Representatives from a broad array of faiths, have come together in unity and issued an Open Letter affirming that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and warning that redefining marriage threatens religious freedom as well as the common good. The letter was released on Jan. 12, just days before Religious Freedom Day on Jan. 16.
These leaders come from the largest religious communities, including the National Association of Evangelicals, the heads of many NAE denominations, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Mormon Church and Orthodox Jews.
“It is critically important for the well being of all Americans and for the nation that we have the correct understanding on what marriage is. And Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman that come together to raise family,” said Galen Carey, the Vice President of Government Relations for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) to The Christian Post.
For Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops this letter is a “sign of hope.” “Not only are tens of millions of believing citizens represented in the letter’s signatories, but the letter itself testifies to the growing and shared awareness of just how important marriage and religious freedom are to the well being of our country,” he said.
The letter urges everyone who is concerned with religious freedom to step up and become a defender of marriage’s perennial definition. Leaders noted the possibility of ministers being forced to officiate same-sex “weddings” could be one of the greatest threats to religious freedom in the United States in the modern era.
“We believe the most urgent peril is this: forcing or pressuring both individuals and religious organizations-throughout their operations, well beyond religious ceremonies-to treat same-sex sexual conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct,” the leaders expressed in the letter.
The leaders represent significant number of Americans. According to a study released by The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life there are 246,780,000 Christians in America, representing 79.5% of the population. Meanwhile, there are 131,729 same sex married couples and 514, 735 same-sex unmarried partner households in the U.S, according to the 2010 census.
For the religious leaders, there is no doubt that many people hold moral and religious convictions forbidding same-sex sexual conduct will resist the compulsion of the law. They pointed that altering the definition of “marriage” changes hundreds, even thousands of laws at once.
“By a single stroke, every law where rights depend on marital status-such as employment discrimination, employment benefits, adoption, education, healthcare, elder care, housing, property, and taxation-will change so that same-sex sexual relationships must be treated as if they were marriage,” they stated.
It is also highlighted in the letter, that the same sex marriage laws would be required by law religious adoption services to provide services that go against their faith belief. Religious marriage counselors, for example would be denied their professional accreditation for refusing to provide counseling in support of same sex marriage. Also, religious employers would face lawsuits for taking any adverse employment action against an employee for the public act of obtaining a civil "marriage" with a member of the same sex.
The leaders accuse that the refusal of these religious organizations to treat a same-sex sexual relationship as if it were a marriage marked them and their members as bigots, subjecting them to” the full arsenal of government punishments and pressures reserved for racists.”
New Jersey is one example. The state canceled the tax-exempt status of a Methodist-run boardwalk pavilion used for religious services because the religious organization would not host a same-sex “wedding”. In San Francisco, the government dropped its $3.5 million in social services contracts with the Salvation Army, after it refused to recognize same sex “domestic partnerships in its employee benefits.
The leaders hope and urge all people to protect the traditional definition of marriage that has stood for thousands of years as the union between one man and one woman, and to consider the consequences for religious freedom if marriage is redefined.
“I hope that people will be concerned and become active and debate on the question in their local communities and in the national level as well,” he said to CP.
Signers included Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; and H. David Burton, presiding bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.