Religious Liberty: One Casualty in the War Over Marriage

The next twenty-five years will see an increased assault on religious liberty.

One such subtle assault is in the misuse of language—cleverly changing “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship.” A more pernicious assault, however, is afoot—the attempt to redefine marriage and thereby open the way for federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Currently, nine states and the District of Columbia have redefined marriage and allow same-sex couples to marry. The Supreme Court is now hearing oral arguments against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (which for federal purposes defined marriage as being between one man and woman) and California’s Proposition 8 (which amended the state’s constitution and affirmed the traditional definition of marriage).

If the high court overturns DOMA and nullifies the voice of the people in California by redefining marriage as simply an emotional union among persons, they will unmoor America’s moral heritage, unleash life altering consequences upon all Americans, and set us adrift on a sea of societal and political troubles. One of the first casualties cast overboard will be religious liberty. This is true for at least three reasons.

First, religious people will face an increasingly hostile culture.

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Those who hold to the traditional view of marriage based on religious convictions would, in time, be seen as holding to a malicious prejudice against same-sex marriage. Already, to speak out against homosexuality in general as sin, as contrary to God’s design for human sexuality, or as unhealthy to practitioners, children, and society, is deemed bigoted and labeled homophobic.

For years, mounting pressure has consigned religious expression to the private sphere and away from the public square. Redefining marriage and sanctioning same-sex unions will add additional weight to those pushing religious convictions out of the public life.

Second, religious people will face an increasingly hostile administrative state.

Proponents of traditional marriage who do business with government agencies will, in time, be forced to promote or embrace gay marriage as a precondition of securing contracts. It is conceivable that employees of the government will suffer censorship if they express their religious/traditional views of marriage, leaving them open to discipline, denial of promotions and benefits, “sensitivity” training, or termination. The state can (and has) require(d) school children to take classes about same-sex marriage and other alternative lifestyles, while condemning religious people for holding views at odds with “official” doctrine.

Third, religious people will face an increasingly hostile legal system.

Nondiscrimination laws will, in time, make private citizens and organizations—businesses, civic associations, and religious institutions—liable to civil suits for refusing to treat same-sex marriages as traditional marriages. We already see similar strong-arming from the Health and Human Services’ application of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) on Catholic hospitals and clinics in regard to contraception, abortifacients, and abortions.

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