Analysis of its marriage & religious freedom sections
About the Manhattan Declaration:
A group of over 150 "Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical" Christian
leaders released their Manhattan Declaration -- a call
for all Christians to resist many changes to the culture. It advocates civil disobedience
where necessary. 1
They are justifiably concerned with the relatively sudden rise in the
percentage of out-of-wedlock birth rate from less than 5% to more than 40%
over the past
two generations. Yet they oppose one method of making at least a slight inroad
on this number by legalizing same-sex marriage (SSM). Many "out of wedlock"
children are being raised in single-parent families without financial or
emotional support from the other partner. This should be a concern for all
Americans, whether they be a conservative Christian, a progressive Christian,
a member of
another faith, or a secularist.
They oppose unilateral divorce. Yet that policy would result in more
children being raised in a conflict-ridden home by parents who hate each
other. Therapists and child psychologists disagree on whether that would
damage children more or less than divorce.
There is no mention of two major programs that could significantly reduce
the divorce rate: pre-marital counseling and separation counseling.
They appear to discount child rearing by same-sex married couples, even
though many of the latter adopt and raise children. Lesbian couples often conceive
and raise children just as infertile opposite-sex couples do: through
artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilization.
They discount all same-sex relationships as intrinsically immoral and
sinful. Other Christians regard all loving, committed relationships and
marriages as potentially moral, whether the couple are of the same-sex or
opposite-sex, as long as manipulation, and coercion are not present, and the activities are safe.
They seem to imply that the only valid marriage requires procreation. This would seem to negate the validity of marriages where one spouse is infertile, or where the spouses were elderly and beyond the ages when procreation is possible. In particular, they denigrate many families in which the spouses have adopted children.
They correctly argue the main points of disagreement by Christians over
same-sex marriage (SSM): liberals view marriage as a civil right that is not
to be denied on the basis of a person's sexual orientation. Religious and
social conservatives oppose
same-sex marriage because, among other reasons, they are concerned that it
might lead down a "slippery slope" to demands to legalize incestuous marriages, polygamous marriages, or even, as has been suggested as possibilities: men wanting to marry their dogs and women wanting to marry the Eiffel Tower in Paris or other structures.
They list a number of harms that they believe would result from legalizing
Infringement on the religious liberty of those who oppose SSM. Many Christians
reject this as a valid concern. The First Amendment to the
U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of denomination to discriminate in
employment and in the provision of services without government interference. Many conservative Christian
denominations deny all women the right to ordination with impunity. Faith
groups have denied marriage to interracial couples, same-sex couples,
non-members, etc. without any government interference. The Roman
Catholic Church has even denied marriage to disabled persons if they would
be unable to consummate the marriage. To our knowledge, no clergyperson or church or denomination has ever been charged with discrimination after denying marriage to a couple for any reason.
Schools would teach that both opposite-sex and same-sex marriages exist.
It can be argued that this is a topic about which all students and adults
should be aware because it has been a fact of life in Massachusetts since 2004, in Canada since 2005 and in the District of Columbia and a growing number of other states since 2005.
They equate the creation of marriage equality with "eroding a sound
understanding of marriage." Other Christians have a very different "sound
understanding of marriage" that includes SSM couples. Other
feel that to allow loving committed same-sex couples to marry will
strengthen the institution of marriage. They often point to Massachusetts as the state that was
first to legalize SSM and continues to be the state with the lowest divorce in the union.
Their desire to improve opposite-sex marriages and to strengthen the
marriage culture is one that almost all Christians, followers of other religions, and secularists can agree with.
However, many persons who are not conservative Christians also feel that
this effort should be include all marriages -- whether by
opposite or same-sex spouses. Since 2011, a majority of American adults have supported same-sex marriage.
Sometimes, this takes a minor form, as in the use of quotation marks around
the word "marriage" whenever it refers to same-sex marriage in order to denigrate
SSM. Other times, it involves very serious matters, like the government denying faith groups
that want to marry loving committed same-sex couples their right to perform
such marriages. It may also involve access by married opposite-sex
couples to birth control, or access to assisted fertility services, or even
access to referrals to other groups that can provide such services.
If we have a situation in which some denominations promote marriage for both
opposite and same-sex couples, while other faith groups are anxious to preserve
marriage as a special privilege of opposite-sex couples, then true religious
freedom would seem to imply that all denominations should be free to follow
their own teachings. In fact, all legislation that has legalized same-sex marriages in the U.S. have included clauses allowing religious groups to freely discriminate. But unless a state legalizes same-sex marriage, no congregation that supports SSM can marry its own same-sex couples.
The declaration refers to sexual relations by a same-sex married couple to be
intrinsically immoral as if this is a fact accepted by everyone. In reality, many Christians
regard such sexual relations by both same-sex and opposite-sex as immoral when
they are unsafe or when coercion or manipulation is involved, but otherwise view them as morally neutral or
positive. As noted above, since 2011, a majority of American adults have supported same-sex marriage.
They refer to the decision of Catholic Charities in the state of
Massachusetts to terminate its
activities because state law required them to consider all married couples as
potential adopting parents. They closed down their agency in order to avoid treating same-sex couples equally.
They refer to the Ocean Grove Boardwalk Pavilion, a Methodist institution in New Jersey. That group had obtained tax exempt status after
agreeing that their facility would be a "public accommodation." That is, they would
provide goods and services to the general public. The group broke their agreement with the Government when they refused to allow a lesbian couple to conduct
their civil union at
the pavilion. This conflict triggered a lawsuit that was settled in 2012-JAN in favor of the same-sex couple. The group lost their tax exempt status.
They refer to European clergy who were prosecuted for denigrating
homosexuality in their sermons. This apparently refers to the case of Pastor Åke
Green, a Pentecostal clergyperson in Sweden who was charged with religious hate speech and later had his conviction overturned. They
fail to mention that he was convicted under a hate speech law. Hate
speech laws in the U.S. do not exist. Further they cannot exist because of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The refer to a Canadian clergyperson(s) who were similarly prosecuted for delivering sermon(s)
containing hate speech against homosexual behavior. The details of this case are not clear. However, the Criminal Code of Canada, which applies across the entire country, only prohibits hate speech in a religious setting when it advocates genocide.
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