Sunday, May 24, 2009

This Week at Baptist Press: Religious Freedom Under Attack?

Are religious freedoms threatened by same-sex marriage laws? Do Christians have the same rights as other Americans?

This "Baptist Press" (BP) article identifies some areas where such questions might be seriously pondered.

Then, while you are still pondering whether same-sex marriage laws might be worth serious thought in terms of their consequences related to other religious freedoms, ponder the other article I have chosen to feature.

In a Frisco, Texas, public school, Gideons applied to place Bibles in a display area where other non-school related items are permitted to be placed, items such as boy scout literature, summer camp program information, and other literature which might be of interest to school children and their parents. The BP article noted:

"The district has what it calls a "viewpoint neutral" policy on such material, provided it meets strict guidelines for decency and civility."

The Gideon's request was approved based on the school district's specific criteria for approval or denial of such material.

What is interesting, to me, is that both articles deal with religious freedom but, from slightly different angles. One group seeks to create state or federal law, forcing a secular (or gay) agenda to be respected in the spiritual institution, the other group seeks permission to make religious material available (not distributed by mandate), under an existing and already implemented policy of a public institution.

The first article linked is fairly exhaustive in citing instances where special "rights" granted to same-sex couples could effect religious freedoms in many ways. There is no mention of any special "rights" being sought on the part of spiritual institutions which would effect secular freedoms or other religious institutions' freedoms. Perhaps there are no spiritual institutions seeking any special "rights?"

In the second article linked, we find that some parents are protesting the simple placement of Bibles next to other non-school related literature in a public school. Those parents, who protest, claim there is no place for the Bible in public school. There is no mention that these same parents had any objection to any other non-school related material being allowed in the display area. Perhaps there are no parents who object to other non-school related material being allowed in the display area?

The secular (or gay) "rights" seekers have little legal precedent for limiting the religious freedom of those within spiritual institutions, beyond the IRS' federal taxing authority requirements on those institutions, which limit their endorsement of specific candidates for office by a promised loss of tax-exempt status should they do so.

The Frisco Independent School District has a valid, legal argument for their policy decision:

"Those opposing the recent distribution of the Bibles must understand that if the District prohibits the Bibles from being placed in the distribution area, it must also prohibit all groups such as those identified above, from utilizing the distribution area as well. The law requires the District to permit all or none, there is no middle ground."

There seems to be little tolerance of religious freedom in America today. Ironically, while intolerance seems to be growing against religious freedom in America, the religious are the ones regularly accused of intolerance.

Are all people in the United States treated equally?



Jack said...


I really don't know what to say about this. I will tell you that there are no links to back up the stories cited in your post. Being a recovering Baptist, I am skeptical of the claims the writer made. Did those legal events happen the way he said? Possibly, but I doubt it.

I have to tell you. The idea that someone the religious right now under attack by the incoming homos is, in my mind, ridiculous.

The Christian community has long stamped down any legal and legitimate rights that the homosexual community has asked for.

To now assert that their getting rights somehow affects ours is ironic and disturbing. It always cracks me up when groups who wholeheartedly support the usurping of others' rights, get up in arms when their personal rights are threatened or perceived to possibly be threatened.

It further demonstrates that the trampling of rights isn't ... right. It feels bad. Just imagine how the gays feel.

Gosh, I guess I did know what to say.

I know we won't agree on this issue, but that story needed some comment, even if it was my silly thoughts.

Jackie Melton said...

Hi Jack,

I didn't view the article I linked (the first link in the entry) as delving into the personal, emotional, and to some, moral, discussion surrounding whether homosexuality is right or wrong, we all know many, or most, Christians, based on scripture within the Bible, believe homosexuality is a sin, and therefore wrong but, that wasn't the point of the article at all.

Rather, what the article does is point out that same-sex laws do nothing to protect religious freedom and are not simply granting gays the right to marry at the courthouse or in a location of their choosing by a Justice of the Peace. The article raised the issue of the potential consequences of same-sex laws on religious freedoms, within religious institutions. Without protections in place, religious freedoms can, and have been, effected. Are you seriously challenging that statement?

The story happens to have been reported in the "Baptist Press" but, it seems to me it is, over all, a straight report, quoting other peoples' and other organizations' statements. Such as a statement made by the general council for the American Jewish Congress Marc Stern. According to Stern, BP reported:

"While a pastor's right to preach against same-sex "marriage" may not be threatened by its legalization, many other religious activities may be in jeopardy, the general counsel for the American Jewish Congress told National Public Radio."

BP also reported, in New Hampshire, Democrat Governor John Lynch said he would not sign a same-sex marriage bill unless protections for religious organizations are strengthened. Lynch added an amendment to protect religious freedoms that failed by two votes in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. That argument is not yet completely settled.

The BP report also cites President of the Catholic League for religious and civil rights Bill Donohue, according to the BP article:

"Vaillancourt (an openly gay New Hampshire State Representative) worked to kill the bill because it insulated religious institutions from its reach. "In other words, it was not good enough for Vaillancourt to secure a win on 'gay marriage' -- he had to have it all," Donohue said in a news release." The BP report continued, "Having it all means denying the right of religious institutions not to sanction same-sex "marriage," Donohue said."

A key, if not the key, point of the BP report is this:

"In states where same-sex "marriage" has been legalized, homosexual couples have won consistently when they lodged discrimination complaints against religious groups, Stern said."

I think the above pretty well draws out what I felt were the key points in the first article I linked from BP.

Now, to address one of your other complaints, I don't see the News-Leader providing links within their online reports to back them up, nor do I see the Community Free Press' Web site's pdf edition providing links to back up their reports. It isn't the style of BP to do so, though I have researched some of their past articles and when I have done so, I have usually found them to be pretty conservative in their approach, even shying away from some of the more sensational press revolving around any given issue.

There is plenty of detailed and very specific information provided in the BP report, a person who questions any fact provided in the report might well research the facts within the article to see if they were correctly reported. I, personally, saw nothing within the report that caused me to want to question the facts provided within the article, but, should you decide to check the facts and find something was reported incorrectly, I'm sure BP would want to be made aware of it so that they could make a correction at their news site.

I don't think it is fair to cast aspersions on their credibility without offering some evidence of incorrect reporting.

As far as the word "attack?" I used that word, not BP, and when I used it, it was used in the form of a question...right?

Jeremy D. Young said...

In my opinion, the battle over marriage is easily solved. Remove the authority of the government to involve itself in an inherently religious institution and there will no longer be any fight over who gets married in what ways and in what religious tradition.

It is always dangerous for the government to interfere and attempt to control aspects of personal life.

If there are Christians out there that claim that it will inherently cause our nation to experience a moral decline, then I would argue that this nation began without government interference in marriage, and that the moral decline has already happened. The way to fight against the moral decline is in the streets and neighborhoods by loving your neighbor as yourself and helping them live out a moral life. It cannot be accomplished by any level of government.

Granny said...

Jeremy, I don't understand your comment. Are you saying that marriages should only be performed by churches? What do you mean when you say that marriage is an "inherently religious institution"? Even a casual reading of the history of marriage shows that the church didn't enter this area of civil contract until the Middle Ages.

Jeremy D. Young said...

Genesis 2:24 (NASB) "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."

I'd say that's pretty early in history.

Granny said...

Jeremy, I am asking you honest and sincere questions. Please don't flip me off by quoting a Bible verse. You seriously diminish your credibility with such an unreasoned response.

1. Are you saying that marriages should only be performed in churches? The STANDARD definition of marriage is "the formal union of a man and a woman, typically recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife."

2. Marriage historically existed as a CIVIL contract between families (without church participation) even through the Renaissance. Marriage was and is not "an inherently religious institution."

For wealthy families in cities such as Florence, Venice, and Milan, the ideal marriage depended on a sizable dowry provided by the bride’s family—not only money and property, but a variety of goods for the bride’s new home. The lavish wedding celebrations of the period were marked by extravagant gifts, such as maiolica decorated with narratives or portraits; rare Venetian glassware; rings (including one of the earliest known diamond wedding rings) and other jewelry; delicate gilded boxes; and vividly painted cassoni, or bridal chests, which would be filled with costly linens and clothing.The church---organized religion---was not involved in any way in marriages.

I hope you don't mind historical and factual detail. Marriage is now and always has been first and foremost a civil contract. People who want to get married should be free under the law to do so, so long as they meet the requirements of the law (they are of the age of consent, etc.)

Church, synagogue or mosque members, Wiccans, pagans, Zoroastrans or Buddhists who who wish to sanctify their vows in their houses of worship should also be free do so, without any interference by the government.

Jeremy D. Young said...

I apologize for my brief response earlier. I was only responding to the origin of marriage.

1. I'm saying that marriage is a religious institution and that Congress shall make no law affecting such institution.

2. The government should not interfere in any contract that two free people wish to enter into.

The reason this is a solution is because the government would no longer be involved. As long as two people sign a piece of paper that designates something that they agree to, they should be allowed to do so.

The complicated set of laws that reward people by default based upon being married is not the place of government, and this set of awards and benefits is the power being fought over. Remove the power and benefit, remove the fight.

The IRS is a major place to start. If the Government didn't invade our lives so thoroughly in order to encourage certain behavior or discourage other behavior, there would be far less incentive to fight over these things.

Instead of using marriage as a basis for many things such as visitation rights at hospitals or such, there should be simple to operate voluntary registries of who you give permission for various activities.

I'm talking about true freedom here. Freedom is what we should strive for, and Christians should once again strive to protect the freedoms of all.