Gay Marriage versus Religious Freedom

In a pluralistic society, where intelligent and caring persons disagree on important controversies of politics, society, and religion, tolerance should prevail. When Christians or Catholics have a majority of the votes, we should not compel the rest of the citizenry to live by our understanding of right and wrong. But when a contrary opinion has the majority, Christians should not be forced to act against their conscience and to adopt whatever the latest ever-changing majority view might be, in that time and place.

In the U.S. today, a majority of adults favors the legalization of same-sex marriage. The laws are rapidly changing to permit gay marriage. And the culture, apart from the law, has begun to adamantly insist that gay marriage is a civil right, under the principle of equality for all citizens.

But the Catholic Christian reply is that equality of marriage depends on the definition of marriage. And for almost all of recorded history, marriage has been based on the complementarity of men and women, on procreation and family. New definitions, devised to give formal approval to grave sexual sins, do not establish new rights.

{19:4} And he said to them in response, “Have you not read that he who made man from the beginning, made them male and female?” And he said:
{19:5} “For this reason, a man shall separate from father and mother, and he shall cling to his wife, and these two shall become one flesh.
{19:6} And so, now they are not two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate.”

Jesus did not teach, approve of, nor allow for the possibility of, same-sex marriage. So the Christian view that opposes gay marriage, its legalization, and its favor within the culture is based on sound religious teaching. It is not a misapplication of religion for the purpose of oppression or discrimination.

But society and law are changing to accept and permit same-sex marriage. How does this change in law and society harm those conservative Christians who believe the Biblical teaching that a true marriage can only occur between man and woman?

Devout Evangelical Christians, some other Protestants, Orthodox Christians, all Catholics who adhere to Church teaching, conservative Jews and most Muslims all believe that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Same-sex marriage is not acceptable to a wide range of believers from different religions.

But in a pluralistic society, what harm occurs when same-sex marriage is legalized and promoted by the culture?

1. Devout believers are harmed by losing part of their right to freedom of speech.

Speaking in favor of traditional marriage, expressing the traditional Biblical view on homosexuality, or speaking against the legalization of same-sex marriage, results in persecution. The culture supports treating person who are against gay marriage with contempt, hatred, and unreserved condemnation. And all we have done, to deserve this maltreatment, is hold an opinion that was the majority view throughout human history and U.S. history, until just a few years ago.

2. Devout believers are harmed by losing part of their right to participate in the democratic process.

Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich was forced to resign from his job because it came to light that he donated $1000 to a California petition effort (Prop. 8) opposing gay marriage. He exercised his constitutional right to participate in the democratic process, and his view at the time was the majority view. Prop. 8 passed with a majority of the votes. But subsequently he lost his job because of that donation.

If he can lose his job for supporting a referendum, you can lose your job for a similar reason, e.g. for supporting a candidate who is against gay marriage. You can lose your job for donating to a political effort, representing the majority view at the time, when it later becomes the minority view. The chilling effect of this unfortunate fact works for other controversial issues, on both sides.

3. Devout believers are harmed by losing part of their right to freedom of religion.

Devout believers who oppose gay marriage are quickly becoming pariahs in society. Their sincere religious belief is called “homophobic”, as if it were a mental illness, and “discriminatory”, as if it were equivalent to racism, and “hate speech”. Expressing your sincerely held religious belief is becoming more difficult, and more likely to result in persecution. When you are free to express a religious point of view, but you will also be persecuted for that expression, that is not true freedom of religion.

And you have no way of knowing which view on a controversial issue will become the new majority view, and which will become the new and persecuted minority view. So this, too, creates a chilling effect on the free expression of religious belief. In the United States, despite the First Amendment to the Constitution, society is sending the message that you better keep your views to yourself — or else.

4. Some believers are being forced to act against their consciences, by offering products and services to gay weddings.

Now in my opinion, baking a cake for a same-sex wedding is not immoral. It is remote material cooperation. The baker is not giving his approval of the union, any more than he would be doing so for making a cake for a heterosexual couple who, for some reason, should not be getting marriage to one another. And the same applies to many other goods and services sold for a gay wedding. It’s not inherently immoral for a Christian who is against gay marriage to provide some product or service.

However, religious freedom requires tolerance of different religious opinions. If it is against the conscience of anyone to offer services to a same-sex wedding, they should not be compelled to do so. Otherwise, we end up with an intolerant society, lacking in religious freedom.

Perhaps you would prefer such a society, as long as the intolerance is reserved for beliefs with which you vehemently disagree? But the culture is your fair-weather friend. At some point in the near future, society will again be against same-sex marriage and same-sex relationships. And if, in the meantime, you will have built a society that persecutes opinions contrary to the majority view, you will have prepared the circumstances for your own persecution. A society in which it is acceptable to persecute the minority opinion is a society which will eventually persecute your opinion. For society is ever-changing; it is not faithful to any religion or point of view. Train your dog to attack your neighbor, and one day that dog will turn on you.

5. Some believers will lose their business and their livelihood because of their religious beliefs.

This loss is clear proof of religious intolerance. If a Jew loses his business because of boycotts or lawsuits or persecution based on his religious beliefs, or a government that is hostile to his religious beliefs forcing him to act against conscience, that is religious intolerance. But it is also intolerance when a Christian is forced to provide services to gay weddings and forced to attend sensitivity training, in order to force a change in behavior and his beliefs.

News: Baker forced to make gay wedding cakes, undergo sensitivity training, after losing lawsuit

This man and others like him may be forced out of business. There have already been other bakers who were forced by boycotts and lawsuits to close up shop, for refusing to act against their religious beliefs.

6. Schools are teaching gay marriage to children, making it difficult for believers to pass on their religious beliefs.

One of the more immediate consequences of freedom of speech and freedom of religion is that believers can pass on their beliefs to their children. That right is being eroded by government and society pressuring schools to teach children that homosexuality is normal and gay-marriage is a civil right.

And as the federal government gradually increases its influence and control over education, all schools will be forced to comply. Children will be taught by the federal government views that are openly hostile to the religion of their families.

7. Soon conservative Christians will be unable to serve in the military.

Under the previous compromise policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT), gays could serve in the military and so could conservative Christians. Many Catholic priests have served as chaplains in the military. Many devout Catholics have served in all branches of the armed forces in the U.S.

You might think that the new policy, allowing gays to serve openly in the military, would not affect Christian soldiers. But full approval for gays to serve openly is quickly changing the military culture. Anyone who allows it to be known that they oppose gay marriage can be persecuted. And I have no doubt that military chaplains will soon be forced to officiate at gay weddings. Opposition to same-sex marriage and any expression of the traditional Biblical view of homosexuality or marriage is expressed at the risk of being kicked out of the military.

Now you might object to the seven points above on the grounds that it’s not so bad at the present time. The cases of persecution against believers seem to be isolated incidents. But my reply is that gay marriage is not yet legal in all 50 States and at the Federal level. Once that happens, expect the victors to take the spoils. They will step up their severe persecution of the minority opinion on this subject, and all seven points above will be widespread, rather than sporadic.

Who is behind this persecution of believers? The persecution is not mainly from gay-married couples or gay-activists. It’s mostly heterosexual men and women. It’s not a vast gay-wing conspiracy. Once society has a majority view on a controversial issue, there are plenty of people who will line up to abuse the power that the majority has in a democratic society. Power corrupts. Political and social power, combined, corrupts absolutely.

Certainly, no one should be persecuted for his or her sincerely held views on any subject. When there are intelligent caring persons on both sides of an issue, a free and pluralistic society should tolerate a wide range of minority opinions. And that includes tolerating opinions in favor of gay marriage, once it becomes the minority view again, as well as tolerating the traditional understanding of marriage still held by many believers today.

So now when someone asks “What harm?”, you know what to say.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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4 Responses to Gay Marriage versus Religious Freedom

  1. Dot says:

    Today there are too many children deprived of the right to grow up in a united family with their mothers and fathers. Marriage is the means by which we honor this right, which even the United Nations has acknowledged (Declaration of the Rights of the Child). Supporters of gay marriage imagine the worst of motives in their opponents, yet there are many rational and loving motives for our position on marriage. We have failed miserably to communicate them.

  2. John Platts says:

    A prohibition of same-sex marriage cannot constitute unjust discrimination against homosexual persons because the prohibition of same-sex marriage is equally applicable to all persons, regardless of sexual orientation. Furthermore, all same-sex marriages fail to meet a requirement that is essential to the validity of a marriage under natural law, the law of God, Catholic Church law, and the laws of states and countries where same-sex marriage is prohibited, namely that a valid marriage is always between a man and a woman.

    There are real differences between same-sex marriages and valid heterosexual marriages. A same-sex marriage is always incapable of being properly consummated, because two persons of the same gender are incapable of engaging in sexual acts that are capable of properly consummating a valid marriage and also because acts of marital sexual intercourse that are open to life and capable of resulting in procreation are the only acts that can properly consummate a marriage. Any attempt to consummate a same-sex marriage would necessarily be intrinsically evil since such an attempt necessarily implies the commission of the sin of sodomy, which is always intrinsically evil and gravely sinful, but an attempt to consummate a valid heterosexual marriage through natural marital intercourse that is open to life would not be intrinsically evil. Additionally, a same-sex couple is always incapable of having biological children together, whereas most heterosexual married couples are capable of having biological children together. Additionally, there are differences between the upbringing of children by a mother and a father who are married to each other and the upbringing of children by a parent who is in a same-sex marriage.

  3. Dot says:

    Any child raised by a same-sex couple has been deprived of at least one of its natural parents. With divorce, visitation with the absent parent has traditionally been provided for. A few Canadian birth certificates now list three parents, potentially pulling the child in three directions. How many is too many?
    In the works are birth certificates with simply two males or two females listed as parents, obscuring the biological truth and any hope of the child learning his actual identity. What of a suitable role model for the male child raised by two lesbians or the female child raised by two gay men?

    The gay “marriage” movement means certain health care resources will be shifted away from caring for the sick and toward in vitro child production for these couples (it is already happening with transgender surgical procedures). A child who is not the result of a marital embrace has become a commodity, a piece of property, deprived of his or her human dignity.

  4. Francisco says:

    Adding to the comments above, adopted children by homosexual couples might have psychological upsets once they grow up and realize that one or both of their “parents” are not biologically theirs, and might want to know who their real father or mother is. Also, it’s not the same to have two “fathers” or two “mothers” as having a father and a mother, the balance is not the same. It’s against nature. Homosexual acts can bring venereal sickness instead of a child and the so called “protection” methods are not 100% effective.

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