DC Same-Sex Marriage Bill: An Imposing Agenda

marriage_logoFor 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.

A Letter from the Archbishop

0508-db07e6a126cf Today, in conjunction with the response of the Archdiocese in opposition to Same-Sex Marriage Archbishop Wuerl also issued a Pastoral Message for Homosexual Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington. You can read the whole message by clicking on the title highlighted in color in the previous sentence. Here are a few excerpts:

Of the many teachings of the Catholic Church, perhaps some of the most challenging for Catholics in today’s culture involve human sexuality, including homosexuality. Modern cultural pressures and assumptions are often at odds with the teachings of Christ handed down through the centuries. For some parishioners the issues are deeply personal. Living out the Church’s teaching can be a difficult challenge. Yet, no one needs to do this separated from the grace and love of the Church.

It is important to affirm that the Catholic Church is and always will be welcoming of any person who seeks who seeks a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ….The Catechism of the Catholic Church  upholds the human dignity of every person and condemns any form of unjust discrimination (2358).

After setting forth the Scriptural foundations of Catholic teaching and our opposition to same-sex marriage the Archbishop goes on to express his pastoral concern and prayers.

DC Council Bill on Same-Sex”Marriage”

As you may be aware DC Council Member David Catania has introduced Legislation requiring the District to recognize so-called “Same-Sex Marriages.” Here is a statement from the Archdiocese of Washington. My own comments follow in RED below:

Statement of the Archdiocese of Washington on DC Council Bill to Redefine Marriage in the Nation’s Capital:

Marriage is a personal relationship with public significance. Marriage between a man and a woman transcends cultures, religions and all time. Marriage is about more than two people who love and are committed to each other.

 It also is about creating and nurturing the next generation. As natural law and biology dictate, this requires both a man and a woman. Men and women complement each other physically, psychologically and emotionally and each has distinctive gifts for a child’s upbringing. They are not interchangeable.

 Nature intends for children to have a mother and a father. Research tells us a healthy marriage with a father and mother provides the most stable and nurturing environment for a child. This is the reason that civil governments have given marriage special recognition throughout time.

 The bill introduced today by some members of the District of Columbia City Council to redefine marriage is at odds with marriage’s fundamental purpose. You cannot redefine biology.

 The “Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009” is not about religious freedom. In fact, there are legitimate concerns that this legislation will result in a loss of religious liberty of the people of the District of Columbia. If passed, the bill could require Catholics to make choices between a “law” and the fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church.

 This is the second time in six months that the DC City Council has sought to redefine marriage. In the spring, the Council pushed through a bill recognizing same sex marriages from other jurisdictions, without an opportunity for residents to give input.

 Today’s action by the DC City Council would put the District of Columbia in the minority nationwide. Forty states have constitutional or legislative protection of marriage, while only five states have redefined marriage. We urge our elected officials to respect the purpose of marriage as the union of one man and one woman for their mutual benefit and for the rights of children.

 A request for a ballot initiative to define marriage as between a man and a woman was filed by a coalition of groups in September. The Archdiocese of Washington submitted a letter supporting thatrequest before the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

Learn more about marriage and the Catholic Church at www.MarriageMattersDC.org.

You will note that the Archdiocese in setting forth its objections has done so on the basis of Natural Law. Scripture is not quoted in the document. This is done in speaking to a secular world to make it clear that our objections are not on religious grounds only. They are also based on psychological, sociological and biological grounds. It is clear that nature itself intends that nurturing and raising a child is to be done under the influence of both a father and mother. Men and women are not interchangeable and both provide aspects of development that the other cannot simply supply. Men (fathers) have important things to teach their children. So do women (mothers). It is true that even in the world of nature, sometimes due to death, both parents cannot be present to raise the child but this is an exceptional situation and law should not be based on exceptional situations.

I am also pleased to see that the statement indicates the conception and raising of children to be “marriage’s fundamental purpose.” Many do not think of marriage in these terms today. They speak of it merely as existing for the happiness of the couple and the expression of their love. These purposes are not unimportant but marriage has its fundamental design from nature and God for the sake of children. Marriages should be heterosexual and stable (no divorce) for the better sake of children. Children are best served by a stable marriage where they are conceived and then nurtured by both a father and mother, receiving from their parents the complimentary witness of masculinity and femininity. This is what marriage is essentially and fundamentally about: the good of children. This is why the Church must oppose redefining marriage in this way. It also explains why the Church has opposed no-fault (easy and quick) divorce laws.

While it is true that the Archdiocese has spoken today on the grounds of Natural Law,  as seems necessary since not all share or agree to religious premises, many of you who read this blog do accept religious grounds as a basis for discussion. For that reason I might encourage you to read a previous post at this blog which discusses the biblical basis for opposing same-sex “marriage.” You can read it here: Same Sex Marraige is Contrary to Biblical Teaching I also preached a sermon on this topic that you can listen to or download to iPod here: Sermon on Same Sex “Marriage

Please note that the Church’s position is both principled and respectful. There are bigots in our world today who may reject Gay Marriage from less than noble motives. But the Church is the servant of God’s Word and the Natural Law. We cannot be otherwise and we cannot thus remain silent on this matter. But we speak with respect and from a principled poosition that reverences what God has taught us an told us to proclaim.

Rally for School Choice

Yesterday just over 2000 people gathered at a rally for School choice. As you may be aware, the Congress recently voted to suspend the Opportunity Scholarship Program in the District of Columbia. The program allowed students who qualified to receive up $7,500 to attend the private school of their parent’s choice. I have blogged on it before HERE and HERE. It is a very sad loss of opportunity for District of Columbia school students whose only option now may be a seriously deficient public school system. Students currently in the Opportunity Scholarship Program can stay but no new students can be admitted.

In this issue, if the focus is on Children and what is best for them, then the Opportunity Scholarship Program should continue. If the focus shifts to politicians and teachers unions and what they want, the children suffer. And before anyone says that the Archdiocese is just out for money, the fact is we  have lost money on the program since the scholarships do not cover the total cost of educating these children in our schools.

But we will continue to fight for what is best for children and we are willing to make scarifices for providing what is best for them. Our own resources are linited and the Opportunity Scholarships helped us provide a quality education to many more than our own scholarship funds could assist. We will continue to work with others to build a pluralistic coalition that will act to have the Opportunity Scholarship Program reinstated. The children deserve options.

The following video was shot by Susan Gibbs at the Rally for School Choice yesterday. The video features Ryan Washington, an 8th Grader at St. Augustine School here in the District.

History Reverses Itself! On Religious Liberty Redivivus

The Following is a Press Release from “Historic St. Mary’s City”  that details an interesting reversal of History:

 In 1704, Maryland Governor Seymour ordered the sheriff to lock the Roman Catholic brick chapel at St. Mary’s City and see that it was never again used for worship.  With that action, the colony’s experiment in religious freedom ended.   

On Sunday, September 20, 305 years after the original chapel was sealed, St. Mary’s County Sheriff Timothy Cameron will unlock the massive oak and pine doors of the reconstructed chapel.  The reconstruction stands as a symbol of liberty of conscience and separation of church and state, which were practiced in 17th-century Maryland far in advance of the laws and practices in other New World colonies.

The reconstructed chapel, which was rebuilt on its original foundation, is architecturally complete but not yet furnished.  It will be open to the public during museum hours as finishing allows.  An interpretive pavilion will be open to the public in summer 2010. 

The public is invited to attend a brief unlocking ceremony and explore the chapel on Sunday, September 20 at 5 p.m.  Researchers and builders will be available to answer questions about the project.  Artifacts from the chapel excavations will be on display and light refreshments will be served.  There is no charge for this event.

Travel to St. Mary’s City and follow signs for parking.  Participants will gather at the Mackall Barn for a procession to the chapel.  For more information about this event or Historic St. Mary’s City visit stmaryscity.org or call 240-895-4990 or 800-SMC-1634.

All of this is very good news. Allow me to quibble with only one point. The expression “separation of Church and state” is not a Constitutional phrase. This expression is found nowhere in the US Constitution. Rather I prefer the expression “religious liberty.” The First Amendment to the US Constitution says this:  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  Hence,  is true that the the State is not to establish a particular religious faith as the official State religion. But the fundamental point of the First Ammendment is that  it is religious liberty that is protected, NOT the State. It is the State that is prohibited from abridging religious liberty. It is not the Church that is prohibited from attempting to influence the thoughts of men, even if they be Statesmen. We who are religious are free to attempt influence, it is the State who is prohibited from canceling that right. Today, the interpretation of this rule is usually backward. Too many seek to limit the influence of religious thought. This is not enshrined in our Constitution as many claim but rather, the opposite.

With my little diatribe out of the way, enjoy this video that tells you more of  St, Mary’s City, once the largest and most thriving port, the “New York City” of its day, now a hidden ruin for archaeologists, a “what might have been” for historians. This video also gives more information of the rebuilding of the Roman Catholic Brick Chapel on its ancient foundation. I hope to be able to celebrate a Latin Mass there soon!

Gospel in Mosaic

Here is Part Two of Archbishop Donald Wuerl’s series on CatholicTV.com. He meditates on the truths and mysteries of faith making use of the beautiful art and mosaics in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Here in part two Archbishop Wuerl focuses on the Redemption Dome at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. He uses the dome as the backdrop for his discussion on the death and resurrection of Christ, the temptation in the desert, the crucifixion, Jesus’ descent into hell and His resurrection and closes with the Lord’s Prayer.

Archbishop Wuerl Begins New TV Series

In an original CatholicTV mini-series, Archbishop Donald Wuerl discusses the Rosary, using the beautiful mosaics of America’s Catholic Church, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, to illustrate his point. His personal approach illuminates the topics, making them both prayerful and a learning experience.

The first program focuses on the Incarnation Dome located in the basilica. He discusses the annunication, the nativity, Jesus’ first miracle at Cana and the transfiguration.

The second program looks at the Redemption Dome. Archbishop Wuerl discusses the death and resurrection of Christ, the temptation in the desert, the crucifixion, Jesus’ descent into hell and His resurrection and closes with the Lord’s Prayer.

The final program focuses on the mysteries of light. The Archbishop discusses the Luminous Mysteries and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and baptism of Jesus. He also discusses the epiphanies, the proclamation of the kingdom, the transfiguration and the establishment of the Eucharist.

Here is a trailer introducing the series:

Find out more about the series Here: CATHOLIC TV
The First episode becomes available this Friday.

Historical Photos of St. Matthews

I stumbled upon the photos from 1961 of St. Matthews Cathedral. The Cathedral is largely unchanged today with the exception that the tabernacle is no longer on the main altar. That same altar is still used however for the Mass facing facing the people. One other big change is the addition of the pipe organ in the east transcept. These photos were found in the LIFE Magazine photo archive which you can find here: LIFE Archive