Bishop Malone: Defend our religious freedom

by BISHOP RICHARD J. MALONE
Mon, Aug 3rd 2015 08:00 am
Bishop of Buffalo
Bishop Richard J. Malone
Bishop Richard J. Malone

The tragic and mistaken Supreme Court decision to redefine marriage legally to include so-called "same-sex marriage" has many negative consequences.  Among those consequences, one of the most alarming, in my judgment, is the threat this ruling poses to the religious freedom of people of faith and faith-based institutions that honor marriage as God has created it to be, the union of one man and one woman, open to the birth and rearing of children.

Freedom of religion and freedom of speech are both under threat.  During the oral arguments in the Obergefell matter, Justice Samuel Alito asked Solicitor General Donald Verrili whether a university or college could lose its tax exempt status if it opposed the redefinition of marriage (same-sex).  The solicitor general's response?  "(I)t's certainly going to be an issue."

How have we arrived at a point in our country when people of faith or faith-based institutions could be discriminated against for choosing to honor the teachings of their faith about the nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman?  Pope Benedict XVI was on target when he cautioned us about the "dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires." 

It is true that the Supreme Court majority affirmed that people of faith should be free to continue teaching our beliefs about marriage.  But will we be free to act on that belief?  After all, is not acting, as well as believing, what is implied in the words "free exercise?"  Can we operate our schools and other institutions according to our established principles of faith and morality without being accused of discrimination, violation of civil rights, or even "hate speech?"

The First Amendment Defense Act will help to protect and ensure the fundamental and cherished American principle of religious freedom.  The bill would prohibit the federal government from "any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage."

Discrimination by the government on the basis of religious belief or practice about marriage would have disastrous results for people and institutions of faith.  We would be labeled bigots.

Our Catholic institutions could be forced to close.  Many people we serve would lose necessary services on which they depend. 

Please keep yourself informed about this challenge, and rise up to defend the First Amendment Defense Act (H.R. 2802/S.1598).

Our Church's defense of the established truth of the nature of marriage as the union of man and woman is no way a denial of the respect we owe to the dignity of people of same sex attraction and to all people. We owe that respect as well to those who disagree with us on this issue.  But the truth of marriage is what it is and will always be.  The Catholic Church will never surrender to the cultural pressure to redefine marriage into something which, in its essence, it is not and can never be.

That said, please be attentive to the harmful consequences of the Supreme Court decision, especially regarding religious freedom.  Do not be passive.  Too much is at stake.  

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