Skip to comments.Gay rights vs. religious beliefs
Posted on 08/24/2006 8:05:12 PM PDT by fgoodwin
Gay rights vs. religious beliefs
Posted on Thu, Aug. 24, 2006
By Roger T. Severino
Live and let live. A simple concept, to be sure, but can we apply it to the growing conflict between gay rights and religious beliefs? The answer increasingly seems to be no.
Recently, Philadelphia ordered the local Boy Scouts of America chapter (the nation's third-largest) to renounce the national organization's ban on openly gay members or begin paying rent on its city-subsidized headquarters of 78 years. Some thought this issue was settled by the Supreme Court in 2000, when the Boy Scouts won the right to exclude members who rejected the Scouts' moral vision, specifically those who advocated for or engaged in homosexual conduct.
That victory, however, came at a cost. The Boy Scouts were banned from an array of government programs and government-affiliated campsites across the country. It appears that Philadelphia has now joined that list.
Make no mistake: Losing its rent-free home will hurt the Boy Scouts' charitable services to 40,000 local children. Maybe some of the 75 other community groups that receive free rent from the city can pick up that slack, maybe not - but this illustrates a broader point:
If the gay-rights movement is willing to trample on the moral beliefs of the Boy Scouts for the sake of "tolerance," will religious institutions that also provide social services and oppose gay rights on religious grounds fare any better?
Consider the latest battle over same-sex marriage.
Congress recently debated whether to amend the Constitution to define marriage exclusively as the union of husband and wife. In that debate, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D., Mass.) described the attempt as "bigotry, pure and simple." But Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) supported such an amendment precisely because it would stop state and federal judges from joining Massachusetts in declaring same-sex marriage a civil right, one that inevitably will infringe on the rights of religious believers who disagree. As Sen. Sam Brownback (R., Kan.) has argued, religiously affiliated social-service organizations will soon be forced to choose between "violating their own deeply held beliefs and giving up government contracts, tax-exempt status, or even being denied the right to operate at all."
Since the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a public-interest law firm that represents all religious traditions (including those for and against same-sex marriage), we do not offer an opinion as to which result is ultimately best for America. But as a matter of religious liberty, the arguments of Sens. Santorum and Brownback cannot be ignored.
Like the Boy Scouts, religious institutions that oppose same-sex marriage will find themselves no longer welcome as partners in a variety of government social-service programs - from family counseling, to addiction programs, to job-placement services - and may even lose their access to public land for religious retreats, just as the Boy Scouts have lost their access to public land for their Jamborees.
In the employment context, religious institutions would be prohibited - on pain of "marital status discrimination" lawsuits - from firing an employee who publicly rejects the institution's opposition to same-sex marriage by obtaining one. Religious employers might even be forced, against their principles, to extend health and retirement benefits to their employees' same-sex spouses.
Religious universities that provide married-student housing would be required to provide rooms to everyone legally married, including same-sex couples, even if the university objects on moral grounds. And this problem is hardly speculative or alarmist - it's already happening on a small scale, even before the legal redefinition of marriage makes it much more common. For example, fair-housing laws have already been applied in New York City to require Yeshiva University to open up its married-student housing to same-sex domestic partners.
But the loss of these rights and benefits pales in comparison to what many houses of worship fear - the loss of tax-exempt status.
In the 1982 case of Bob Jones University v. United States, the Supreme Court found that when a charitable organization's policies become "at odds with the common community conscience," its state and federal tax exemptions may be revoked, even if the policies are religiously motivated. This decision allowed governments at all levels to revoke the income or property-tax exemptions of religious institutions that "discriminate" against same-sex couples. All it takes is a court, legislature, or tax bureaucrat to find that the "community conscience" demands it.
If courts continue to weaken religious-freedom protections - and if legislatures continue to fail to fill the breach - there might soon be nothing left to stop the state from steamrolling over all religious conduct that dares to oppose gay rights.
Live and let live indeed.
Roger T. Severino (firstname.lastname@example.org) is legal counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington.
Where are the "rights" of homosexuals enumerated? And who enumerated them?
Why can't the gay groups leave the Boy Scouts alone? Why does everything have to have an agenda for some people? Why do no gay groups ever step up to DEFEND the Scouts?
Respect for gays is not given by demanding it like this. This is not Matthew Shepherd being dragged to death by cretins, this is just a group for boys to be together, learn cooperation and skills, and get away from all the politicizing that buffets life these days. But I guess the Right to Be Left Alone is not allowed these days.
Until the Boy Scouts' sards are like the Remulakians' sards, the Gay Lobby will never leave them alone.
I wondered why gays hadn't gone after the churches that wouldn't "marry" them - will we have the government defining "morality" for the Church, and obtaining legal rulings against the Churches' interpretation of Scripture?
Two words: Natural Law.
Humans of the same sex can not procreate without the aid of technology.
But liberals do not believe in Natural Law at all. They have new modern theories. Like Positivist theory as a example of one.