Wednesday, January 9, 2013

NOM Arguing Against Religious Freedom???

Now this is awkward. The National Organization for Marriage – an organization who claims to be all about “freedom of religion” – has decided to advocate against said freedom. In a post on the National Organizations for Marriage’s website, blogger Thomas Peters decided to throw a conniption fit about the decision by the Washington National Cathedral to host same-sex weddings, stating,

"Examples like this remind us that when you redefine "civil" marriage you create the new possibility of same-sex ceremonies in churches. Gay marriage advocates love to artificially split these two recognitions of marriage when they think it suits their purposes but the categories always re-collapse as soon as a liberal church like this one decides it wants to conduct ceremonies with same-sex partners. The simplest way to prevent same-sex ceremonies in churches is to fight for the recognition of marriage in civil law."

Peters claims that by changing civil law, society will be “creating the new possibility of same-sex ceremonies in churches”, yet this is a hilarious, yet at the same time sad, assertion. Many religious organizations (Episcopal, Reformed Judaism, Unitarian etc.) have been performing same-sex commitment and/or marriage ceremonies for years, with or without the blessing of the State. So even if religious conservatives and those opposed to marriage equality fight against civil recognition for gay couples, civil prohibition of marriage equality does not automatically “prevent same-sex ceremonies” in churches.

Yet there are two interesting things to note about what NOM has done in this post. First, we can see them engaging in an argument which seeks to assert that because the Washington National Cathedral is allowing same-sex weddings to be performed under its roof, ALL churches and religious groups will be required to do so. Such an argument overlooks the basic protections for religious organizations contained in the First Amendment. No matter what NOM wants to claim, a Southern Baptist church will never be forced to perform a marriage ceremony against their will. In the end, such rhetoric is a useless scare tactic that Peters is using to whip social conservatives into a frenzy against the overbearing and anti-religious gays.

Second, it is interesting that Peters ties marriage equality for same-sex couples to the Washington National Cathedral’s decision to host same-sex weddings. By tying civil marriage equality to performance of same-sex marriages in churches, it seems that NOM is arguing against religious freedom. In this case, NOM is advocating against allowing the Episcopal Church – the National Cathedral is Episcopal – to decide whether they want to perform same-sex marriages. In NOM’s world, “good Christians” must not be allowed to bless same-sex unions, and in ensuring that civil marriage remains discriminatory, they force open and affirming religious groups to not bless same-sex unions. Though this doesn't make sense (as pointed out above, religious groups have been performing same-sex ceremonies for years), it is an interesting look into the NOM mind. 

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