21 May 2011

Infringement or Illusion?

Sitting in Borders Books relaxing after a frenetic week. Realizing that recent life distractions have led me to almost ignore the blog for the last little while. Can’t imagine anybody has missed it much. I haven’t gone anywhere, I’ve just been engaged with real life. Kids and stuff. Priorities. But I do have some thoughts still percolating and have been meaning to write about this particular one for a while.

Starting way back during the Prop 8 debates and continuing on since then, I’ve seen countless commentaries from conservative people and groups, the National Organization for Marriage, various religious groups, etc., all hollering about threats to religious freedom if marriage equality becomes the law of the land. Their ability to practice their religion freely will be infringed, apparently.

And as with all the committed gay relationships and marriages I see around me which are thriving, I look at such claims and say “How? Why? How does this infringe your religious liberty? Why is it bad for you?”

So far, the answers are basically “We won’t be able to teach that homosexuality is an abomination to God anymore, we’ll be forced to perform gay marriages that are theologically offensive, and our children will be force-fed an immoral social agenda in the schools.”

People a lot smarter than me have demonstrated with abundant evidence that all three of these claims are completely bogus. So I won’t rehash them here. This leaves one objection which is never clearly stated as such, because when it is, its silliness is immediately apparent. But it seems quite prevalent nonetheless.

It’s the belief that religious freedom is infringed merely by confronting the phenomenon, the issue of marriage equality. Just having to think about and deal with it seems in many peoples’ minds equivalent to impinging on their religious liberty. This theme underlies much of Dallin Oaks’ speechifying as well as that of many other marriage equality critics affiliated with the LDS and other churches. They seem to assume a constitutional right to keep things “the way they’ve always been” without even thinking about changes.

I have tried to follow the thread of this “logic” through more possible twists and turns than a cat’s cradle, and it still makes no sense to me. How does just thinking about and debating a public policy issue restrict religious freedom? That makes sense only if you define religious freedom as the right to be unquestioned and unoffended. And that’s just silly. There’s no constitutional right to never be offended, or to never have to think about things you disagree with.

I like and respect solid logic and a well-reasoned argument. But this idea of religious freedom being infringed by having to debate this issue at all is just dumb. It’s bogus on its face. It rests on a false assumption that has no legal basis whatsoever. And in doing so, it inflicts a great disservice on its own adherents, by leading them to believe something that’s just not true.

Anybody that reads this and disagrees, please jump in. Tell me why I’m wrong. I’m all ears.


Troy said...

hehe. the editorial cartoon says it very well.

I am Landmark said...

Just wanted you to know I *have* missed (and would miss) the blog very much. I stop by once or twice a week, and appreciate your commentary and insight. Please don't stop!

Steven B said...

If I understand your post correctly you are saying that Oaks and other religious people consider merely discussing marriage equality to be an infringement of their religious freedom. But I think Oaks' real fear is that the actual exercise of civil rights and marriage equality for gays and lesbians will infringe upon believer's religious freedom.

Can you think of any examples of merely having to engage in the debate leading to religious freedom infringement?

Perhaps children learning about the reality of gay people may offend some parent's sense that their personal beliefs must not be offended in a public school setting.

Jeremiah Stoddard said...

It's a slippery slope they're worried about. If we allow gay marriage, the reasoning goes, soon the government will force us to perform them in our buildings, or we'll be prohibited from teaching something-or-other.

There is always some potential for this, as lawmakers can get carried away adding one law on top of another. However, if this is the concern, then the only sure way to protect oneself is to get government out of the marriage business entirely. Leave it up to churches and other community organizations. That way nobody's rights are infringed: The conservative church doesn't have to recognize gay marriage, while the gay couple can simply reject that rejection and go somewhere else to get married. The church retains its right to say what it wants, and the rest of us retain our right to ignore its babbling.

A more blunt, if slightly less accurate, way of putting it is that the solution is to ban straight marriage. How I wished I could get up the motivation to make signs saying that during all the prop 8 campaigning.