The Illinois legislature legalized same-sex marriage recently–starting on June 1 of next year, same-sex couples will be able to solemnize their relationships in state recognized ceremonies. Advocates stress that churches need not worry, that dissenting churches and clergy will not be required to honor requests by same-sex couples to perform weddings or to use their church facilities for the same.
That’s fine, but as Robert Gilligan writes over at RealClearReligion, religious freedom is not merely contained within the four walls of a church. Religious freedom means just that–everyone has the freedom to hold to their belief systems and exercise those systems as their consciences direct them, just as it is articulated in the First Amendment and driven home in the Fourteenth. But the new law has no provisions recognizing religious freedom outside the church. Businesses, individuals, and faith based organizations outside the church are not protected from dire consequences if they dissent against same-sex marriage.This is alarming, given the fact that dissent against the new definition of marriage has become a new unforgivable heresy.
Here is a section of Gilligan’s piece—
It’s all good, lawmakers assured faith groups and religious organizations. Your religious freedom is secure.
Where have we heard that before?
How about three years ago, when Illinois lawmakers promised during floor debate on civil unions legislation that no faith-based social service organizations would be affected. But within six months of civil unions becoming law, all Catholic Charities in the state were pushed out of their longtime mission of caring for abused, abandoned, and neglected children. The state refused to renew contracts for foster care and adoption services because of Charities’ religious belief of not placing children with unmarried couples, be they heterosexual or homosexual.
We know better this time. We know our religious freedom is not protected. And when we asked for more protection, our pleas for fairness were rebuffed and spurned.
What we are seeing in the culture then, is not only a redefinition of marriage, but also a redefinition of religious freedom. Religious freedom has been understood since Locke in the 17th century and before, as an individual right bestowed on each person by God at birth. The right of the individual conscience is a natural right, and the individual is responsible to none but God for the content of his faith. Now, under the new orthodoxy of “equality” and “fairness” which is being thrust upon us, religious freedom means government toleration of your faith system as long as it stays chastened within the four walls of the church.