Faith leaders in Minnesota, representing hundreds of faith communities, have written an open letter to Minnesota lawmakers urging them to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
“The promotion and protection of marriage is a matter of the common good,” the signers write. “It serves the wellbeing of the man and woman, of children, of civil society, and all people.” The signers call “essential” the continued affirmation of marriage between a man and a woman because redefining it would degrade the cultural understanding of marriage to an emotional bond between any two adults.
Signers include leaders of Muslim, Baptist, Jewish, Evangelical, Lutheran, Catholic, Orthodox, and Buddhist communities.
As religious leaders, the signers caution that the idea that religious freedom is restricted to a house of worship “is wrong and dangerous.” In that light, the idea that religious freedom would be protected as long as ministers were not forced to preside over same-sex “marriages” is misguided. “The real peril,” say the signers, is “if marriage is redefined in civil law, religious individuals and other organizations – regardless of the foundational tenants of their faith – will be required to consider same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage in their lives, ministries, and operations.”
Rounding out the posts about Illinois this week, today we highlight a letter sent from a number of religious leaders in Illinois to Illinois lawmakers, asking them to preserve the authentic meaning of marriage between one man and one woman.
The letter, dated January 2, is signed by representatives of the Anglican Church in North America, the Catholic Conference of Illinois, The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, and a number of evangelical and independent Illinois churches. According to the press release that accompanied the letter’s release, the signers represent more than 1,700 faith communities in Illinois.
The signers of the letter affirm their shared belief in marriage as the “lifelong, faithful union of one man and one woman, the natural basis of the family.” They enumerate the benefits of marriage for men, women, and children, and call attention to marriage’s fundamental role in fostering the well-being of society.
“The ongoing attempts to alter the definition of marriage in civil law are full of serious danger,” says the letter, “primarily by degrading the cultural understanding of marriage to an emotional bond between any two adults and by giving rise to a profound interference with the exercise of religious freedom for those persons and religious institutions whose faith and doctrine recognize the spiritual foundation of marriage as an authorized union between a man and a woman.”
Regarding threats to religious liberty, the writers agree that exemptions that allow clergy to not officiate at same-sex “weddings” do not solve the problem. The “real peril,” they say, is that marriage redefinition will compel individuals and religious organizations, “regardless of deeply held beliefs,” to “treat same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage in their lives, ministries and operations.” This “compulsion,” they assert, “is a violation of personal conscience and of religious liberty.”
In conclusion, the religious leaders “implore all people of good will to protect marriage and religious freedom…Marriage and religious freedom are ideals integral to Illinois, and our elected officials should do all they can to maintain these important principles.”
- Letter from Religious Leaders to Illinois Lawmakers re: Marriage (Jan. 2, 2013)
- Press release: “Illinois faith leaders write lawmakers to urge preservation of marriage” (Jan. 2, 2013)
- Marriage Toolkit from the Catholic Conference of Illinois
- Interview with Carlos Tejeda, director of marriage and family life in Springfield, about the Marriage Toolkit
- Cardinal George of Chicago: “Legislation creating ‘same-sex’ marriage: What’s at stake?”
- Letters to their parishes from Cardinal George and Bishop Paprocki (Springfield): Don’t redefine marriage in Illinois
In January 2012, 39 leaders of 33 religious communities jointly issued an open letter about the importance of marriage and religious freedom. This letter, together with the December 2010 letter “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment” demonstrate that marriage and religious freedom are not concerns only for Catholics, or even for Christians, but for many people of differing faiths. Below is the full text of the January 2012 and a list of signers.
Marriage and Religious Freedom:
Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together
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 wellbeing 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. We also recognize the grave consequences of altering this definition. One of these consequences—the interference with the religious freedom of those who continue to affirm the true definition of “marriage”—warrants special attention within our faith communities and throughout society as a whole.For this reason, we come together with one voice in this letter.
Some posit that the principal threat to religious freedom posed by same-sex “marriage” is the possibility of government’s forcing religious ministers to preside over such “weddings,” on pain of civil or criminal liability.While we cannot rule out this possibility entirely, we believe that the First Amendment creates a very high bar to such attempts.
Instead, we believe the most urgent peril is this:forcing or pressuring both individuals and religious organizations—throughout their operations, well beyond religious ceremonies—to treat same-sex sexual conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct.There is no doubt that the many people and groups whose moral and religious convictions forbid same-sex sexual conduct will resist the compulsion of the law, and church-state conflicts will result.
These conflicts bear serious consequences.They will arise in a broad range of legal contexts, because altering the civil definition of “marriage” does not change one law, but hundreds, even thousands, at once.By a single stroke, every law where rights depend on marital status—such as employment discrimination, employment benefits, adoption, education, healthcare, elder care, housing, property, and taxation—will change so that same-sex sexual relationships must be treated as if they were marriage.That requirement, in turn, will apply to religious people and groups in the ordinary course of their many private or public occupations and ministries—including running schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other housing facilities, providing adoption and counseling services, and many others.
So, for example, religious adoption services that place children exclusively with married couples would be required by law to place children with persons of the same sex who are civilly “married.”Religious marriage counselors would be denied their professional accreditation for refusing to provide counseling in support of same-sex “married” relationships.Religious employers who provide special health benefits to married employees would be required by law to extend those benefits to same-sex “spouses.”Religious employers would also face lawsuits for taking any adverse employment action—no matter how modest—against an employee for the public act of obtaining a civil “marriage” with a member of the same sex.This is not idle speculation, as these sorts of situations have already come to pass.
Even where religious people and groups succeed in avoiding civil liability in cases like these, they would face other government sanctions—the targeted withdrawal of government co-operation, grants, or other benefits.
For example, in New Jersey, the state cancelled the tax-exempt status of a Methodist-run boardwalk pavilion used for religious services because the religious organization would not host a same-sex “wedding” there.San Francisco dropped its $3.5 million in social service contracts with the Salvation Army because it refused to recognize same-sex “domestic partnerships” in its employee benefits policies.Similarly, Portland, Maine, required Catholic Charities to extend spousal employee benefits to same-sex “domestic partners” as a condition of receiving city housing and community development funds.
In short, the refusal of these religious organizations to treat a same-sex sexual relationship as if it were a marriage marked them and their members as bigots, subjecting them to the full arsenal of government punishments and pressures reserved for racists.These punishments will only grow more frequent and more severe if civil “marriage” is redefined in additional jurisdictions.For then, government will compel special recognition of relationships that we the undersigned religious leaders and the communities of faith that we represent cannot, in conscience, affirm.Because law and government not only coerce and incentivize but also teach, these sanctions would lend greater moral legitimacy to private efforts to punish those who defend marriage.
Therefore, we encourage all people of good will to protect marriage as the union between one man and one woman, and to consider carefully the far-reaching consequences for the religious freedom of all Americans if marriage is redefined.We especially urge those entrusted with the public good to support laws that uphold the time-honored definition of marriage, and so avoid threatening the religious freedom of countless institutions and citizens in this country.Marriage and religious freedom are both deeply woven into the fabric of this nation.
May we all work together to strengthen and preserve the unique meaning of marriage and the precious gift of religious freedom.
Rev. Leith Anderson
National Association of Evangelicals
Johann Christoph Arnold
Randall A. Bach
Open Bible Churches
Dr. Gary M. Benedict
The Christian and Missionary Alliance
The Rev. John F. Bradosky
North American Lutheran Church
Glenn Burris, Jr.
The Foursquare Church
Bishop H. David Burton
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Dr. Ronald W. Carpenter, Sr.
International Pentecostal Holiness Church
Rabbi Abba Cohen
Vice President for Federal Affairs
Agudath Israel of America
Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone
Bishop of Oakland
USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage
Nathan J. Diament
Executive Director for Public Policy
Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
The Most Rev. Robert Duncan
Archbishop, Anglican Church in North America
Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh
Dr. Barrett Duke
Vice President for Public Policy and Research
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
Rev. Jim Eschenbrenner
General Council of Christian Union Churches
Dr. William J. Hamel
Evangelical Free Church of America
Rev. Dr. Ron Hamilton
Conservative Congregational Christian Conference
Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison
Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod
Great Commission Churches
Dr. Bill Hossler
Missionary Church, Inc.
Clyde M. Hughes
International Pentecostal Church of Christ
Rev. Kenneth D. Hunn
The Brethren Church
David W. Kendall
Free Methodist Church USA
Dr. Richard Land
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
Most Rev. William E. Lori
Bishop of Bridgeport
USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty
Dr. Jo Anne Lyon
Chair Board of General Superintendents
The Wesleyan Church
James W. Murray
General Association of General Baptists
Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades
Bishop of Ft. Wayne – South Bend
USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth
Commissioner William A. Roberts
The Salvation Army
Fellowship of Evangelical Churches
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
David T. Roller
Free Methodist Church USA
Matthew A. Thomas
Free Methodist Church USA
Dr. Joseph Tkach
President & Pastor General
Grace Communion International
Berten A. Waggoner
W. Phillip Whipple
United Brethren in Christ Church, USA
Dr. John P. Williams, Jr.
Evangelical Friends Church – Eastern Region
David P. Wilson
Church of the Nazarene
Dr. George O. Wood
Assemblies of God
Fortnight for Freedom posts:
- What is religious freedom?
- St. Thomas More, married saint and hero of religious liberty
- Sunday Pope Quote: Fortnight for Freedom edition
- How are marriage and religious liberty connected?
- How could changing the legal definition of marriage have any effect on religious liberty?
- A red herring…and the real threats to religious liberty
- Two handouts about marriage and religious freedom
Released today: an open letter, “Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together,” signed by 39 religious leaders representing 33 different communities.
The letter’s purpose is twofold: first, to express the commitment of diverse religious communities to promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman; second, to draw attention to the grave consequences of altering this understanding of marriage in law, especially in regards to the religious freedom of individuals and institutions.
The signers write, “We encourage all people of good will to protect marriage as the union between one man and one woman, and to consider carefully the far-reaching consequences for the religious freedom of all Americans if marriage is redefined. We especially urge those entrusted with the public good to support laws that uphold the time-honored definition of marriage, and so avoid threatening the religious freedom of countless institutions and citizens in this country (emphasis added).”
- Full open letter: “Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together” (January 12, 2012)
- One-page Executive Summary (ideal for including in bulletins)
- Q&A on the open letter: further context and explanation of the letter’s context and aims
- Press release: “Religious Leaders Join Together In Support Of Marriage, Religious Liberty“
- FAQs on Religious Liberty
Today’s letter continues the ecumenical and interreligious collaboration on promoting and protecting marriage and religious freedom. The letter serves as a fitting sequel to the open letter released on December 6, 2010, “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment.”
“How good it is, how pleasant, where the people dwell as one!” – Psalm 133:1 (NAB)
Just over one year ago, on December 6, 2010, leaders from twenty-seven different religious communities joined together to reaffirm their commitment to marriage as the permanent and faithful union of one man and one woman. In an open letter entitled “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment” religious leaders representing a wide-range of Christian churches and communities, Jewish organizations and the American Sikh community joined the Catholic Church in expressing their common concern and commitment to marriage between one man and one woman as an unalterable institution in the bedrock of our society.
“As religious leaders across different faith communities,” the signatories wrote, “we join together and affirm our shared commitment to promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We honor the unique love between husbands and wives; the indispensable place of fathers and mothers; and the corresponding rights and dignity of all children.”
The open letter was a remarkable expression of ecumenical and interreligious collaboration, and a hopeful sign of joint activity yet to come. Despite the groups’ theological and cultural differences, they affirmed together their common belief that protecting and promoting marriage is a fundamental task for all people of faith. Indeed, “how good it is, how pleasant, where the people dwell as one!”
- Full text and signers: “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment”
- Press release: “Religious Leaders Voice Shared Commitment to Protect Marriage”
- Backgrounder on the open letter