Shifting boundaries

Chuck Colson
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Posted: May 16, 2006 11:05 AM
A few months ago, I told you about the agonizing choice facing Catholic Charities of Boston: Either serve the needy or remain faithful to Catholic teaching. Specifically, the only way it could continue to handle adoptions according to Massachusetts law was to include same-sex couples among its clientele.

While the Massachusetts law is not new, a new interpretation of the legal protection afforded sexual orientation threatens to undermine religious liberty not just in Massachusetts but also across the nation. It’s important to understand the background.

In March, Catholic Charities, citing a “dilemma we cannot resolve,” announced that it would no longer facilitate adoptions in Massachusetts. That “dilemma,” as writer Maggie Gallagher recently wrote in the Weekly Standard, grew out of the Massachusetts case legalizing same-sex “marriage”: that is, the Goodridge decision.

According to Gallagher, central to the Goodridge decision was the finding that “only animus against gay people could explain” different treatment for opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

Thus, after Goodridge, discrimination against same-sex couples in matters of adoption also became illegal. As a state-licensed agency, Catholic Charities was now obliged to serve same-sex couples in a way that it was not before Goodridge.

What’s more, it did not matter if Catholic Charities “ceased receiving tax support and gave up its role as a state contractor.” After Goodridge, it still could not refuse to place children with same-sex couples.

So, millennia-old religious beliefs gave way to months-old, newly found “rights.” Massachusetts refused to consider even the “narrowest religious exemption.” One of the oldest adoption agencies was, therefore, forced to stop helping the people it had pledged to serve.

But that raises this question: Are the events in Boston “an aberration or a sign of things to come?” Anthony Picarello of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty believes the latter. He told Gallagher that the effects of decisions like Goodridge on religious liberty will be “severe and pervasive.”

Picarello believes that these cases will “affect every aspect of church-state relations”—so much so that recent years will be looked back on as a time of relative peace between church and state.

Instead of litigating over posting the Ten Commandments in public spaces, churches in the future will be trying to keep the state from encroaching on matters of faith and morals.

This will certainly become the case if sexual orientation comes to be seen as analogous to race, which is already the view among many elites, including some in the judiciary. If that happens, as looks likely, then all the force of law unleashed by racism charges will be brought to bear against the Church.

Schools, health-care providers—even Christian camps and, yes, maybe pastors in the pulpit—will be uncertain if they can do their jobs in a way that is both legal and consistent with their beliefs.

The best way to keep the Massachusetts dilemma from spreading is to keep the logic behind the Goodridge decision from spreading. The Marriage Protection Amendment, now pending before Congress, would not only protect traditional marriage, it would also protect the beliefs that underlie traditional marriage—beliefs that, as Gallagher has shown, may soon be treated as the equivalent of Jim Crowe.

For further reading and information:

Maggie Gallagher, “Banned in Boston: The coming conflict between same-sex marriage and religious liberty,” Weekly Standard, 15 May 2006.

BreakPoint Commentary No. 060228, “Binding Charity: Massachusetts and Religious Freedom.”

Read more articles on marriage and family.