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March 31, 2015

Ross Douhat’s Seven Questions For Liberals On The Place Of Individuals And Institutions Supporting Traditional Marriage In Contemporary Society

The NY Times commentator asks seven quite pertinent questions about how much space supporters of gay marriage are willing to offer supporters of traditional marriage in the name of pluralism.

1) Should religious colleges whose rules or honor codes or covenants explicitly ask students and/or teachers to refrain from sex outside of heterosexual wedlock eventually lose their accreditation unless they change the policy to accommodate gay relationships? At the very least, should they lose their tax-exempt status, as Bob Jones University did over its ban on interracial dating?

2) What about the status of religious colleges and schools or non-profits that don’t have such official rules about student or teacher conduct, but nonetheless somehow instantiate or at least nod to a traditional view of marriage at some level — in the content of their curricula, the design of their benefit package, the rules for their wedding venues, their denominational affiliation? Should their tax-exempt status be reconsidered? Absent a change in their respective faith’s stance on homosexuality, for instance, should Catholic high schools or Classical Christian academies or Orthodox Jewish schools be eligible for 501(c)3 status at all?

3) Have the various colleges and universities that have done so been correct to withdraw recognition from religious student groups that require their leaders to be chaste until (heterosexual) marriage? Should all of secular higher education take the same approach to religious conservatives? And then further, irrespective of leadership policies, do religious bodies that publicly endorse a traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic view of sexual ethics deserve a place on secular campuses at all? Should the Harvard chaplaincy, for instance, admit ministers to its ranks whose churches or faiths do not allow them to perform same-sex marriages? Should the chaplaincy of a public university?

4.) In the longer term, is there a place for anyone associated with the traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic view of sexuality in our society’s elite level institutions? Was Mozilla correct in its handling of the Brendan Eich case? Is California correct to forbid its judges from participating in the Boy Scouts? What are the implications for other institutions? To return to the academic example: Should Princeton find a way to strip Robert George of his tenure over his public stances and activities? Would a public university be justified in denying tenure to a Orthodox Jewish religious studies professor who had stated support for Orthodox Judaism’s views on marriage?

5) Should the state continue to recognize marriages performed by ministers, priests, rabbis, etc. who do not marry same-sex couples? Or should couples who marry before such a minister also be required to repeat the ceremony in front of a civil official who does not discriminate?

6) Should churches that decline to bless same-sex unions have their tax-exempt status withdrawn? Note that I’m not asking if it would be politically or constitutionally possible: If it were possible, should it be done?

7) In the light of contemporary debates about religious parenting and gay or transgender teenagers, should Wisconsin v. Yoder be revisited? What about Pierce v.Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary?

These are all reasonable questions – several of them (numbers 1-4) based upon situations that have already arisen in our country and others based upon situations that have arisen abroad or upon the demands of some elements of the gay rights/gay marriage movement.

Over at National Review’s Corner, Ed Whelan suggests the answers that lurk in the darkest corners of the hearts of “enlightened” progressive advocates of “tolerance” and “inclusion”.

1 & 2. Religious colleges that fail to accommodate gay relationships should lose their accreditation. Religious colleges, high schools, grade schools, and nonprofits that fail to embrace SSM should lose their tax-exempt status.

3. Public and private universities should withdraw recognition from any student groups that subscribe to traditional religious views on sexuality.

4. No one who embraces traditional religious views on sexuality should be allowed to take part in what Douthat refers to as “our society’s elite level institutions” (including any respected position in government, business, or academia).

5. Ministers who perform marriages recognized by the State are functioning as agents of the State. Therefore, any ministers who refuse to marry same-sex couples shall be denied permission to perform marriages recognized by the State.

6. Churches that decline to bless same-sex unions should have their tax-exempt status withdrawn.

7. Parents do not have any fundamental right to raise their children according to their religious beliefs. Inculcation of traditional religious views on sexuality is a form a child abuse that ought to lead to forfeiture of parental rights.

Frankly, I believe that Whelan’s answers are precisely what society is moving towards – and not in the long run, but in the relatively short term.

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After all, forty years ago I recall the nascent gay rights movement telling Americans that all homosexuals wanted was to be left alone. I recall two decades ago, when we were assured by activists that gay rights were not a threat to religious rights. Even a decade ago, the notion that the law would force businesses to provide services for gay weddings was laughed at by gay activists – and concerns that religious groups and religious institutions would be under siege and facing legal threats and disadvantages because of laws and policies requiring the equal rights for LGBT individuals were defined as scare stories. Today, however, each and every one of the things that Americans were told not to worry about are a reality in our society – and any effort to push back and recover a bit of freedom for those who dissent from the gay orthodoxy is defined as bigotry and hate. Indeed, today the demand of a movement that once claimed that nobody should have to live in a closet is that religious believers go back to the catacombs if they wish to live out their faith, on pain of being (metaphorically, for now) fed to the lions.

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