Saturday, June 28, 2008

"By the power vested in me by the state of . . . "

In his recent post titled Marriage, American Style: Is It Past Time For Church And State To Get A Divorce?AU writer Joseph L Conn proposes that we apply separation of church and state principle to marriage.

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”???

Gallagher continues:

“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


CyberKitten said...

I don't think that the latest debate about marriage has much to do with its sanctity or its definition.

It's about power. The power of the Church to decide who can get married, when and where. If people increasingly have secular weddings (or simply don't get married) then the Church loses another slice of its power and influence. It ends with people ignoring religion in its entirety because it has become irrelevant in their lives.

That's why the Churches around the world are fighting hard to keep marriage related to religious practice. Power & the loss thereof.

tina FCD said...

Whoa! Good comment cyberkitten.

It's not just religious....I had to go to the court house to buy a license to get married. How do we separate all that?

Jason H. Bowden said...

"It's about power."

It is. Progressives have been working to destroy the traditional family for decades. What do they want instead? Noncommittal sex as the only form of relationship, and children raised by the state. Most of their enemies have surrendered without a fight.

CyberKitten said...

Tina said: Whoa! Good comment cyberkitten.

Thanks. I have interesting thoughts from time to time.

Also, if you think about it, most relationships have a distinct power aspect to them - whether its between individuals or between individuals & institutions.

jason b said: Progressives have been working to destroy the traditional family for decades.

Probably because the traditional family sucks and damages everyone involved. Its about time we moved beyond the archaic institution.

jason b said: What do they want instead? Noncommittal sex as the only form of relationship, and children raised by the state.

I think what 'they' want is choice because one size most definitely does not fit all. With the decline (and ultimate death) of the traditional family there will be a plethora of family units (and non-family units) to take its place. Then people will be able to chose what type of family suits them. Seems like a win-win to me.

Stardust said...

I really don't know if there ever has been a "traditional" family except television in the 50s Ozzie and Harriet type family stereotype. My grandmother back in the 30s was left with seven kids to raise on her own when my grandfather walked out and left them all. Men went to war and died and left widows behind to raise the family alone. During WW2 women went off to work in factories to take over the jobs that men usually did...and who tended the children and kept up the "traditional family" status?

There never has been a traditional family...there has always been divorce, one spouse cheating on another, dysfunctional families, and even families who have a stay-at-home mom and a Dad who works may still not be traditional as compared to the Ozzie and Harriet stereotype. I was a stay-at-home mom but we were hardly the Nelsons or the Cleavers.

Some people who are the "traditional" family have kids who are in trouble or have various
issues, while some single moms, like my sister manage to raise a family alone and the children turn out to be quite responsible for themselves at young ages.

There is no traditional marriage.

Tommy said...

Progressives have been working to destroy the traditional family for decades. What do they want instead? Noncommittal sex as the only form of relationship, and children raised by the state. Most of their enemies have surrendered without a fight.

The traditional family is being destroyed? I'm a secular, pro-gay rights, socially liberal straight guy in a "traditional" marriage. I guess somebody forget to send me the memo.