The Civil Discourse of (Alleged) Religious Persecution

I had somewhat modest hopes when I read the headline to Ruth Ann Dailey’s most recent column “A civil solution to same-sex marriage angst”

Same sex marriage? Wow, that’s a big step forward from “gay marriage” and slightly more accurate if not as preferable as “marriage equality.”

Ruth Ann, though, ensnared me in the quite misleading claim that my equality infringes on her religious freedom. Damn.

Good one, Post-Gazette editors.

Ruth Ann aptly describes that a “separate but equal” approach to marriage aka civil unions is not equal. She then posits that this creates another group of equally second class citizens – the majority of American who identify as Christian. Hmmm.

Her point is not unfamiliar, but her facts are wrong. She claims that marriage equality efforts will impede on the ability of faith based institutions carry out their mission without compromising their values that gays ARE second class citizens.  She uses the example of Catholic Charities in DC which decided to end health insurance coverage for all families when the municipal government began requiring that all marriages be recognized by family coverage.  She fails to point out that this is a service Catholic Charities is contracted and paid to provide – no one was forcing them to pay the church secretaries health benefits for their same sex spouses. There is a clear distinction between private religious practice and publicly funded faith based social services.

Again, churches do adhere to all sorts of regulations – health inspections impact fish dinners, ADA requirements impact renovations, education regulations impact private education, etc. So this is a bit of a red herring to suddenly act taken aback that the *state* is intruding into religious practices.

As I’ve said before, there is a myth put forward by many on the right that the general good will of mankind will step in when government retreats to take care of the vulnerable. Ha. Catholic Charities foster care isn’t paid for by the sale of Vatican icons. It is a government contract – our tax dollars.

Ruth Ann puts forth that the only acceptable solution is to have civil unions for all and reserve marriages for faith based blessings? That’s a silly argument.

It is some governments’ insistence on forcing religious institutions to redefine “marriage” — which is either a rite or a sacrament of the church, predating any nation’s existence — that violates the Constitution’s “free exercise” clause. “Civil unions” for all would sidestep most, if not all, of these conflicts.

The desire to force others to assent to one’s version of the truth is a stubborn human trait. It’s also a hallmark of the intellectually or emotionally insecure. Whether Americans embrace this mutually respectful solution to our conflict of visions will test our civic maturity.

So disengenuous. Not a single marriage equality bill has forced any community of faith to redefine marriage. They all exempt religious institutions from being forced to perform, acknowledge or celebrate same sex marriages in the context of observing their religious practices. The government does not intrude. Holy Spirits does not have to rent out the Father Thomas Horner Hall to me if I want a lesbian wedding. Period.

Equality in general has forced many people of faith to rethink how they conduct themselves. The increasing recognition that there are gays among us and they have rights changes the dynamic of oppression which has dominated our culture for a long time.  Eliminating oppression and discrimination that arise from personal bigotry doesn’t make the bigot a second class citizen – it simply shines a light on really bad beliefs that propped up the “first class citizens” in the first place.

Marriage is a civil function. It is called marriage. It doesn’t have to be redefined in the least. And religious apologists should stop throwing stones. Just practice what you preach people and fund your own programs. Its not like your personal tax contribution is THAT much. Give up a car, cable or limit your kids’ activities. Don’t go on vacation. Skip dinners out. Put that money into faith based programs and see your community flourish.

But don’t blame me when that doesn’t work.


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