Sunday, May 28, 2006

Ecclesiastical Shoot Out Over Upcoming Federal Marriage Amendment Vote by the U.S. Senate

What cause could draw together a coalition comprised of all eight U.S. Catholic cardinals, as well as officials of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Church of God in Christ, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and the National Association of Evangelicals? Here is a hint: it is also opposed by a broad coalition of mainstream religious voices in America who “come from many faith traditions including United Methodists, Reform Judaism, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Unitarian Universalists, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ and American Baptists.”

Give up? The Religious Coalition for Marriage released a statement signed by 50 national religious leaders expressing support for the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA), slated for a vote on June 6 in the United States Senate. The group includes all of the U.S. based Roman Catholic cardinals, Southern Baptist officials, Orthodox Jews, LDS Mormons, and the leadership of the National Association of Evangelicals.

As Dr. Richard Land of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention observes, this alliance of faith groups is "truly an historic coalition." He notes that this is the first time these churches, religious leaders, and institutions have coordinated their efforts on this scale.

Land says this has happened because a constitutional amendment is needed to preserve marriage from "radical activists acting through activist courts." These activists who are pushing to legalize marriage between homosexuals are, he asserts, "determined to reinterpret this fundamental institution in novel ways and against the will of the American people."

On the other side are arrayed an impressive number of progressive mainline leaders, calling themselves Clergy for Fairness, agreed on the proposition that, a broad coalition of mainstream religious voices in America must defend religious liberty and speak out against what they view as the discriminatory FMA.

The group of about 30 moderate and liberal Christian and Jewish clergy appeared in a Capitol Hill press conference May 22 to announce a petition and postcard drive to convince senators to vote down the so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment."

"This debate is not about the Bible. It is not about homosexuality per se. It is about basic human rights," said Paul Simmons, a Baptist ethicist and professor at the University of Louisville Medical School in Kentucky, who moderated the press conference.

At the time of this writing 1,787 clergy and other religious leaders had already signed a petition opposing the amendment, S.J. Res. 1. The petition, addressed to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), argues that faith communities should oppose an attempt to restrict the civil rights of one minority group.

"We are concerned that the Marriage Protection Amendment would mark the first time in history that an amendment to the Constitution would restrict the civil rights of an entire group of Americans," the petition says. "Misusing our nation's most cherished document for this purpose would tarnish our proud tradition of expanding citizens' rights by constitutional amendment, a tradition long supported by America’s faith communities."

Since the list of 1,787 names has not been released, it would be impossible to know how many American Baptists have publicly joined in the condemnation of the FMA. However, American Baptists are evidently directly involved in the Clergy for Fairness effort, including those aligned with the Alliance of Baptists. Two years ago the Alliance of Baptists took a stand, stating:

As Christians and as Baptists, we particularly lament the denigration of our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender sisters and brothers in this debate by those who claim to speak for God. We affirm that the Alliance of Baptists supports the rights of all citizens to full marriage equality, and we affirm anew that the Alliance will “create places of refuge and renewal for those who are ignored by the church.”

This Statement of Concern was adopted at the Annual Meeting of the Alliance of Baptists meeting at First Baptist Church in Dayton, Ohio. (April 17, 2004)

It should be an interesting couple of weeks!

To read both sides of the debate:

[His Barking Dog opines on various cultural and theological issues and trends as an INDIVIDUAL voice; please do not confuse this blog with ANY entity or organization]


revdrron said...

What strange bedfellows this issue has created (and no pun intended). When push comes to shove (with some singular doggedness from my dear wife), don’t be surprised to find yours truly landing on the side of the Mormons and the Cardinals. We shall see what the Senate decides; and then the real pyrotechnics will commence.

enjoy, ron

Glenn Layne said...

Most interesting is who ISN'T on the list: none of the sideline denominations!