More important, the state is in effect using its licensing power to bring the church to heel -- no gay adoption, no license to conduct adoptions in Massachusetts. Acting on traditional Catholic social principles -- that one father and one mother are best for children -- is defined as bias.
John Garvey, dean of the Boston College Law School, argues that the issue isn't whether the church or the state has the better of the debate over gay families; the issue is religious freedom. "When freedom is at stake, the issue is never whether the claimant is right," he writes, any more than freedom of the press requires publishers to guarantee that everything they print is true. "Freedom of religion is above all else a protection for ways of life the society views with skepticism or distaste," he writes.
Anti-discrimination laws and regulations are used more and more to restrict religious freedom. On some campuses, evangelical groups have been de-recognized or otherwise punished for refusing to allow sexually active gays into leadership positions. A Swedish pastor was put on trial for a sermon criticizing homosexuality. And British author Lynette Burrows was contacted by police about a possible "homophobic incident" -- she had said in a radio interview that she didn't think homosexuals should be allowed to adopt.
Some fear more drastic attempts to curb the churches. These might one day include Title VII provisions against gender bias to force the ordination of women priests and imams, or even moving to deny tax exemptions for churches that reject favored secular norms. Certain law professors want more regulation of sectarian groups, all for the common good, of course. It's best for the churches to be on guard.