Friday 13 January 2012

US religious leaders issue joint letter against gay marriage

Yesterday, religious leaders in the United States issued a joint open letter to all Americans entitled: "Marriage and religious freedom: fundamental goods that stand or fall together". The signatories include:
  • Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York; president, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • Nathan J. Diament, Executive Director for Public Policy, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
  • Rev. Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals
  • The Most Rev. Robert Duncan, Archbishop, Anglican Church in North America
  • Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, Chair, Board of General Superintendents, The Wesleyan Church
  • Commissioner William A. Roberts, National Commander, The Salvation Army
  • Dr. George O. Wood, General Superintendent, Assemblies of God
  • Bishop H. David Burton, Presiding Bishop, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The letter says, among other things:
"The promotion and protection of marriage—the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife—is a matter of the common good and serves the wellbeing of the couple, of children, of civil society and all people. The meaning and value of marriage precedes and transcends any particular society, government, or religious community. It is a universal good and the foundational institution of all societies. It is bound up with the nature of the human person as male and female, and with the essential task of bearing and nurturing children.

As religious leaders across a wide variety of faith communities, we join together to affirm that marriage in its true definition must be protected for its own sake and for the good of society. We also recognize the grave consequences of altering this definition.
[W]e believe the most urgent peril is this: forcing or pressuring both individuals and religious organizations—throughout their operations, well beyond religious ceremonies—to treat same-sex sexual conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct. There is no doubt that the many people and groups whose moral and religious convictions forbid same-sex sexual conduct will resist the compulsion of the law, and church-state conflicts will result.

These conflicts bear serious consequences. They will arise in a broad range of legal contexts, because altering the civil definition of “marriage” does not change one law, but hundreds, even thousands, at once.
Therefore, we encourage all people of good will to protect marriage as the union between one man and one woman... We especially urge those entrusted with the public good to support laws that uphold the time-honored definition of marriage..."
Unfortunately, the joint letter omits to:
  • say that the signatories actually "will resist the compulsion of the law" if gay marriage is legalised
  • refer (at least directly) to the "family"
  • refer to parents as the primary educators of their children.
The letter is, however, a sign that opposition within US faith communities to gay marriage is strong and that different religions can come together to uphold the natural moral law.

Another sign of similar opposition to gay marriage has come in recent months from the Scottish Catholic bishops:

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, 11 Sept. 2011:
"[R]edefining marriage will have huge implications for what is taught in our schools and for wider society ... This proposal represents a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right [to marry] ... [M]arriage has always existed in order to bring men and women together so that the children born of those unions will have a mother and a father ... All children deserve to begin life with a mother and father, the evidence in favour of the stability and well being which this provides is overwhelming and unequivocal ... If the Scottish Government attempt to demolish a universally recognised human right [the right to marry], they will have forfeited the trust which the nation, including people of all faiths and none, have placed in them and their intolerance will shame Scotland in the eyes of the world."
Mario Conti, archbishop of Glasgow, 9 Oct. 2011:
"Those in Government need to be respectfully reminded that a mandate to govern does not include a mandate to reconstruct society on ideological grounds, nor to undermine the very institution which, from the beginning, has been universally acknowledged as of the natural order and the bedrock of society, namely marriage and the family. In terms of law, its support and defence have been on a par with the defence of life itself. We weaken it at our peril."
Philip Tartaglia, Bishop of Paisley, 12 Sept. 2011:
"Governments do not have the authority to say what marriage is or to change its nature or to decree that people of the same sex can marry ... Marriage has always existed in order to bring men and women together so that the children born of those unions will have a mother and a father. For that reason, same sex unions cannot fulfil the nature and purpose of marriage ... A Government which favours and allows for same sex ‘marriage’...commits an act of cultural vandalism. Such a government does not deserve the trust which the nation, and including many in the Catholic community, has shown in it  ...[W]ith the introduction a few years ago of civil partnerships for same sex unions, people of the same sex do not need marriage to live as civilly recognised couples who enjoy the same legal protections as married couples."
Such arguments and strength of opposition (including from Pope Benedict, who this week warned that gay marriage" inter alia "threatens the future of humanity") gives SPUC inspiration in our campaign against the Westminster government's proposals for gay marriage - see SPUC's position paper and background paper

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