13 February 2013: New era for churches and politics

A new era for churches and politics

The state legislature seems poised to pass a bill enacting civil unions—marriage lite—for couples gay or straight.  It would’ve done so last year were it not for Republicans in charge of the house squashing it first with procedural tricks then outright power.  In the end, it likely cost them their majority, having been relegated to minority status in the November election.

Republicans were in a terrible bind because a few open-minded representatives in their caucus, including Cheri Gerou of Evergreen, had decided to support civil unions.  It wouldn’t do for a civil union bill to pass on their watch, for what would the neighbors think, neighbors as in the guardians of Republican orthodoxy: Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, et al?

Conservatives across the pond are not so squeamish.  A sizeable plurality—nearly 43 percent—actually has moxie and with their support passed a full gay marriage bill last week in the Tory-led parliament.  Prime Minister David Cameron called it “an important step forward.”

Yes, it is.  The movement to full-marriage equality is the latest, if not the final necessary step, to escape the bondage of an intolerant, bigoted, and repressive past.

As debate continues on this side of the pond, especially given more states are awakening and giving assent to the idea that gay brothers and lesbian sisters are just as deserving of equal protection under the law as they are, we’re hearing more utterances about “religious liberty.”  The chatter is coming from the same folks who bellyache about the rights of women to choose elective surgery now available under the rules of the Affordable Health Care.

The use of the term religious liberty by zealots is misleading at best and a sham at worst, for what is happening is not a restriction of religious liberty but a continuing imposition of their dogma upon the rest of a secular society.  That process has bearings not only on who can marry whom but also, as noted, on health care services and on adoption.

Some religious institutions have opted to participate in and contribute to what are otherwise societal concerns.  Well and good enough, but while that is most appreciated and helpful, it must also be kept in mind that is not religious institutions’ primary mission, which is to save souls, and is ultimately a choice they make.

When religious institutions and organizations such as Catholic Charities come up against a certain set of rules by which they’d rather not play, they cry their religious liberty is being restricted, despite no one stopping them from doing what they are ostensibly about, such as saying mass, hearing confessions, and blessing the faithful.

In this case they are claiming that when gays and lesbians are legally allowed to form partnerships, they will be imposed upon by being forced to open their adoption process to them.

The problem is that it is not true.  Like getting out of the hospital business—after all, running a hospital is a business no matter the managing entity—an option for Catholic Charities and other faith-based organizations is to get out of the adoption business if they find it morally repugnant to allow loving parents to adopt and raise children simply because of the potential parents’ matching body parts.

No one has been nor will be holding a NRA-approved gun to their heads ordering such organizations to continue their work, which in addition to charitable outcomes also has the added advantage of increasing the churches’ power through growing membership and thus tithing.

Despite that, I would like to see them continue their work for it has merit and societal benefit.  Nonetheless, if it comes down to them believing their First Amendment rights are being conflicted, it would be better if they simply close up shops.  Doing so won’t create voids because health care and adoption, like everything else in America, are businesses.  I’m still waiting to learn of truly non-profit non-profits.  Have you ever seen a financially-strapped bishop?

In short, if churches wish to continue with their medieval outlook on life, so be it; but they do so at their own peril for the rest of society is moving on, shaking off bondages from an embarrassing past.

Heck, even the Boy Scouts are beginning to get it by seriously considering to modifying if not lifting their ban on gay men being leaders to which I would like to join my hands and shout, “Amen, brothers and sisters!”

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