‘Mawidge’ and the Supremes: What you need to know about civil rights and religious liberty


Thank God for The Princess Bride to help us navigate these wedding waters!

Since the landmark civil rights Supreme Court ruling last week on marriage equality, some have raised concern about religious liberty. Will  some religious leaders be “forced” to do things they don’t agree with?

The Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty has a good round up on this.

Don’t let  far right — whether that’s from within the Catholic bishops conference, certain unaffiliated megachurches, or anyone else stir up doubt and instill fear. The Supreme Court ruling was a civil rights ruling, not a First Amendment ruling.

From BJC’s executive director J. Brent Walker:

When the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the same-sex marriage cases, the justices did not invite briefs on religious liberty. In its writ of certiorari granting review, the Court framed the issues to be whether same-sex marriage is constitutionally required under the Fourteenth Amendment and, if not, whether states under Article IV have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it is legal. It did not frame any First Amendment issues.

But, clearly, church-state relations pervade this subject, and several justices turned to the topic in their questions to counsel and in their debate with each other on the bench.

Three such areas of inquiry about religious liberty are noteworthy:
First, Justice Antonin Scalia asked the petitioners’ attorney, Mary Bonauto, whether ministers and the churches they serve would have to perform and host same-sex weddings if they disagreed with that understanding of marriage. The answer from the attorneys, including Bonauto, and Justice Elena Kagan who chimed in, was an unequivocal “no.”
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‘We Are All Oak Creek:’ Last Night’s Prayer Vigil at White House

Photo by RMB

Four hundred people gathered across from the White House last night with a single message: “We are all Oak Creek.”

Responding to the murder of six Sikh worshippers, the wounding of four others, including police officer Lt. Brian Murphy, and the suicide of perpetrator Wade M. Page, hundreds gathered to stand with the Sikh community as they invited prayers for the victims, the murderer, and his family. “Tonight, we are not Jain, Muslim, Hindu,” announced one speaker, “we are all Sikh tonight. We are all Oak Creek. We will not allow fear to overcome us.” (See more photos.)

In a response reminiscent of the Amish during the Nickel Mines, Pa., massacre in 2006, the Sikh community, the fifth largest religion in the world, is not used to the national spotlight in the U.S. But neither do they shy away from an opportunity to introduce their faith to a wider audience and to practice what they preach.

“We are a people of peace. We dedicate our whole lives to this,” said another vigil leader. “When you see this turban, you know that this is our uniform that declares us as one who defends peace, honesty, generosity, humility, devotion, and compassion.”

A 12-year-old Sikh girl spoke to the vigilers to remind them that Wade Page was not their enemy and neither was his family.

“He had a sickness, a disease. One caused by hate,” she said. “I don’t think of the seven who died on Sunday as victims. They are martyrs who will teach us to live as one human family.” Remarkably, she included Page among the victims of hate.

On Sunday, Sikh communities around the country will be gathering again for prayer vigils. They invite all people to pray together, share a meal (a central component to Sikh belief), and discuss what it means to be part of the moral fabric of America.–Rose Marie Berger

Obama on Civil Marriage for Gays and Lesbians and His Christian Faith

President Obama discusses his evolving thinking on civil unions and civil marriages, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, the difference between state solutions and a federal act, religious liberty, the Black church, college Republicans and gay issues, the Defense Against Marriage Act, and his Christian faith. I highly recommend reading the transcript to get the full texture and context of the President’s comments.

Transcript: Robin Roberts ABC News Interview With President Obama (9 May 2012)

ROBIN ROBERTS: Good to see you, as always–

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good to see you, Robin.

ROBIN ROBERTS: Mr. President. Thank you for this opportunity to talk to you about– various issues. And it’s been quite a week and it’s only Wednesday. (LAUGH)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: That’s typical of my week.

ROBIN ROBERTS: I’m sure it is. One of the hot button issues because of things that have been said by members of your administration, same-sex marriage. In fact, your press secretary yesterday said he would leave it to you to discuss your personal views on that. So Mr. President, are you still opposed to same-sex marriage?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well– you know, I have to tell you, as I’ve said, I’ve– I’ve been going through an evolution on this issue. I’ve always been adamant that– gay and lesbian– Americans should be treated fairly and equally. And that’s why in addition to everything we’ve done in this administration, rolling back Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell– so that– you know, outstanding Americans can serve our country. Whether it’s no longer defending the Defense Against Marriage Act, which– tried to federalize– what is historically been state law.

I’ve stood on the side of broader equality for– the L.G.B.T. community. And I had hesitated on gay marriage– in part, because I thought civil unions would be sufficient. That that was something that would give people hospital visitation rights and– other– elements that we take for granted. And– I was sensitive to the fact that– for a lot of people, you know, the– the word marriage was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs, and so forth.

But I have to tell you that over the course of– several years, as I talk to friends and family and neighbors. When I think about– members of my own staff who are incredibly committed, in monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together. When I think about– those soldiers or airmen or marines or– sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf– and yet, feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is gone, because– they’re not able to– commit themselves in a marriage.

At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that– for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that– I think same-sex couples should be able to get married. Now– I have to tell you that part of my hesitation on this has also been I didn’t want to nationalize the issue. There’s a tendency when I weigh in to think suddenly it becomes political and it becomes polarized.

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