For many years now secularists and self-described progressives have made the claim that religious believers, especially those from traditional perspectives, were trying to impose their beliefs on others. They have also make frequent accusations that religious believers are “intolerant.” It has been my usual experience that people who stridently accuse others of things are themselves often most guilty of the attitudes they most decry in others. And now today we see just such an example in the looming actions of an increasingly extreme contingent of the DC City Council in reference to same sex marriage.
The crafters of the Bill have chosen to significantly narrow religious exemptions and thereby force religious organizations into the untenable position of accepting and even promoting so-called same-sex marriage. The Archdiocese of Washington has released a a statement that pretty well details the situation. I reproduce it here:
The DC City Council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary today narrowed the exemption for religious freedom in a bill that would legalize marriage between same-sex couples. The bill is headed to the full council.
The committee’s narrowing of the exemption leaves religious organizations and individuals at risk for adhering to the teachings of their faith, and could prevent social service providers such as Catholic Charities from continuing their long-term partnerships with the District government to provide critical social services for thousands of the city’s most vulnerable residents. The bill provides no exemption for individuals with sincerely-held religious beliefs, as required under federal law. In fact, one council member opposed an amendment that would have respected an individual’s federally-protected, deeply-held religious beliefs by saying that would encourage a “discriminatory impulse.”
The committee rejected concerns raised in testimony by the ACLU, the Archdiocese of Washington, the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington and a group of nationally-recognized legal scholars, including Robin Fretwell Wilson, professor at Washington & Lee University Law School. In calling for broader religious liberty protections in the bill, the experts cited well established United States Supreme Court case law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a federal law that applies to the District of Columbia.
Under the bill, religious organizations do not have to participate in the “solemnization or celebration” of a same-sex marriage ceremony. An earlier version of the bill also exempted them from “the promotion of marriage that is in violation of the entity’s religious beliefs.” The revised language significantly narrows that exemption to the “promotion of marriage through religious programs, counseling, courses, or retreats.”
As a result, religious organizations and individuals are at risk of legal action for refusing to promote and support same-sex marriages in a host of settings where it would compromise their religious beliefs. This includes employee benefits, adoption services and even the use of a church hall for non-wedding events for same-sex married couples. Religious organizations such as Catholic Charities could be denied licenses or certification by the government, denied the right to offer adoption and foster care services, or no longer be able to partner with the city to provide social services for the needy.
“It is our concern that the committee’s narrowing of the religious exemption language will cause the government to discontinue our long partnership with them and open up the agency to litigation and the use of resources to defend our religious beliefs rather than serve the poor,” said Edward Orzechowski, president/CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. Catholic Charities serves 68,000 people in the city each year. The city’s 40 Catholic parishes operate another 93 social service programs to provide crucial services.
The teachings of the Catholic Church, including those of the Archdiocese of Washington, hold that all individuals have equal dignity and deserve equal respect. However, marriage by its very nature must be between a man and a woman. One essential purpose of marriage is an openness to creating and nurturing the next generation, which is the reason that governments and cultures throughout all time have given these relationships special recognition and support. See www.MarriageMattersDC.org for more information on marriage.
Many media reports today have indicated incorrectly that the Archdiocese of Washington is “threatening to end social services to the poor” if the Bill is not changed. But the true fact is that the Bill would force us out since to accept or administer even $1.00 of DC money would put us under a whole series of unacceptable rules requiring us to recognize or even facilitate aspects of Gay “marriage.” I could also open us to lawsuits and to “decertification” which would exc;ude us from providing social servies in DC. It is not we who threaten, it is we who are threatened by the implications of this Bill.
I hope you can see what is happening here. Through judicial fiat seculars and progressives are trying to impose recognition of same sex “marriage.” By severely reducing religious exemptions members of the City Council and their allies are simply bullying and forcing their will. They have the votes on the Council and refuse to allow the citizens of this city to have their voices heard by placing this initiative on the ballot. This Bill is, simply put, an imposition.
It is also an example of intolerance toward the traditional religious community. The views of the religious communities in question are not some recent trend or theological speculation. The definition of marriage that is being rejected is some 5,000 years old and stretches all the way back to the earliest pages of Scripture. There are also solid Natural Law arguments at the root of the traditional understanding of Marriage. We are not bigots or homophobes merely for holding the traditional view of marriage. The narrowing of religious exemptions in the current draft of the Bill seems another example of intolerance for ancient and deeply held religious belief.
It is an irony that many who have marched under the banners tolerance and open-mindedness, now that they have power, show that it never really was about either of those things. It appears it was really about power and imposition. The very ones who have so often accused the religious and traditional of imposing our will and being intolerant now give evidence of the very things they accused others of.