The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday is a question: Does the demand for same-sex marriage threaten religious freedom?
Elise Patkotak, an Alaskan writer who has lived in Barrow, Alaska for 28 years, recently wrote a column in the Anchorage Daily News; she claimed that "Gay marriage is an American right." She grew up in an Italian neighborhood and attended a Catholic school; she didn't know what being gay meant for a long time until someone she knew came out of the closet. She was nursing in Brooklyn in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the gay movement was fairly new; at that time, Brooklyn was "very, very gay." When New York State recently legalized same-sex marriage, she remembered her days in Brooklyn and some of her gay friends. She wrote,
"Eventually same-sex pairs became a rather mundane part of my life, mixed together with the many heterosexual couples with whom I socialized. And there seemed to be no justification that I could comprehend for why civil law should discriminate against gay people as long as the object of their affections was of legal age and mental ability to fully consent to the relationship.
"One of the great things about America is that it separates religious beliefs from civil laws so that no one religion dominates our lives and forces citizens into a belief system that may hold no meaning for them. So if Catholics believe that adherents to their faith should never divorce and should only marry other Catholics, fine. Their right to that belief is part of America's religious freedom. But they can't write those beliefs into our laws. In our civil society, we can choose to divorce or marry within or outside of our faith without government interference.
"I think the same is true about gay marriage. Religious ceremonies should stay true to whatever their beliefs are when it comes to this subject. But civil society should not be following those beliefs in creating laws that affect all citizens. Civil weddings are an affirmation of a specific dedication of two individuals to each other and their future. It provides legal protections and advantages that should be available to everyone. The marriage of two men or two women does not in anyway affect the marriage of any given man and woman. They all get to face the same challenges of daily life with a partner, and many will get to embrace the joys of a divorce lawyer and child custody arrangements." Patkotak's website is www.elisepatkotak.com.
Here is the first question that came to my mind: Is marriage - any kind - an American right? In reading the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, I found no reference to making marriage a right. The Declaration states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." In the long list of grievances against the King of Great Britain I found no reference to marriage of any kind. The Revolutionary War was about independence and liberty. I could not find any mention of marriage in the United States Constitution either.
In all my studies about rights, I found none that even suggested that marriage is a right. I offer the example of W. Cleon Skousen who wrote, "When the Founders adopted the Declaration of Independence, they emphasized in phrases very similar to those of Blackstone that God has endowed all mankind, `with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.'" Skousen then proceeded to "identify some of the unalienable or natural rights which the Founders knew existed but did not enumerate in the Declaration of Independence: The right to self-government. The right to bear arms for self-defense. The right to own, develop, and dispose of property. The right to make personal choices. The right to free conscience. The right to choose a profession. The right to choose a mate. The right to beget one's kind. The right to assemble. The right to petition. The right to free speech. The right to a free press. The right to enjoy the fruits of one's labors. The right to improve one's position through barter and sale. The right to contrive and invent. The right to explore the natural resources of the earth. The right to privacy. The right to provide personal security. The right to provide nature's necessities -- air, food, water, clothing, and shelter. The right to a fair trial. The right of free association. The right to contract" (The Five Thousand Year Leap: 28 Great Ideas That Changed the World, pp. 94-95).
I noticed that Skousen included "The right to choose a mate." We do have the right to choose our mate - but we do not have the right to insist that other people accept or approve of our choice. We do not have the right to insist that laws be changed so that we can marry the person or thing that we love.
The demand for same-sex marriage is just one part of a moral revolution that is shaking the very foundation of our society. Most moral revolutions take place over a number of generations, but the present moral revolution happened in a much shorter period of time than usual. The problem is not just homosexuality because the revolution includes couples living together without being married, public acceptance and support of unmarried women having children, the flood of pornographic materials, the increase in child sexual abuse, and the general acceptance that sex is okay as long as the participants are "of legal age and mental ability to consent to the relationship." The fact remains that of all these evils, only same-sex marriage is proclaimed as a "right." If society condones homosexuality and allows it the same rights as heterosexuality, it will be only a matter of time before other people are demanding the "right" to have sex with animals, children, etc.
Universally for many generations, homosexuality has been proclaimed an evil to be shunned. As we have become more and more "politically correct," we have blurred the lines between good and evil, and it is this blurring of lines that has allowed evil to overcome much of the good in the world. I believe that allowing same-sex marriage can be likened to the story about the camel who just wanted to put his nose in the tent to keep the sand from blowing up his nostrils. After his owner allowed the camel to put his nose in the tent, it wasn't long before the camel wanted his entire head in the tent in order to keep the sand out of his eyes and ears. Then he wanted his shoulders in the tent. Eventually, the entire camel was in the tent, and there was no room in the tent for the owner.
Evils of any kind and every kind threaten the freedoms of our nation, but it seems that the demand for same-sex marriage might be the breaking point. The following quote seems to confirm the truth of my theory that same-sex marriage can be compared to the camel in the tent. Lane Williams of Mormon Times wrote: "New York legislators tried to protect religious organizations from having to perform marriages with which they disagreed and carved that protection into their new law, but this part of the law didn't satisfy gay writer Howard Chura-Eoan, who wrote for Time:
"`In one very important way, gay marriage will not quite be marriage even in New York, even 30 days from now when the law goes into effect. That is because the psycho-sexual-financial-commercial-legal dramas that entangle the domestic lives of straight people often have another component: religion. And religious institutions have an exemption in the new law over accommodating gay people. It was key to the passage of the legislation.
"He continued: `Marriage without a church or temple wedding isn't the real thing. Why can some people have all the bells and whistles in the church of their choice but not me? Of course, there have been and will be congregations and churches that allow gay men and lesbians to be married in their midst and to bless those union. … but some rich and influential religious institutions are not only free to continue to reject gay men and women as equal beneficiaries of all aspects of faith but will now also rally their congregants to reject politicians who are willing to abide with this extension of secular civil rights - no matter how much acceptance there is of same-sex marriage elsewhere.'"
Chura-Eoan is wrong if he believes that same-sex marriage is accepted by the majority of Americans because every time it has been on a ballot, it has been defeated. Only liberal judges and liberal legislatures have approved gay marriage, not the majority of Americans. Chura-Eoan is correct when he said that some congregations and churches allow gay men and lesbians to marry with the blessings of the church. All of the churches and denominations that accept gay marriage and the "new morality" are liberal. The churches merely debate the issue with liberal members supporting the "new morality" and conservative members supporting the "older" but real morality. The liberals eventually win the debate, and the church decides to bless gay marriage and/or ordain gay priests.
Numerous leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have proclaimed that the "new morality" is simply the old immorality - or sin. Religious organizations that are committed to living the gospel of Jesus Christ according to Biblical authority have to take a stand against gay marriage. They must draw a line in the sand! They must plant their flag!
Reverend R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, wrote in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ.com): "The liberal churches and denominations have an easy way out of this predicament. They simply accommodate themselves to the new moral reality. …
"This is a route that evangelical Christians committed to the full authority of the Bible cannot take. Since we believe that the Bible is God's revealed word, we cannot accommodate ourselves to this new morality. We cannot pretend as if we do not know that the Bible clearly teaches that all homosexual acts are sinful, as is all human sexual behavior outside the covenant of marriage. We believe that God has revealed a pattern for human sexuality that not only points the way to holiness, but to true happiness.
"Thus we cannot accept the seductive arguments that the liberal churches so readily adopt. The fact that same-sex marriage is now a legal reality in several states means that we must further stipulate that we are bound by scripture to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman - and nothing else."
I was impressed that Reverend Mohler was concerned about the souls of the individuals involved in homosexuality: "In this most awkward cultural predicament, evangelicals must be excruciatingly clear that we do not speak about the sinfulness of homosexuality as if we have no sin. As a matter of fact, it is precisely because we have come to know ourselves as sinners and of our need for a savior that we have come to faith in Jesus Christ. Our greatest fear is not that homosexuality will be normalized and accepted, but that homosexuals will not come to know of their own need for Christ and the forgiveness of their sins."
Unlike Reverend Mohler, I am concerned that homosexuality will be normalized and accepted to the point that it will become main stream or accepted by the majority of the people. I know of numerous cities and nations that have been destroyed because of sin: Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with fire from heaven because they were full of sin. Ancient Rome fell because of sin. Both the Nephite nation and the Jaredite nation in the Book of Mormon were destroyed in war because of sin.
As homosexuals continue to push for all the rights and privileges of heterosexuals - including marriages performed with the authority and blessings of churches - religious freedom will continue to come under attack. When Patkotak wrote, "… civil society should not be following those [religious] beliefs in creating laws that affect all citizens," she apparently was unaware that the entire U.S. Constitution is based on the Ten Commandments and other Biblical principles. Freedom of religion - particularly the gospel of Jesus Christ - is the foundation of America; it is the reason why people fled Europe to come to America in the first place!
Elder Dallin H. Oaks a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke to students at BYU-Idaho on October 13, 2009, about religious freedom [lds.org/newsroom]. Elder Oaks is well qualified to discuss the Constitution because of his career in law, including time serving as a Judge. He started his talk by inviting those in attendance "to march with me as I speak about religious freedom under the United States Constitution. There is a battle over the meaning of that freedom. The contest is of eternal importance, and it is your generation that must understand the issues and make the efforts to prevail."
Elder Oaks set the stage for his talk by reminding the students that Joseph Smith declared in an 1833 revelation that "the Lord established the United States Constitution by wise men whom he raised up for that very purpose (Doctrine and Covenants 101:80). " He also reminded them that the "Lord also declared that this constitution `should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh' (Doctrine and Covenants 101:77; emphasis added).
"In 1833, when almost all people in the world were still ruled by kings or tyrants, few could see how the infant United States Constitution could be divinely designed `for the rights and protection of all flesh.' Today, 176 years after that revelation, almost every nation in the world has adopted a written constitution, and the United States Constitution profoundly influenced all of them. Truly, this nation's most important export is its constitution, whose great principles stand as a model `for the rights and protection of all flesh.' On the vital human right of religious freedom, however, many constitutions fall short of the protections that are needed, so we are grateful that the United States government seeks to encourage religious freedom all over the world. …
Elder Oaks quoted the first part of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…." He explained that the "prohibition against `an establishment of religion' was intended to separate churches and government, to prevent a national church of the kind still found in Europe…."
Elder Oaks emphasized that the "guarantee of the free exercise of religion … is the first expression in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. As noted by many, this `pre-eminent place' identifies freedom of religion as `a cornerstone of American democracy.' The American colonies were originally settled by people who, for the most part, had come to this continent to be able to practice their religious faith without persecution, and their successors deliberately placed religious freedom first in the nation's Bill of Rights. So it is that our national law formally declares: `The right to freedom of religion undergirds the very origin and existence of the United States.' …
After explaining more about the importance of the First Amendment, Elder Oaks continued, "Religious freedom has always been at risk. It was repression of religious belief and practice that drove the Pilgrim fathers and other dissenters to the shores of this continent. Even today, leaders in all too many nations use state power to repress religious believers.
After speaking about the silencing of religious voices in the public square, Elder Oaks continued, "A second threat to religious freedom is from those who perceive it to be in conflict with the newly alleged `civil right' of same-gender couples to enjoy the privileges of marriages.
"We have endured a wave of media-reported charges that the Mormons are trying to `deny' people or `strip' people of their `rights.' After a significant majority of California voters (seven million - over 52 percent) approved Proposition 8's limited marriage to a man and a woman, some opponents characterized the vote as denying people their civil rights. In fact, the Proposition 8 battle was not about civil rights, but about what equal rights demand and what religious rights protect. At no time did anyone question or jeopardize the civil right of Proposition 8 opponents to vote or speak their views.
"The real issue in the Proposition 8 debate - … - is whether the opponents of Proposition 8 should be allowed to change the vital institution of marriage itself.
"The marriage union of a man and a woman has been the teaching of the Judeo-Christian scriptures and the core legal definition and practice of marriage in Western culture for thousands of years. Those who seek to change the foundation of marriage should not be allowed to pretend that those who defend the ancient order are trampling on civil rights. The supporters of Proposition 8 were exercising their constitutional right to defend the institution of marriage - and institution of transcendent importance that they, along with countless others of many persuasions, feel conscientiously obliged to protect."
Elder Oaks said, "Religious freedom needs defending against the claims of newly asserted human rights. The so-called `Yogyakareta Principles,' published by an international human rights group, call for governments to assure that all persons have the right to practice their religious beliefs regardless of sexual orientation or identity. This apparently proposes that governments require church practices and their doctrines to ignore gender differences. Any such effort to have governments invade religion to override religious doctrines or practices should be resisted by all believers…."
Elder Oaks claimed that "Religious values and political realities are so interlinked in the origin and perpetuation of this nation that we cannot lose the influence of Christianity in the public square without seriously jeopardizing our freedoms. I maintain that this is a political fact, well qualified for argument in the public square by religious people whose freedom to believe and act must always be protected by what is properly called our `First Freedom,' the free exercise of religion."
I hope that you will agree with me that there is no "American right" to marry. I maintain that no one has the "right" to expect other people to condone sin and evil or to make homosexuality appear normal by allowing same-sex marriage. Every person has the "right" to live as they so choose, but in doing so they must also be willing to accept the consequences of their choice. Homosexuality is evil, and no amount of acceptance, even marriage in churches and temples, can take away the guilt that comes because of sin.
Elder Oaks, Reverend Mohler, and I believe that the demand for same-sex marriage is a threat to our religious freedom. We also agree that marriage as a union between one man and one woman must be defended.