Prop 8 Does Nothing to Protect Religious Freedom; it Infringes Upon It
There’s an old saying that where you have two Jews, you’ll find three opinions. You could say that applies tenfold to the faith community in general, or even to the scriptures shared by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Much has been made recently of faith leaders expressing support for Proposition 8, California’s measure on the November ballot that would eliminate the right to marry for thousands of committed gay and lesbian couples. Speaking less loudly – or perhaps ignored by media outlets hungry for controversy – have been the voices of thousands of other clergy members: Episcopalians and Methodists, Quakers and Unitarians, Muslims and Buddhists, and Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative Jews (together representing 80 percent of American Jews affiliated with a synagogue), all of whom affirm the fundamental rights and dignity of our gay and lesbian friends and neighbors.
We are joining together to urge our fellow Californians to Vote NO on Prop 8.
Let’s make one thing clear: under California law, no pastor, rabbi, priest or imam from any denomination can be forced to marry a same-sex couple against his or her will. Religious groups and clergy members have a constitutionally protected right to celebrate or refuse to celebrate religious marriages based on the tenets of their particular faith. Under current law, same-sex couples have a constitutional right to civil marriage, not religiously sanctioned unions – a civil right that Proposition 8 would take away from same-sex couples.
Unfortunately the proponents of Prop 8 are using falsehoods and scare tactics to try and sway voters. As I said above, there is NOTHING in Prop 8 that would affect any religion or religious ceremony.
Of course, no one ever expected us all to agree. But regardless of how you feel about marriage for same-sex couples, I think we all can agree that no one should be denied fundamental rights. The fact is, Proposition 8 would prevent thousands of faith leaders like me from following the dictates of our own denominations and consciences by not allowing us to marry gay and lesbian members of our communities. It essentially accepts only the interpretation of some denominations, but not those of many others, about what constitutes the “sacred” institution of marriage. That means the government, and not our own faiths, is telling us whom we can marry. People of faith should be especially wary of opening any cracks in the wall dividing church and state; without it, we might indeed find our cherished religious freedoms swept away by others.