I sense a conflict of interest here.
Now, a Christian on the Commission for International Religious Freedom – few people will find this problematic, and the ones who do probably aren’t too big on religious freedom to start.
A Christian being anti-gay – not someone I want to be friends with, but if it’s what they think the Bible says then I can tolerate their beliefs.
But as for being anti-gay – to the extent Dr. George is – and on the religious freedom commission?
The problem is Dr. George conflates ‘same-sex marriage’ with ‘violating religious freedom’; he’s one of those sort who seems to think the government will force churches to marry any couples, even couples they disapprove of (they’re not forcing churches to marry any other sort of couples; why start now?). By his logic, if gay marriage is legal, religious freedom will be trampled:
‘Religious groups like Catholic Charities or the Salvation Army may lose their tax exemptions, or be denied the use of parks and other public facilities, unless they endorse gay marriage.’ – NOM Marriage Talking Points
(Incidentally, there have been cases where anti-gay organisations lost federal funding or similar public benefits due to their anti-gay stance, so NOM almost has a good point here. There’s some differences between ‘federal funding’ and ‘tax emptions’, though; most importantly, one requires the organisation in question to be offering the service they receive funding for to anyone, not just people who agree with their beliefs.)
‘Marriage is an objective reality — a covenantal union of husband and wife — that it is the duty of the law to recognize and support for the sake of justice and the common good. If it fails to do so, genuine social harms follow. First, the religious liberty of those for whom this is a matter of conscience is jeopardized…’ – The Manhattan Declaration
Here’s the thing people who claim to be fighting same-sex marriage for ‘religious liberty’ reasons don’t seem to get: there is more than one religion in the US, certainly more than one religion in the world, and not every religion is explicitly anti-gay. Using my own spirituality as an example: I believe all souls are created equal, and should be treated as such. This includes, but is not limited to, equal marriage rights for any informed and consenting individuals of legal age. I can accept religions which believe marriage should be about procreation, but I don’t belong to such a religion; I hold to a spiritual path which believes marriage is about a loving relationship between adults, whether they have (or are able to have) children or not and regardless of the sort of sex they may or may not be engaging in.
It is therefore equally a violation of my religious freedom to not allow same-sex marriage. Admittedly, from a strictly religious angle, I don’t care much – I don’t officiate weddings or run a church. But if I did, I would absolutely want the freedom to marry gay couples, and I know there are many ministers and religious communities who feel the same.
At any rate, keeping gay marriage from being legally recognised isn’t doing much to stop it; the aforementioned ministers and churches are still marrying gay couples. I have seen a wedding in which, instead of saying ‘By the power vested in me by [church and state]…’ near the end, the officiant said ‘By the power vested in me by [church], and in blatant defiance of [state]…’. Was the lesbian wedding thus officiated recognised by the state government? Obviously not. Did it stop the couple in question from being married? Depends a bit on your definition of the word ‘marriage’, but they certainly consider themselves so, as did the minister at the wedding.
My point is, there are churches and ministers – i.e., religious people – actively participating in gay marriage, even where it’s not yet legally recognised. Is it really such a huge leap to suggest these people have the same ‘freedom of religion’ to perform such weddings – and have them actually acknowledged – as other churches have to deny such weddings?
If someone is to truly fight for religious freedom, they need to fight for all of us to have the freedom to follow our chosen religious beliefs. While they’re fighting for their right to refuse recognition to same-sex couples, they must also fight for the rights of others to celebrate those same couples. Anyone with beliefs about gay marriage ‘jeopardising religious liberty’ is indicating they’d prefer fighting for Christian freedoms, and only a particular subset of Christianity at that.
Upsetting the Apple Cart – in which I take Chuck Colson up on his challenge to find offensive content in the Manhattan Declaration. Spoiler: it’s a really long post.
Conflicting interpretations of 7 major passages about same-gender sexual behavior – Regardless of how any given person believes these verses should be interpreted, it’s not a far stretch to read them as not actually being anti-gay. Not mentioned in the linked article: the very word ‘homosexual’ is a relatively new one, not existing in English at the time the KJV was translated, and with no ancient Hebrew/Greek/Aramic equivalent. To actually condemn homosexual acts would have required a proper description of such acts, not a one- or two-word reference to ‘homosexual offenders’ as some more recent translations have.