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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Polygamy and Gay Marriage
What Americans United for the Separation of Church and State says.

Today, as the House of Representatives debates and takes a roll call vote on the Marriage Protection Amendment. The constitutional amendment limits marriage to one man and one woman, and is clearly designed to end the practice in some states of sanctioning or licensing same-sex marriages. As I have previously said, I don't believe that same-sex marriages should be sanctioned by the government, but it is not a hill that I would die on. If the governments do sanction these marriages without requiring churches who object to the practice to accept them, then I have no problem with the matter. But there's the rub: How can a church that legitimately believes that the Bible condemns homosexual relations (including marriage) not be sued for violations of civil liberties if it declines to recognize a gay marriage if such marriages are legal?

Of course, there are many reasons to believe that gay marriage are not simply an "alternative lifestyle" but damaging to society and to the gay people involved. One listing of potential problems can be found in an article published by the American College of Pediatricians entitled Homosexual Marriage: Is it Time for a Change?

Another reason that has been raised on many occasions is an argument that the same arguments that are being used to justify homosexual marriages can also be used to justify polygamous marriages, i.e., we shouldn't stand in the way of two people wanting to share a committed relationship with each other. I have previously posted on the fact that someone has filed action against the State of Texas arguing that refusing to permit polygamous marriages is discriminatory in an essay entitled Polygamy is a Constitutional Right? I think that anyone who supports gay marriages but does not support polygamous marriages has to show why the arguments are different such that the first should be allowed while the second ought not.

Well, the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (an organization I personally believe holds absurd positions) has taken up he gauntlet (not at my suggestion, unfortunately--I don't have that much clout), and has made an argument for differentiating the two on their website. Were they successful? Let's look.

Doesn’t the country need this amendment to avoid opening the door to polygamy?

A. U.S. courts have long recognized that the government does not have to permit religious practices that are dangerous, that expose people to injury or that foster the suppression of fundamental rights. In countries where polygamy is practiced, women have been denied basic human rights. Many are forced into plural marriages against their will at young ages. The oppression of women spawned by polygamy, courts have ruled, is a compelling reason to ban the practice. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1879 that states may ban plural marriage, and more recent efforts to win legal sanction for it have failed.

Moreover, unlike a ban on polygamy, the marriage amendment is clearly designed to discriminate against a particular American minority group, namely gay and lesbian Americans and their families. Indeed, proponents of the amendment base their concerns on recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have invalidated laws that targeted gay and lesbian Americans for discrimination. Americans United believes that it is unacceptable to insert legally endorsed discrimination of any kind into America's founding document.

The Federal Marriage Amendment: Some Questions And Answers from the Webpage of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Wow, where do I start? I guess I'll start with the idea that "U.S. courts have long recognized that the government does not have to permit religious practices that are dangerous, that expose people to injury or that foster the suppression of fundamental rights." First, did you notice that they are saying that marriage is a religious practice? This is an interesting admission. But second, I think that the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State ("AUSCS") would be some of the last people to take a stand that would argue that long-standing rulings are somehow inviolable. Aren't they the ones who argue that it was right to overturn the long-standing practice of permitting the recitation of prayers in the public schools? Oh, I guess that constitutes "suppressing fundamental rights" even though one could equally argue that Christians are having their fundamental rights stripped in the public square so that some non-Christians are not offended.

What's next? "In countries where polygamy is practiced, women have been denied basic human rights. Many are forced into plural marriages against their will at young ages. The oppression of women spawned by polygamy, courts have ruled, is a compelling reason to ban the practice." So? Does that mean oppression will happen here? Surely they can do better than that. Without some evidence that oppression is occurring in households where men have multiple girlfriends (or women have multiple boyfriends), shouldn't we not assume the worst? After all, there have been many red flags raised about problems that will result from same sex marriages, but the proponents are forever arguing that there is no evidence of such problems (despite the studies noted by the American College of Pedatricians). If we can give the benefit of the doubt to same sex couples, why not polygamous threesomes (or foursomes or fivesomes . . . . )

"Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1879 that states may ban plural marriage, and more recent efforts to win legal sanction for it have failed." The idea that the AUSCS would argue for long-standing precedent is laughable. They, like many other liberal civil liberties organizations, have very little respect for long-standing principles or Supreme Court rulings.

"Moreover, unlike a ban on polygamy, the marriage amendment is clearly designed to discriminate against a particular American minority group, namely gay and lesbian Americans and their families" If you assume that gay and lesbian people are a "particular" (and by that, I think the writer means "distinct") minority group. Not every offbeat characteristic that a person has puts them into a distinct minority group. Skinny people are a minority, but they are not a distinct minority group, for example. Why should I buy into the idea that gays and lesbians are in a distinct minority group while polygamists are not?

Nope, I don't see a reason in what AUSCS says to differentiate between same sex marriages and polygamous marriages. Do you?

2 comments:

Layman says:

"But there's the rub: How can a church that legitimately believes that the Bible condemns homosexual relations (including marriage) not be sued for violations of civil liberties if it declines to recognize a gay marriage if such marriages are legal?"

Did you sleep through Con Law? The Free Exercise Clause prevents churches from being sued over their doctrines.

The Catholic Church is immune from suit forcing it to recognize remarriages after divorce. Jewish temples are not forced to recognize marriages that they consider un-"kosher" - remarriage when the husband refuses to give his ex-wife a get.

What possible set of facts would force any church to recognize a gay marriage?

===

Your attacks on Americans United are baseless.

"First, did you notice that they are saying that marriage is a religious practice?"

If you claim a right to marry multiple people based on your religion, it has to be a religious practice. But it is also a legally defined secular institution with numerous tax and financial planning aspects.

"I think that the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State ("AUSCS") would be some of the last people to take a stand that would argue that long-standing rulings are somehow inviolable. Aren't they the ones who argue that it was right to overturn the long-standing practice of permitting the recitation of prayers in the public schools? Oh, I guess that constitutes "suppressing fundamental rights" even though one could equally argue that Christians are having their fundamental rights stripped in the public square so that some non-Christians are not offended."

Can you cite a ruling that upheld the practice of public prayer in schools, or of government written prayer? What fundamental right do Christians have to hijack the government to support their prayers? What part of "Congress shall make NO LAW respecting an establishment of religion" did you miss?

"Without some evidence that oppression is occurring in households where men have multiple girlfriends (or women have multiple boyfriends), shouldn't we not assume the worst? After all, there have been many red flags raised about problems that will result from same sex marriages, but the proponents are forever arguing that there is no evidence of such problems (despite the studies noted by the American College of Pedatricians). If we can give the benefit of the doubt to same sex couples, why not polygamous threesomes (or foursomes or fivesomes . . . . )"

Studies of polygamy in the US, primarly among funadmantalist Mormons, show that it exists in a context of child abuse (older men in arranged marriages with teenagers), incest, and welfare fraud.

Responsible studies of gay parenting show no problems. The mis-named American College of Pediatricians is not a good source.

The American College of Pediatricians is not a professional organization. It is an ideologically based organization formed to opposed abortion and homosexuality in the face of the overwhelming evidence that gay parents can raised fine kids, which has been accepted by the professional association for Pediatricians, the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"The idea that the AUSCS would argue for long-standing precedent is laughable. They, like many other liberal civil liberties organizations, have very little respect for long-standing principles or Supreme Court rulings."

Did you also sleep through your Civil Procedure courses where they explained stare decisis?

"Skinny people are a minority, but they are not a distinct minority group, for example. Why should I buy into the idea that gays and lesbians are in a distinct minority group while polygamists are not?"

California's state civil rights law does prohibit discrimination on the basis of weight, so skinny people would be protected if they in fact suffered any discrimination, as obese people do.

But no person is born a polyamist or with the gene for polygamy.

So it is easy to support AU's position.

A couple of thoughts to your post:

First, your attacks on what I know from law school are pretty weak "Anonymous". You say that a church is free from suit for its doctrines? I think you need to consider such cases as Employment Decision v. Smith (1990) 494 U.S. 872, where the court permitted a generally applicable law to trump a religious practice. So, what set of facts could support a church to support a gay marriage? How about a withdrawl of their 501(c)(3) status if they fail to do so?

You ask: "Can you cite a ruling that upheld the practice of public prayer in schools, or of government written prayer? What fundamental right do Christians have to hijack the government to support their prayers? What part of "Congress shall make NO LAW respecting an establishment of religion" did you miss?" Let's start with the fact that the Constitution says that "Congress shall make no law . . . ." Were you aware that Congress never has? It is States that have done so (or were you unaware of that?). So, other than a rather interesting inversion of the Constitutional language, what right does the Court have to strike down any law about prayer in enacted by a State. Second, on what basis do you claim that "respecting an establishment of religion" includes anything more than the fact that the federal government cannot establish a federal church? Oh, I'm sorry. You probably slept through that part, right?

You also state: "Responsible studies of gay parenting show no problems. The mis-named American College of Pediatricians is not a good source. * * * It is an ideologically based organization formed to opposed abortion and homosexuality in the face of the overwhelming evidence that gay parents can raised fine kids, which has been accepted by the professional association for Pediatricians, the American Academy of Pediatrics." Well, that's your opinion. Can you support that or are you just adopting the studies that support the point of view that you hold? Can you show me that the American Academy of Pediatricians isn't making an "idealogically based" conclusion here?

You also ask: "Did you also sleep through your Civil Procedure courses where they explained stare decisis?" Apparently you did if you haven't noticed that stare decisis is a doctrine that is a rather fluid doctine that is used by the Supreme Court or not used by the Supreme Court depending upon their mood.

"But no person is born a polyamist or with the gene for polygamy." I would agree that their probably isn't, but there isn't sufficient evidence either way to establish it any more than there is such evidence either way on the issue of homosexuality.

Look, I don't mind having a discussion, but the tone of your comment is more attack than reasoned (hence, my response in the same vein). If you want to discuss this further in a civil manner, let me know. I think you will find that I know more than you are giving me credit for.

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