial point that freedom of religion should mean everyone is free to start their own church, thereby ensuring everyone has the opportunity (and an equal opportunity) to be in a church that 100% reflects their beliefs and conducts exactly the kind of ceremonies etc that they want.

            Everyone has the same freedom to start their own church though not everyone has equal opportunity. Also their freedom to start their own church is in no way based on their epistemic liberty, it is a right to act.

            All churches to be regarded with equal disinterest by the state.

            Exactly it doesn’t matter what church you belong to, you still aren’t allowed to infringe on anyone’s right to the legal act of marriage. If you do, you should loose the power to perform legal marriages.

          • In reply to #53 by Peter Grant:

            Everyone has the same freedom to start their own church though not everyone has equal opportunity. Also their freedom to start their own church is in no way based on their epistemic liberty, it is a right to act.

            By “church” I mean a consensual gathering of people of the same faith (although it may only be 1 person if nobody else shares their faith). Everyone has an equal opportunity to do that if there is true freedom of religion. There’s no practical difference between the epistemic liberty and right to act in this case, if I understand the terms correctly. Of course, some people may have the means to build large fancy buildings etc to house their church, but that’s no different to anything else in life.

            All churches to be regarded with equal disinterest by the state.

            Exactly it doesn’t matter what church you belong to, you still aren’t allowed to infringe on anyone’s right to the legal act of marriage. If you do, you should loose the power to perform legal marriages.

            But in the kind of total religious freedom that I’m arguing for, it is impossible for anyone to be denied either a legal state marriage (because the state treats everyone equally) or a religious marriage (because because there is no limited power given to just a few individuals to perform religious marriages). Every individual is entirely free to determine what a religious marriage means to them and to conduct a religious marriage service. What they are not allowed to do is drag other people against their will into a religious marriage service that they don’t want to be a part of, because that would impinge upon the rights of those other people to be free from someone else’s religious beliefs.

  15. In reply to #54 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

    There’s no practical difference between the epistemic liberty and right to act in this case,

    There is all the difference in the world, if you start basing rights to act on epistemic liberties, anything goes. Human sacrifice, you name it.

    What they are not allowed to do is drag other people against their will into a religious marriage service that they don’t want to be a part of, because that would impinge upon the rights of those other people to be free from someone else’s religious beliefs.

    Just the priest, or whoever provides the legal service, otherwise attendance should be strictly voluntary. Or if the prospect seems too odious for the church in question it can simply renounce its power to perform legal marriages.

    • In reply to #55 by Peter Grant:

      There is all the difference in the world, if you start basing rights to act on epistemic liberties, anything goes. Human sacrifice, you name it.

      I’m not saying people can do exactly as they wish. People are still subject to laws that would cause harm to others.

      Just the priest, or whoever provides the legal service, otherwise attendance should be strictly voluntary. Or if the prospect seems too odious for the church in question it can simply renounce its power to perform legal marriages.

      I’m not sure if I made it clear but in the secular system I’m arguing for ONLY the state provides a legal marriage service, and that is equally available to everyone. If people want a religious marriage either instead or in addition to a legal state marriage then they are free to pursue that but the state has no involvement, just as it has no involvement in any other kind of religious ceremony or doctrine. Religious marriages are not legally recognised, and there are no legally appointed “priests” to conduct religious marriage services. It’s entirely up to those within each church to determine how their marriage service is conducted – if, indeed, they even have “marriage” within their religion.

      • In reply to #56 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

        In reply to #55 by Peter Grant:

        There is all the difference in the world, if you start basing rights to act on epistemic liberties, anything goes. Human sacrifice, you name it.

        I’m not saying people can do exactly as they wish. People are still subject to laws that would cause harm to others.

        Discrimination against gays who want to marry causes harm. Discrimination against women who want to become priests causes harm. If you allow some people to cause others harm based on what they “believe” where does it end?

        • In reply to #57 by Peter Grant:

          Discrimination against gays who want to marry causes harm. Discrimination against women who want to become priests causes harm. If you allow some people to cause others harm based on what they “believe” where does it end?

          Do you think that if you are going out for a meal or a drink with a group of friends that you should be obliged to accept anyone else into your party that you may not want there, for whatever reason?

          Do you think that if you take your family away on holiday, you should be obliged to accept anyone else who may wish to tag along with you?

          If religion is regarded as a private matter, churches should be regarded no differently to a gathering of friends. Like-minded individuals who wish to celebrate their religion together can do so, but in the eyes of the law there is nothing at all special about religion or a church. There should be no special laws or regulations for it. Neither the state nor any individual should be obliged to regard churches any differently to any other social gathering. The same laws apply to a church gathering as any other social gathering.

          Gays are entirely free to have a religious marriage and women are entirely free to become priests, because every individual is equally and wholly empowered to determine the rules of THEIR religion.

  16. In reply to #58 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

    Do you think that if you are going out for a meal or a drink with a group of friends that you should be obliged to accept anyone else into your party that you may not want there, for whatever reason?

    Large churches are more like corporations than groups of friends. Religions that can be compared to groups of friends are more like cults. In neither case to epistemic liberties trump rights to act.

    • In reply to #59 by Peter Grant:

      Large churches are more like corporations than groups of friends. Religions that can be compared to groups of friends are more like cults. In neither case to epistemic liberties trump rights to act.

      I guess we’ve reached an impasse.

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