The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Somehow, I fail to understand it

There is a post by Matthew Franck on the “Real Clear Politics” site dated June 19, 2013, with the title “Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Freedom, Fundamentally at Odds” that seems totally nonsensical to me.

First of all, the post concedes that in any state that legalizes same-sex marriage, no priest, rabbi, or other clergyman will be forced to solemnize a marriage that would be invalid under his religion's rules — but he considers this meaningless because the First Amendment would make it illegal to force them to do so; which seems to mean that the “religious freedom” aspect of the First Amendment is being taken into account. So far, I see no conflict with “religious freedom.” So let's see where he finds it.

It seems that Mr. Franck feels it would be an interference with the religious freedom of a baker to make him bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, or an interference with the religious freedom of the owner of a hall to make them open it to a wedding reception for such a couple. But they are not being forced to recognize, in any formal way, that marriage. Does such a baker now request a marriage license before baking a wedding cake? I doubt it. He could simply be asked to provide a cake, of the style he normally does for a wedding cake, for a party, and even if he does not think there is a legitimate wedding involved, I think he would bake the cake. Similarly, the owner of the hall would simply be letting out the place for a party which the couple involved is calling a “wedding reception,” even if the hall owner thinks of it simply as a party. I doubt that anyone would be engaging in “immoral conduct” in the reception hall itself!

Similar refutations apply to every single case that Mr. Franck raises. A college that provides housing to married couples probably also has housing for roommates; if those roommates are gay, what they do behind closed doors is not, normally, something of which the college is aware anyway. If they choose to call themselves “married” and the State agrees, the college doesn't have to do so. It can simply call them roommates.

I really do not see how anyone's religious freedom is affected here. I'd like to be enlightened.

There is even a reference in Mr. Franck's post to the termination, a few years ago, of Catholic Charities' provision of adoption referral services in Massachusetts. The chairman of the board of directors for Catholic Charities of Boston at the time, Peter Meade, says otherwise:

Like many of my fellow Catholics, I believe our greatest commandment is to help those who are in need and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That call is why I joined the board of directors of Catholic Charities of Boston.

I was especially proud of our work facilitating the adoption of abandoned and neglected children.

Catholic Charities used the one and only criteria that’s appropriate for adoption agencies — the best interest of the child.

For nearly two decades, Catholic Charities arranged adoptions to families who would provide safe, loving homes for the children we worked with, many of whom were from difficult backgrounds and harder to place.

We placed kids according to their needs and to make sure that they would find a loving and stable adoptive home. The kids always came first.

Most of these children, as a matter of fact, were adopted by straight couples, but during 15 years, about 13 were placed in the stable, secure and loving homes of same-sex couples.

Then in 2005, tragically, and out of the blue, the Vatican told our agency to cease using the single criteria of “best interest of the children.”

They ordered us to stop facilitating adoptions to households headed by gay men and lesbians.

I objected.

First and foremost, the Church hierarchy was telling us to ignore the best interests of the children we were trying to place. But just as important, the bishops were telling us to ignore decades-old anti-discrimination laws.

Catholic Charities had signed a contract with the state and accepted taxpayer money to provide adoption services for hard to place children. Some of these kids were older, had behavioral issues or chronic medical conditions.

When organizations accept taxpayer dollars, they have to follow anti-discrimination laws that are in place to make sure everyone is treated equally. If we excluded qualified families simply because they were gay or lesbian, we would violate those laws.

When taxpayers are footing the bill, you can’t discriminate against people. It is part of the contract to do the work.

The decision had nothing to do with marriage, and the conflict would likely have occurred regardless of whether same-sex couples could legally marry.

The board reacted strongly to the Vatican’s order, voting 42-0 against excluding gay and lesbian families from adoption services. From the board’s point of view, the decision was wrong for children and a violation of longstanding law.

When the hierarchy persisted in its demand, the organization had little choice but to end adoption services. They had made the decision to put other interests ahead of what was best for the children we served.

Along with seven other board members, I resigned.

While the adoption services Catholic Charities had provided were immediately filled by other social service agencies, the decision broke my heart.

It is simply untrue to claim that legalizing marriage for same-sex couples caused any of this to happen.

Catholic Charities had been facilitating adoptions for gay families for 15 years before same-sex couples could marry in Massachusetts. And ending that practice was a choice made by Catholic Charities under extreme pressure.

As a Catholic, my faith continues to call me to serve the neediest among us, and to treat every person as a child of God.

What happened in Massachusetts was wrong because the hierarchy lost sight of our mission to serve children, and it could have been avoided. But I cannot allow what happened with Catholic Charities to become a weapon against allowing same-sex couples to receive a marriage license in Maine.

It’s a terrible shame that opponents of marriage are willing to distort and twist the truth to achieve a political victory by scaring people into thinking that allowing two loving, committed people to marry will somehow turn the world upside down.

Can one really say that it is more in violation of Catholic dogma to allow a same-sex couple who is married according to State law to adopt a child than to allow a couple to adopt who is just living together? And Meade confirms, as I've read elsewhere, that Catholic Charities had been doing that for years. So it's clear that same-sex marriage did not abuse freedom of religion there.

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