Apr 27, 2015

Where religious arguments against same-sex marriage are secular

Many religious groups worry that secular arguments undercut their ability to participate in public debate, telling the court that their arguments actually are religious. It is, in fact, important to them that their arguments are religious. If the court excludes religious rationales, deeming theological motivations irrational, then religious people cannot speak on the moral, social issues they care about so deeply.

One brief, filed by five Christian conservative groups, including the North Carolina Values Coalition and the Christian Family Coalition, warns that the “American judicial system is becoming allergic to religious expression or influence in the public square.”

The groups say that laws defining marriage are always based on people’s religious beliefs — as are all laws. “Every law has a moral foundation and many are based on ‘moral disapproval,’ ” they tell the court. “The question is whose morality will prevail.”

A similar case is made in a brief filed jointly by the National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist, more than a dozen conservative Protestant denominations and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These groups argue that their beliefs about marriage are both religious and practical.

“These beliefs,” they say, “are rooted in our theologies and in centuries of one-to-one counseling and personal experience with intact and broken families, functionally fatherless children, and single mothers.”

The line between religious and secular is not so neat for evangelicals in particular. They reject same-sex marriage because they believe that’s what the Bible says. But they also believe the Bible offers the best and most practical guide to human flourishing, so if the Bible condemns homosexuality it is because it is bad for people and society.

Read the full essay at the Washington Post: Supreme Court briefs reveal religious groups don’t agree on how to oppose same-sex marriage