The Scope of Religious Freedom

A recent article (apparently not online) in The Rhode Island Catholic summarized same-sex marriage legislation introduced to the General Assembly as follows:

Both Chafee and House Speaker Gordon Fox support allowing same-sex couples to marry. Last Thursday, Rep. Arthur Handy and Sen. Rhoda Perry filed bills that would recognize “civil marriage” between same gender individuals, but giving religious institutions the opportunity not to participate.

Having some history following this issue, I thought to take a look at the actual language that the local diocesan newspaper treats as containing religious exemptions. Here’s the text of the relevant paragraphs of H5012:

Protection of freedom of religion in marriage. – (a) Consistent with the guarantees of freedom of religion set forth by both the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 3 of the Rhode Island Constitution, each religious institution has exclusive control over its own religious doctrine, policy, and teachings regarding who may marry within their faith, and on what terms. No court or other state or local governmental body, entity, agency or commission shall compel, prevent, or interfere in any way with any religious institution’s decisions about marriage eligibility within that particular faith’s tradition.
(b) Consistent with the guarantees of freedom of religion set forth by both the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 3 of the Rhode Island Constitution, ordained clergy, ministers or elders as described and authorized in sections and 15-3-6 of the general laws to officiate at a civil marriage shall not be obligated or otherwise required by law to officiate at any particular civil marriage or religious rite of marriage.

The legislation also adds a paragraph distinguishing legally recognized marriages as civil marriages. Arguably, a hostile judge could find that language describing eligible “officials empowered to join persons in marriage” does not mean clergy have a right to perform civil marriage if they refuse to do so without regard to the gender of the spouses.
More importantly, the freedom-of-religion section of the bill is narrowly worded to protect “decisions about marriage eligibility within that particular faith’s tradition.” That includes the definition of marriage for activities related to the exercise of religion, but does not necessarily include the definition for activities related to employment within the religious organization or to receipt of services provided thereby. In other words, the fact that a church does not recognize same-sex marriage for the purposes of its religious rites does not mean that it will be permitted to do so when providing benefits to employees spouses or when determining what counts as marriage when distributing charitable services.
Religious faiths tend not to segment their religious activities apart from the way they live their lives in all capacities. That is, to believers charity is an expression of faith, as is one’s interaction in the workplace. The government (and this particular legislation) does not share that broad view.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
9 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Phil
Phil
10 years ago

“Religious faiths tend not to segment their religious activities apart from the way they live their lives in all capacities.”
Theocracy, anyone? Religious organizations should be treated as any other entity when it comes to employment, housing, and charity. Maybe they should begin to pay taxes like the rest of us too.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
10 years ago

Phil-brilliant idea-let’s tax religions.
I don’t belong to a religion,so I don’t have a dog in the fight,but I can foresee how some particular religion might be taxed out of existence.
This would be against the spirit and letter of the Constitution.
You cannot force a religion to accept homosexuality or anything else they don’t believe in.
You seem very concerned about protecting Islam=a religion that punishes apostasy or blasphemy by death.
Theocracy,anyone?

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
10 years ago

I forget the black comic who crudely and vulgarly cut to the chase on this issue:
“Gay marriage should be passed the minute a baby pops out of a man’s a******”
Maybe all the self hating white Third World Supremacists (Jerzyk, Segal this is YOU) should learn a lesson from how those places deal with these pathetic sex offenders. Hint-google “Uganda Iran Iraq gay”.

bella
bella
10 years ago

And it was evangelical Christians from America who cunsulted Ugandan officials on how to promote and legislate genocide against gays. The Ugandan government does a far better job of that than it does keeping its people fed or employed.
Maybe that’s our next Egypt or Tunisia.

triplerichard
triplerichard
10 years ago

Tommy, are you saying that all gay people are pathetic sex offenders. Please let us know when you remember the name of the “black comedian” that you are now taking your political cues from.

Swazool
Swazool
10 years ago

For the sake of young homos, I will be happy when marriage passes in a few weeks, so they will not have to be subjected or witness the hatred from those who debate this issue.

Phil
Phil
10 years ago

“In other words, the fact that a church does not recognize same-sex marriage for the purposes of its religious rites does not mean that it will be permitted to do so when providing benefits to employees spouses or when determining what counts as marriage when distributing charitable services.”
This is close to a lie. Private charities can discriminate as it chooses but if the charity operates as a contractor for the government then it must adhere to the rules that are set by government for all contractors.

Justin Katz
10 years ago

I wonder, Phil: Did you sit around all day trying to figure out how to spark a response? So now the infanticide-supporting commenter who thinks that allowing religious believers to behave in public as if their faith might actually be true is tantamount to theocracy is calling me a close-to liar.
Look at Catholic Charities in MA, with adoption. Look around the country at religious groups that have tried to limit the use of their property or services. Anything that requires a license or permit will be subjected to discrimination lawsuits and government sanction.

Phil
Phil
10 years ago

Justin
Catholic Charities in Mass ended it’s adoption work in 2006 rather than comply with Mass law recognizing gay parents right to adopt children. Catholic Charities were acting as a contractor for the State at the time. The Mormon Church operates in Mass too but privately with no interference from the State.
Thanks for the “infanticide-supporting commenter” description however mistaken. At least you didn’t use “baby-killer”. You know it’s too bad that any chance for discussion gets stopped by such phrases. But I’m convinced that you are sincere. BobN answered the question I had put to you. He apparently favors having the enforcement arm of the government deal out punishment for the women who feel differently from the two of you.
The close to a lie comment came from reading of the efforts of proponents of Prop 8 in Calif.. The influence of the Mormon Church and dollars that flowed into Calif. from Utah created a media campaign that left truthfulness behind. The lies spread across the State included what you have suggested would be a consequence of gay marriage. Somehow a law giving everyone the same rights would threaten religious freedom. The Mormon Church orchestrated the campaign creating the group that is active in other states the National Organization for Marriage to be the face of the proposition campaign along with evangelicals and the Catholic Church. The Mormons tried to stay in the background knowing the negative effect they would have with the voters. Catholics apparently poll better. By the way I didn’t sit around all day trying to figure out how to spark a response. But don’t you think it’s odd that you would resent a commenter leaving comments on your blog. What’s the reason for your blog?

Show your support for Anchor Rising with a 25-cent-per-day subscription.