Conn quotes Washington correspondent Rob Marus as saying:
“In all of America’s brouhaha over whether legalizing same-sex marriage will sully the institution’s sanctity,” Marus notes, “very few Christians are asking one important question: When – and why – did the government get into the sanctification business?
“When the preacher, at the end of a marriage ceremony, says, ‘By the power vested in me by the state of (fill-in-the-blank), I pronounce you husband and wife,’ is he or she acting as a minister of the gospel or a magistrate of the government – or both? How does that happen in a society with a First Amendment designed to guarantee functional separation between religion and government?”
In answer to that question, Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn argues that the relationship between religion, marriage and government is rooted in history but has become quite problematic today. Lynn, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, says he has to apply for a license and become an officer of the court in Virginia to serve as an officiant at marriages there.
Lynn said it probably would be a good idea to separate religious marriages from the civil marriages (or civil unions) recognized by the state.
But then those religious folks are still not happy because it would be taking their personal beliefs out of government. Seems some even would love to force others to abide by their own individual traditions and beliefs.
Anti-gay crusader Maggie Gallagher whines:
“I’m not especially in favor of it,” she told ABP.
“A real alternative would be for government to recognize and enforce religiously distinctive marriage contracts so long as they serve the government’s interest – say, permanent ones for Catholics,”
PERMANENT for Catholics? Eeeghads! What about other denominations’ beliefs about marriage and divorce? How would government accommodate them all? And what is this “so long as they serve the government’s interest”???
“But what people who talk about ‘separating marriage and state’ really propose to do is simply to refuse to recognize religious marriage contracts at all. This is not neutrality; it is a powerful intervention by the government into the lives of religious people.”
In response to Gallagher’s proposal, Conn writes:
It sounds like Gallagher would make a bad situation worse. Is she really saying that the government should forbid Catholics to get a divorce in keeping with the tenets of her Catholic faith?
That just illustrates why America might want to consider moving in the other direction. Gallagher and her Religious Right cronies want American civil law to reflect religious doctrine. In a nation that respects freedom of conscience, it should not.
The whole issue of marriage wasn’t so complicated until gays stood up and demanded their right to same-sex marriage and the religious folks have a problem with that.
A person in a comment thread at another blog offers this to think about to make the point that marriage is a legal joining by the STATE. God and ones personal beliefs are in addition to that. Think about what is involved to end a marriage...legally . . .
to end one,
you have to go,
not to the church,
not to the minister for your money back,
but to the secular legal system,
churches have no role in the marriage of two individuals