Commentary

September 15, 2012

M.D. HARMON: Same-sex marriage not widely supported by Christian churches

M.D. Harmon

As in previous campaigns in Maine about the question of legalizing same-sex marriage -- a proposal to approve it failed in a 2009 people's veto referendum -- representatives from some religious groups have supported the innovation.

The Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ and Unitarian-Universalists are among the few ecclesial bodies that do approve of men "marrying" men and women "marrying" women.

Things get less clear, however, when, say, a Methodist clergyman publicly supports the cause, as one did recently. His denomination does not approve of such unions.

Such endorsements could lead people to the erroneous conclusion that same-sex marriage is widely supported among Christian churches.

That contention certainly isn't true in the United States as a whole, and it becomes even less accurate when looking at Christianity worldwide (at 2.3 billion adherents, Christianity is the world's largest religious faith, with a billion more followers than the next-largest faith, Islam).

Certainly, most Christian churches support the Bible's view of homosexual actions as disobedient to God's commands -- while recognizing the equally important teaching that all people face temptations in many different ways.

Among those speaking out in Maine is the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, which same-sex marriage supporters previously had claimed was staying on the sidelines of the debate.

Not hardly. While the diocese is not raising money to support the resistance effort, as it has done in the past, it is holding statewide meetings to reinforce the teaching that marriage involves one man and one woman (www.portland diocese.org, "News & Events"). And it encourages Catholics to contribute to the cause (at protectmarriage maine.com).

Not by coincidence, a statement titled "Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods that Stand or Fall Together," was published on the website of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops Jan. 12 (www.usccb.org), garnering wide acceptance -- and not just from Christians.

As it notes, "Signatories include leaders from Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Lutheran, Mormon and Pentecostal communities in the United States."

Other signers include top officials of the National Association of Evangelicals, the Orthodox Church in America, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and the Salvation Army.

Leaders of the Orthodox Jewish community and even American Sikhs have signed on, too.

The statement begins, "The promotion and protection of marriage -- the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife -- is a matter of the common good and serves the well-being of the couple, of children, of civil society and all people. The meaning and value of marriage precedes and transcends any particular society, government or religious community. It is a universal good and the foundational institution of all societies.

"It is bound up with the nature of the human person as male and female, and with the essential task of bearing and nurturing children. As religious leaders across a wide variety of faith communities, we join together to affirm that marriage in its true definition must be protected for its own sake and for the good of society."

And despite the oft-repeated claims that same-sex marriage "can't harm anyone," it most certainly can and has, in states where courts or legislatures have imposed it without protecting those who object on moral grounds.

While some laws -- including the one on the ballot here -- purport to protect ministers from being forced to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies, that is a clause without any meaning, because the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom already offers all the protection needed.

Other faithful Christians are not protected in the slightest. In New York state, Christian town clerks and Christian notaries have lost their jobs for expressing their moral views. In New Jersey, a church was fined for not offering a piece of church property for a same-sex ceremony; and wedding-cake bakers and wedding photographers have been sued for declining to offer their products and services to same-sex couples.

There is no protection at all in this law for faithful Christians who are not ministers, and everyone involved knows it.

So do the signers of the marriage statement: "Altering the definition of marriage will change not just one law but hundreds, even thousands, of laws. There will be government mandates, requiring the recognition and accommodation of so-called same-sex 'marriages,' that pose a critical threat to institutions and individuals who for reasons of faith and conscience will resist the law's compulsion. ...

"The law not only will coerce (people who think differently) and impose disincentives, but will also teach that religious objectors must be marked as if they were bigots."

Do you really want to approve a law that would treat your neighbors as if they were criminals?

Happily, there's a way to avoid it: Vote no on same-sex marriage.

 

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: mdharmoncol@yahoo.com

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