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Gay Marriage: Catholic Bishops’ Assault on Religious Freedom.

“Freedom of religion” is an important principle in the constitutions of the United States, and of many other countries. It has also been firmly endorsed in Catholic teaching. It is right and proper that Catholic Bishops should be speaking up for religious freedom, wherever it is threatened.

In the debates over marriage equality, however, their appropriation of the mantle to support their arguments is appalling Orwellian newspeak. They are not defending religious freedom here, but undermining it.

None of the marriage equality legislation anywhere, already passed, or under consideration, imposes same -sex marriage on anyone. To repeat the obvious, if your religious beliefs leave you opposed to same-sex marriage, the remedy is simple: don’t marry the same sex. If, as a minister of religion leaves you unable to conduct a same-sex wedding, don’t do it.  Equality legislation will no force you to do either of these things.

However, prohibiting legal recognition of same-sex nuptials restricts the religious freedom of those religions who value equality. In January this year, two senior lesbian priests of the Episcopal Church celebrated their wedding in Boston Cathedral. Last year, the British Quakers made direct representations to government, for approval for full, gender-neutral religious weddings. Many other religious groups, including the MCC, the United Church, some dioceses of the Episcopal Church, and local congregations of other denominations, are practicing full marriage equality. Their numbers are growing. LGBT atheists too are entitled to religious freedom, and expect civil (not religious), discrimination-free marriage. Where does enshrining marital discrimination protect religious freedom?

“Freedom of Religion” is about respect by the state for people to practice their religion, and to live their lives, in a manner congruent to their religious beliefs. It does not confer the right of one religious group to impose their beliefs on others – which is what some Catholic bishops are attempting to do.

Notably absent from the bishops’ claims on gay marriage, is any supporting references from the Gospels. (Not surprising. There are none). At “What Jesus Did Do”, where Brandon Parks has a strong emphasis on precisely this, I found a post on the topic from May this year, but which has particular relevance now to the Catholic bishops. Here’s an extract:

Gay Rights and Freedom of Religion : What Jesus did Do.

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