Beliefs Culture Ethics Faith Opinion

Preserving the public middle ground on religious liberty, LGBT issues

Mourners gather under a LGBT pride flag flying at half-staff for a San Diego candlelight vigil in remembrance of mass shooting victims in Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Mike Blake *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-MARSHALL-OPED, originally transmitted on Sept. 2, 2016.

(RNS) There will be no middle ground. That’s theologian David Gushee’s pessimistic outlook on the conflict between LGBT issues and religious freedom.

It’s certainly accurate to acknowledge a lack of theological middle ground on issues of marriage and sexuality. Despite government’s and many private groups’ embrace of a new sexual ethic, orthodox religious groups and believers continue to affirm that human beings are created by God male and female, and that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.

That lack of theological middle ground should cause everyone, on any side of these issues, to count the cost of losing our public middle ground and to redouble our efforts to preserve it.

READ: On LGBT equality, middle ground is disappearing

After all, the United States was made for this. Our country’s Constitution and laws are designed to provide the public middle ground for us to peaceably coexist when issues arise on which we can’t find theological or moral middle ground. These constitutional and legal protections have guaranteed a public square free from coercion, so that the laws of the land do not threaten one’s primary allegiance to God.

This coercion-free public middle ground was affirmed by the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. The First Amendment’s guarantees of religious freedom and free speech have allowed for a diversity and vibrancy of religious practice unseen in other parts of the Western world today. The First Amendment didn’t protect just private worship. It guaranteed the freedom to exercise beliefs publicly.

Important legal precedents reinforced the principle of a noncoercive civic space by confirming individuals’ religious freedom in contexts like public schools and the workplace. As many have noted, religion is not like a coat that can be taken off at the door when entering a public space. For many Americans, it deeply forms our identity and shapes our lives.

By the late 20th century, leaders across the political spectrum recognized the need for greater legal clarity to maintain a coercion-free public square. With near unanimity, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993. President Bill Clinton signed it, to the applause of everyone from the ACLU to the Southern Baptists. RFRA balanced the pursuit of the public interest with citizens’ religious freedom by insisting that government policy may only burden religious liberty for very serious reasons and as a last resort.

Throughout American history, our constitutional and legal protections have helped the country navigate conflicts over Quakers refusing to take up arms in wartime, Catholics sending their children to Catholic schools, Jehovah’s Witnesses objecting to taking oaths, and Sikhs wearing religious garb during military service, to name just a few.

Having peacefully resolved so many religious liberty challenges in our nation’s history, it would be a travesty to abandon these tools or to allow them to be buried under new “nondiscrimination” policies that coerce individuals and groups to violate their convictions. Whatever one’s views on marriage or sexuality, we should all be able to agree that no one should be coerced to violate their beliefs. To preserve the coercion-free public middle ground we have inherited, here are a few things we can do in the current debate:

Let’s ensure that photographers, florists, printers, and all expressive professionals — no matter what view they take on these controversial issues — are free to decline to use their talents to convey views with which they disagree without being fined, sued, or driven out of business because of that free choice.

Let’s defend the right of religious adoption agencies and other ministries to help neighbors in need without compromising the religious beliefs that drive their mission to serve their communities. This is hardly the time to decrease the diversity of providers for child welfare and other social needs.

Let’s defend doctors’ rights to use their best medical judgment and to exercise their religious freedom to refrain when asked to prescribe treatments or conduct surgeries to alter gender identity — doctors’ rights that are denied by the new Obamacare transgender mandate.

Let’s speak out against statements that mischaracterize sincere religious belief about marriage and sexuality as bigoted. When religious liberty policies are demeaned as “a license to discriminate,” let’s remind people of the law’s history of protecting religious minorities.

Public middle ground free from coercion is eroding quickly. We can and must change that.

Jennifer A. Marshall is a Heritage Foundation vice president and the Joseph C. and Elizabeth A. Anderlik Fellow in the think tank’s Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity. Photograph © David Hills, courtesy of Jennifer A. Marshall

Jennifer A. Marshall is a Heritage Foundation vice president and the Joseph C. and Elizabeth A. Anderlik Fellow in the think tank’s Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity. Photograph © David Hills, courtesy of Jennifer A. Marshall

(Jennifer A. Marshall is a Heritage Foundation vice president and the Joseph C. and Elizabeth A. Anderlik Fellow in the think tank’s Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity)

About the author

Jennifer A. Marshall


Click here to post a comment

  • Shorter Jennifer Marshall:

    let’s allow discrimination on the basis of religious belief in just one instance, and one instance only: when conservative Christians are required to treat gay people decently, politely, and without bias, and to extend the same courtesy gay people that they routinely extend to all of the other people they are certain are going to burn in hell forever…

    …including the people who reject the entirety of conservative Christian belief, not just the itty bitty little ditty you’re singing about Antigay religious belief.

    Let’s also ignore centuries of prisons, jails, executions, torture, murder, destroyed families, lives,and careers. Let’s ignore decades and centuries of vilification, being blamed for every possible social Ill. Let’s also ignore the last 40 years of being called diseased pariahs, enemies of God, and threats to morality, family, faith, children, marriage, heterosexuality, faith freedom, and western civilization. Let’s ignore the fact that racists quoting their bibles defended racism, Jim Crow, and miscegenation laws

  • There simply exists NO “public middle ground” regarding the legalized gay marriage mess, although Jennifer Marshall certainly makes as rational a case for it as possible.

    Her argument is admirable, and prior to Obama’s 2012 re-election, it might even have stood a chance. But it’s way too late now. The gay activists, Hillary Clinton, and the Democrats have all made that perfectly clear, especially in regard to any “religious liberty” issues.

    In a previous day, the corrosive national evil of legalized slavery HAD to go, or else America had to go.

    Today, the corrosive national evil of legalized gay marriage HAS to go, or else America has to go.

    There is no middle ground on this thing. America’s time of grace is almost over.

  • I happen to agree with David Gushee even though I stand in complete opposition to where he (now) stands.

  • As long as churches are not required involuntarily to marry gay couples or to host gay events in church buildings, there is religious freedom. To legitimize acting in accordance with a belief that denies service to a person that is available to all others in a otherwise public arena is not religious freedom.

  • The very fact that Ms. Marshall is associated with the Heritage Foundation will disqualify her in many folk’s opinion to comment sensibly on the subject. Personally, I find much of what she has to say as reasonable, likewise I know others’ will be appalled and offended by her suggestions. Thus, where lies this hallowed middle ground to which we aspire? This will continue to be a thorn in everyone’s side wherein the irresistible force contends with the immovable object. The needle will naturally move significantly and dramatically at some point, indeed it already has over the course of the past 50 years. Having once supported the political and social status quo of an earlier era, I have now applied the dictum, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” The Church is not the State. As the Church was able to survive the policies of ancient Rome, the Church will certainly survive the changing mores of our present culture. However, this is where I will draw a line in the sand philosophically. I would not bar the Church to gays, but I would endorse the biblical proscriptions regarding the holding of offices within the Church. This is where the separation of Church and State will really be tested. I have no doubts where the secular minded and atheists will stand on the question, but as they are by volition outside the body of spiritual faith, the internal matters of the Church are not within their proper purview, vis’ a’ vis the political doctrine of religious freedom enshrined in the Constitution. To my Christian brethren who may disagree on the issue with respect to Church office, we will have to work out those differences among ourselves, even to the point of separation. As to Butchers, Bakers, and Candlestick makers, each will have to decide for themselves if they wish to continue to contend with the State, or reframe their occupational narrative.

  • Always funny to hear a black man repeat the same nonsense directed at ending slavery, Jim Crow, miscegenation laws, and segregation.

    But you’re right– there is no middle ground when it comes to discrimination on the basis of religious belief, no middle ground when bigotry is justified as sincere religious belief. Either it is allowable or it is not. Trying to find the one “legitimate” exception simply underlines why we have these laws to begin with.

  • “However, this is where I will draw a line in the sand philosophically. I would not bar the Church to gays, but I would endorse the biblical proscriptions regarding the holding of offices within the Church. ”

    We are 100% in agreement here. Do what you like within the walls of the church, argue with all of the other believers who think differently, come to a conclusion based upon your faith. Have a good old fashioned schism if that’s what you need to do.

    I know of no gay person or straight person, religious or atheist, who thinks otherwise. Were the state to try to interfere in those internal workings of the church, you could expect this gay atheist to stand with you, defending your freedom of religion from state incursion. But that’s real freedom of religion, not the fake stuff being peddled by Marshall.

  • “Having peacefully resolved so many religious liberty challenges in our nation’s history, it would be a travesty to abandon these tools or to allow them to be buried under new “nondiscrimination” policies that coerce individuals and groups to violate their convictions. ”

    With, of course, no thought for the people who do not hold conservative religious views, whose freedom of religion is trampled when someone who believes ‘homosexual sex is sin’ discriminates against them.

    “Let’s ensure that photographers, florists, printers, and all expressive professionals — no matter what view they take on these controversial issues — are free to decline to use their talents to convey views with which they disagree without being fined, sued, or driven out of business because of that free choice.”

    Why? Why should their beliefs supersede the religious freedom of everyone else? They can decline to use their talents, Jennifer, by not going into public business with those talents. But the moment they choose to go into public business, with all of the publicly financed benefits of that public business, they cannot enforce their religious beliefs on the public.

    Bear in mind, Jennifer, that your peers scream bloody murder at the thought that society might use someone’s homophobia as an excuse not to do business with that person, not to hire that person, not to elect that person. Your peers have a huge problem when someone declines to convey views that they disagree with – when those views are homophobic, racist, sexist, etc.

    “Let’s speak out against statements that mischaracterize sincere religious belief about marriage and sexuality as bigoted”

    There is no mischaracterization involved, Jennifer, when the “sincere religious belief” is that millions of U.S. citizens are to be denied marriage, and the public expression of their religious beliefs for their lives, or when the belief is that hundreds of millions of people are intrinsically disordered, abominations, to be slaughtered as several of conservative clergy have recently stated in public. Those beliefs are bigoted.

    But what you are arguing, Jennifer, is that GLBTQ people and their progressive, moderate heterosexual allies are to be denied freedom of speech, prevented from accurately describing your beliefs.

    “let’s remind people of the law’s history of protecting religious minorities.”

    That history is not very good, actually, particularly on the issue of homosexuality. See, Jennifer, the belief ‘homosexual sex is not sin’ is a religious belief, and it is one that has been actively suppressed, not protected, for much of the law’s history. Instead, Jennifer, people who lived by their belief that homosexual sex is not sin were imprisoned, executed, tortured, deprived of basic civil rights.

  • There certainly is a middle ground. It is simply one you are not willing to accept.

    The middle ground is what exists now. Same-sex couples are allowed to marry, heterosexual coupled as allowed to marry. People who condemn homosexuality are allowed to dis-invite themselves from gay weddings. They are allowed to think that homosexuality is wrong, they are allowed to say so in the privacy of their own home, and up to the point where they create a toxic work environment, they are allowed to say so at work as well. They are not allowed to coerce GLBTQ people into abiding by ‘homosexual sex is wrong’ though.

    Your comparison of same-sex marriage to slavery is obscene. It also demonstrates that you either have no moral sense, or, you abandon morality as it suits you. It certainly creates the impression that you cannot perceive the fundamental differences between same-sex marriage, which does not violate consent or harm anyone, and slavery, which violates consent and causes deep harm not only to slaves, but to society at large by devaluing human life.

    Ironically, floydlee, your position is similar to slavery, and in many ways, you and your peers seek to re-enslave GLBTQ people to your religious beliefs, your prejudices, and your malice. Your beliefs cause harm, and your demand deprives millions of people of consent for their own lives, violates their religious beliefs, and their Constitutional rights.

  • Wow! So gay marriage is going to cause the end of the country! Hilarious what ludicrous claims hateful christians lodge. I seem to recall christians Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson saying on 9/11 that the christian god had lifted his grace on that day. I guess whenever the christian god gets mad, he lifts his grace or protection or whatever? Then he grants it again?? Until he gets mad again?? Help a brother out here – how does this work?
    Because their god isn’t doing anything they want (he slapped them down hard on the gay marriage issue, for example – if he didn’t want gay marriage, he would have granted all the prayers of christians to turn the Supreme Court against it), christians are running around screaming that it’s the “last days,” because that’s the only explanation they can think of for why their god is letting such awful things happen. But you’d think that even they would be careful throwing that one around, given that christians have been burned on that issue ever since some guy pretending to be Peter wrote that letter trying to explain away the failure of kooky Paul’s predictions that a dead Jewish guy was going to return to earth immediately.

  • That really makes his posts all the more obscene.

    But it does demonstrate the very purpose of prejudices, any of them. Floyd, if he told you the truth when you learned of his race, comes from a body of people who have been taught that they are inferior, unworthy, intrinsically less than others.

    To elevate himself to a higher social status, he denigrates GLBTQ people, shoves them to a position lower than his own perceived position. It demonstrates that egotism, conceit, pride, the need to be superior to others, is at the very heart of all prejudices, including Floyd’s homophobia and anti-gay theology.

  • Matthew 25:

    31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the
    least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I
    was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you
    did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after

    44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a
    stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    What one does for the oppressed in society, and GLBTQ people are oppressed, one does for Christ. What one fails to do for the oppressed, one fails to do for Christ.

  • Not “cause the end of the country”, Mr. Preacher. Instead, think “cause the tipping point in this country”, like Sodom in Ezekiel 16:49-50.

    Sodom was into more than one sin, yet God kept on blessing its citizens no matter what, especially with a good economy. It’s just that the FINAL sin that Sodom hopped in bed with, turned out to be the tipping point — the point of no return.

    Now for you, the “christian god” probably doesn’t exist at all, let alone a God who holds nations accountable. But in the Bible, (Jer. 18:7-10 for example), such a God indeed exists and is NOT to be messed with.

    Yet the United States of Sodom keeps on messing with Him. Speeding past His stop signs. Legalizing gay marriage. Happily playing the tipping-point game. Hmm.

  • Yep, as long as it’s limited to “the privacy of your own home” (Mark1115) or the privacy of one’s own church (Ben In Oakland), that’s “the real freedom of religion”…

    …according to the Gay Goliath, anyway.

    Not surprisingly, Goliath just HATES seeing and hearing David teaching against gay marriage within **the public marketplace of ideas, including public policy settings and business venues.**

    (No religious freedom for David, right Goliath?)

  • No dear little David. Megalomania much? You know that is NOT what I mean.

    Believe what you like. Keep your purely theological concerns out of the civil law and of the lives of people who don’t share them.

  • Actually, Goliath’s removal of David’s constitutional religious freedoms is **exactly** what you (and Mark) meant in your posts. And it’s even reflected in your other posts within this thread.

    After all, anything less on your part (as a gay activist) would ultimately leave what you call the “civil law”, and also the political and media doors, open to a future reversal of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision.

    THAT development would put yours (and Mark’s) entire Gay-Marriage-Religion back on shutdown, right there.

    That’s why (and we earlier agreed in principle!) that there is NO middle ground here, and never will be.

  • When you don’t have the chops to debate the actual Scriptures (or even the public policy aspects) on your own, you can always resort to fabricating ad-homs and accusations out of thin air. Stall for time, baby !!

    — “Pro-Gay Debate Tactics 101”

  • “When you don’t have the chops to debate the actual Scriptures (or even
    the public policy aspects) on your own, you can always resort to
    fabricating ad-homs and accusations out of thin air. Stall for time,
    baby !!”

    Ironically, that is exactly what you have done over and over again.

  • How is denying GLBT people health care a “middle ground”? Evangelical Christians in Mississippi passed a law allowing physicians to deny medical care, including emergency care to GLBT people. The only thing that can’t do is let them die, but anything short of that is legal in Mississippi.

    How is denying GLBT people access to businesses a “middle ground”? How is it a “middle” ground to humiliate GLBT people by telling them you won’t serve “their kind” in a business that is open to the public as Evangelicals nationwide are clamoring to do?

    How is it a “middle ground” to protect Christians with non-discrimination laws, but not GLBT people?

    Also, lets remember that the Heritage Foundation is notoriously anti-GLBT and calls for GLBT people to be kept as permanent second-class citizens with their rights and freedoms restricted. The Heritage Foundation defines “religious freedom” as requiring that GLBT people accept restrictions on their legal and Constitutional rights.

    The “middle ground” the author is talking about is actually far-right religious extremism that enables discrimination against GLBT people under color of law.

  • “A good old fashioned schism,” what fun! Seriously though, I have read many posts on this site in which conservative Christians of my stripe are assailed with respect to the preaching and practices that go on within the sanctuary of our congregational fellowships, apart from anything stated in the public sphere. By many, our mere existence is viewed as divisive and a plague on humanity, it has not risen to the level of outright oppression, but I fear that one day soon it may. Certainly this, by your own experience and reading of history is a fear you can understand. Some might argue it would merely be the case of the shoe being on the other foot, but I hope you would not.

  • You may well quote Matthew 25, but you neglect the admonitions given in other parts of the New Testament regarding the practice of homosexuality, at least in regards to the operation of the Church, as all epistles in the NT are directed to Church members, not those outside the Church. One can disagree about homosexuality without it rising to the level of oppression. Today in America, I surmise there is less oppression of gays as individuals and as a class then at any point in our past history.

  • As an aside:

    “christians are running around screaming that it’s the “last days . . .”

    Unwittingly, those Christians are correct. All available statistics provide consistent evidence that they are living in the last days of their religion. While there is still a long way to go, the direction is clear, and the pace is accelerating.

  • “Today, the corrosive national evil of legalized gay marriage TrueChristianity™ HAS to go, or else America has to go.”

    And fortunately, all available statistics provide consistent evidence that the stranglehold of TrueChristianity™ is going,

  • There is no middle ground regarding eliminating bigotry towards LGBT people. “Sincere religious beliefs” is code for bigotry and even racism and sexism: the same code used to discriminate against women voting, interracial marriage, black people having equal rights and continued attacks (including murder) on gay people and health professionals working for abortion providers.

    Religious authors like this one are apologists for theocratic fascism.

  • Looks like we all agree that “there’s no middle ground” on this issue, the difference being in our respective views of who is in the wrong.

    (Gay Marriage Cultists, by definition, always tend to be in the wrong.)

  • I don’t wish harm on anyone, even those who wish harm on me and mine. I also don’t believe in eternal rewards and eternal punishments. I just believe in consequences.

    I believe those fears, anger, and yes, threats that some are posting here are simply those of people who think gay people in particular, liberals/progressives in general, and the majority of citizens, religious or not, who support our desire to end this vicious prejudice, are just like they are. I don’t think that’s the case. What I do think is true– and if I may put words in Dr. Gushee’s mouth, what he is saying– is that what one puts out to the world is what comes back at you.

    All I can say is this, and I’ve said it before. I reject religion for myself, but I do not reject it for other people. I absolutely believe in religious freedom, but I also believe that your (a generic you) religious freedom ends at my life, my faith, my family, and my participation in society.

    If the scenario you fear– a scenario which I think has no basis in reality– were to come about, you can expect that I would be there, defending your freedom of religion. But you know what I would not expect– and this MAY be about you personally, not just the generic you? That you would do the same for me, because my experience in the past 45 years has shown me repeatedly that when it comes to homobigotry, especially its religious aspect, all bets are off. The attacks on religious freedom, such as the marriage ballot initiatives banning not just marriage, but any form of recognition, or the current nonsense of the bathroom bills, or demanding an exception to anti-discrimination law in JUST THIS ONE CASE, the threats and the lies in these postings in response to dr. gushee, the paranoia and fear-mongering exhibited in those responses, divorced entirely from facts, logic, experience, and compassion…

    All of this tells me that although the majority opinion has shifted, the minority position is even more entrenched, because the moveable middle has indeed moved. As I said, I don’t believe in rewards or punishments, just consequences. And the consequence to that virulently, entrenched Antigay minority may well be exactly what they fear. Not because gay people are bad, or liberals are bad, or progressives are bad, or because someone is out to get them, but because THIS is what THEY are putting out into the world.

    but I don’t think any of these doomsday scenarios are going to come to pass, though they are good for what they have always been good for: fear-mongering, deflection for the homosexual hating homosexuals hiding out in the (generic) church, power, money, and dominion. As I have also said before, if the Antigay religious would learn to focus on their own business, and not mine, you would be surprised how little attention anyone is going to pay them.

  • “I believe those fears, anger, and yes, threats that some are posting here are simply those of people who think gay people in particular, liberals/ progressives in general, and the majority of citizens, religious or not, who support our desire to end this vicious prejudice, are just like they are.” I think a great deal more of the “fears” are owing to the increasing realization that they are NOT like we are. A suggestion that a prospective wedding is invalid and morally objectionable would elicit merely a shrug and a phone call to another vendor from one (certainly me), but a lawsuit and a public hate campaign from another. That is what is hard to fathom, and very sinister when one considers it in a larger context.

    I am reminded of Dr. Gushee, with his characteristic forlorn naivete, writing that he is “sure” that no one wants to see anyone bankrupted over cakes or flowers or photographs, only to be met with a chorus of your compadres chiming Oh yes, we do! That should have told him more than he is evidently willing to admit to himself, at least at the present time.

  • “but you neglect the admonitions given in other parts of the New Testament regarding the practice of homosexuality,”

    There are none.

    ” One can disagree about homosexuality without it rising to the level of oppression.”

    Nice fantasy, but history and reality prove you wrong.

    “Today in America, I surmise there is less oppression of gays as
    individuals and as a class then at any point in our past history.”

    You are wrong, actually. The advances that GLBTQ people have made toward civil equality have been paralleled by increased violence committed by people who believe as you do.

  • “I am reminded of Dr. Gushee, with his characteristic forlorn naivete,”

    As usual, your post is little more than an excuse to denigrate some other human being.

  • How ironic, floydlee, since those limits that you’ve raped out of context, deceitfully, are less strict than the ones you and your homophobic peers have imposed on GLBTQ people for centuries.

  • Of course, Jesus said that no one would know in advance, those who pretend they do are disobedient, if not outright rejecting Christ.

  • The ironic thing about your doom and gloom, floydlee, is that people said the same things about ending slavery, and about recognizing and protecting the civil rights of blacks, like you.

    “Sodom was into more than one sin,”

    But not gay sex. In fact, you, floydlee, commit some of the sins God mentions.

  • The irony of your post, Edward, is that though you acknowledge that I cited Matthew 25, but then you completely fail to apply it to your abusive behavior, much less the subject at hand.

  • This just emphasizes why the middle ground is fast disappearing. Those with their “moral objections” to same sex weddings are just either too stupid, too self righteous, too prideful, too impolite, too megalomaniacal, and too insecure to say, “sorry, I’m booked. Why don’t you call so and so.”…

    Or any of at least four more possible ways to completely and legally avoid doing business with people they don’t want to do business with.

    But here’s the thing: out of between 500,000 and 1million same sex weddings in the past 13 years, there have been only a handful of people making this claim. Maybe 25? Even if it was a thousand, that would mean less than 1/5 of 1% are claiming immunity to non-discrimination laws and basic politeness.

    If you want a measure of the thinness of that middle ground, there is a glaring cause for it, right there.

  • The real problem is that the Heritage Foundation defines “religious liberty” as requiring that GLBT people have their legal and Constitutional rights restricted, and accept second-class citizenship in America. In order for Evangelicals like Jennifer to freely practice their faith, it requires that GLBT people be fired from their job, denied access to businesses, died health care, and generally treated as legal and social outcasts. And of course Evangelicals want the law to reflect their sectarian beliefs, instead of the equal protection guaranteed every American under the Constitution.

    Thankfully the majority of Americans and the courts are not falling for their fake “religious liberty” claims. Most people are fair-minded and want everyone treated equally, particularly under the law. They don’t want their own child, their own brother or sister, their own relative, co-worker, or neighbor denied a job, denied access to marriage, or turned away at a place of business. And that’s why the anti-gay Evangelicals are losing. There is no “middle ground” on treating people decently and fairly. Either you do or you don’t. Evangelicals don’t. Most everyone else does.

  • I would like to affirm that under almost any circumstance you can describe, if I were to witness an act of physical violence (which is virtually the most insidious form of oppression) or employment discrimination against a gay person, I would most certainly intervene on their behalf if it were in my power and capacity to do so. I am not the most physically courageous person in the best of circumstances, but I am a relative lion when it comes to matters of principle. You are well aware of my theological views, and I have admitted to having moved to some degree on the difference between the State’s role in policy making versus the freedoms the religious are entitled to within the context of the Church and its internal practices under the Constitution: i.e. “Render unto Caesar…etc.” I may not agree philosophically with what Caesar renders in every instance, but short of crimes against humanity I will conform to “his” dictates. At the same time defending the safety and dignity of all my fellow citizens. As to the existential threats to the Church: You have rightly pointed out the threats to gays and Jews throughout human history. The early Church also experienced threats and oppression in its very advent, I see no reason to reject the notion that such threats will come to the Church again. Indeed, they are declared in the bible.
    Such future threats as they may be will be predicated on far more than conservative Christian opposition to gay marriage and homosexuality. The direct comments of many an atheistic thinker on this website alone engender a great deal of visceral hatred for those of my ilk.

  • Pot to Kettle. Shawnie5 is among the most temperate of commentators on this site from either side of any spiritual question. By the way, I have consulted additional resources and opposing views on the question of the texts in the New Testament regarding homosexuality among modern scholars relative to the Greek terms in question, I remain affirmed in my present position. If professionals in the study of ancient languages, cultures, and practices cannot agree, why should we?

  • I am not in a position to apply the practical strictures of Matthew 25:35-40 to you, however, I endeavor to apply them regularly to those that I practically can. To the degree my attitude towards you is abusive I acknowledge your admonition and my transgression as is required of me by the scriptures, But I, presuming we are Christian brethren in some sense of the word, am equally entitled to admonish you for your tart and abusive language towards me and others.

  • Thank you, Edward. I would add that the views of “modern scholars” (really only Boswell) 2000 years after the fact and influenced by an increasingly decadent and sexualized culture can’t really compare to those of actual scholars from the time of Christ such as Josephus, who received the exact same education as Paul and writes in much the same vein: “But then, what are our laws about marriage? That law owns no other mixture of sexes but that which nature hath appointed, of a man with his wife, and this for the procreation of children. But it abhors the mixture of a male with a male.” — Flavius Josephus, Against Apion 2:199.

  • Some sites I have consulted list other academicians who argue for the revisonist approach but I find their conclusions questionable at best. I certainly wish my own knowledge of Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew were better than sketchy, but I think reasonable confidence can be placed in conservative analysts more gifted than I in this area. Unfortunately, I don’t think the divergence of views will be settled in the end. You make the same arguments I have used with Mark1115 to no avail. Josephus is a credible and excellent source from the period in question, however moderns will argue that he lacked the “scientific” background regarding the nature of homosexuality to comment competently. Piffle.

  • If the persecutions of the Roman Empire, the Soviet Union, and Maoist China could not extinguish the light of the Gospel and the faith of the brethren, future efforts by others will be futile as well. Do not measure the world of faith by what you think you see in America and the West.

  • There are other “scholars” but all their arguments are taken from Boswell, unfortunately.

    “Mark” has been making the same half-dozen assertions ever since I first encountered him at HuffPo a number of years ago. I answered them all there and now have him on block — my comment feed is much less cluttered that way.

    It’s like having Carrot back only with far more bandwidth consumption. No thanks.

  • However disagreeable some respondents are, I will not block them because my commitment to free speech is nearly all encompassing except when it passes into the vulgar and obscene.

  • yup. as usual the bigots who routinely violate others’ rights are calling themselves the victims. She completely ignores the history that got us here. If the people who, a hundred years ago, thought as she does had gone unchallenged, Miss Jennifer Marshall would be home caring for a houseful of babies, and would have no right to an education, no say in whether or not she wanted to be pregnant, wouldn’t be allowed to vote, couldn’t get credit in her own name, and definitely wouldn’t be able to take advantage of a platform like this one to air her quaint views.

  • I hear you on that, but I’ve already heard and answered every one of his possible answers many times, and I simply don’t have the time that some here seem to have. I’d rather see fewer and higher quality comments, as long as no one else’s freedom is affected.

  • I’m still waiting for Christians to point to a single religious freedom they’ve lost in the past 100 years of our nation’s history. Christians have more rights than anyone else in America, so the notion they’re losing “middle ground” is completely absurd. Does Jennifer Marshall support finding a “middle ground” on religious freedom and racial discrimination? Does Jennifer Marshall support businesses being allowed to fire their workers if they have a religious belief against black employees?

  • Well, you are absolutely correct. I spend on average two hours a day on this site, since I work swing shift there is not much else I would be doing at 12-2 a. m. I get your larger point about not wasting time with one such as Mark1115, no disrespect to him intended, but as I have frequently observed, it is often the case of the irresistible force contending with the immovable object, so at some point it is essentially counterproductive. I too would rather see fewer and higher quality comments, some of the drive by posts are merely hateful and lacking in any meaningful context. And this occurs on both sides of many questions I must acknowledge.

  • Hello Ben, I was afraid I might have offended you earlier. You questioned in a post whether I would stand up for gays relative to some potentially dangerous hypotheticals, even as you declared solidarity on the question of religious freedom as we have recently discussed it. My response was to affirm that I would intervene for gays in two hypotheticals that I described as examples; e.g. physical assault, and workplace discrimination. You did not reply, so I was a bit disappointed and concerned. Be well.

  • Thanks. I will try to answer you, I had a “procedure” the other day, and let’s just say that it had an aftermath.

    I will try to answer you. And thanks for your concern. ???

  • No, you didn’t offend me. I actually intended to answer, but then “it” happened. Will try tomorrow.

  • I searched for your reference to Boswell and discovered the late professor at Yale University, John Boswell. I then visited several sites with commentary on his work. Though he appears to have been quite gifted in the area of languages, a general consensus among conservative scholars find disagreement with him on several points concerning his appraisal of scripture with respect to both cultural issues and language. Naturally certain Greek terms in Paul’s writings are at issue. What is most interesting is that many scholars posit that Paul coined the term “arsenokoitai,” if that is the correct spelling. The definitive meaning of this term seems at the center of the dispute in a number of instances between interpretive opponents. Thanks for the reference.

  • Now I can answer. I’m much better today.

    No, I was neither offended nor hurt. I very much appreciate your willingness to stand up for others. Unlike some people I could mention on both sides of the issue, condemnation does not fall easily from you. And vitriol, not at all. But you are willing to state your principles and stand by them. And that is something to be admired.

    I think what you see here is mostly people blowing off steam, and not a actual threat to faith in general. The greatest threat to organized religion are those who see it as a threat to their power–real power, not the imaginary power of the gay rights movement. Thus, religion is either opposed, as in Stalinist Russia or Maoist China, or co-opted, as in fascist Italy and putin’s Russia. Or, as in our country, seeks dominion over others through political power.

    That doesn’t mean that people arent terribly angry or terribly hurt or both by the excesses of religion. Gay people certainly are both, and for reasons I won’t go into here yet again. But you need only read the lies, vitriol, and fear mongering of some regular posters here to understand about that. I really don’t like being called a child molester.

    I’ve met evangelicals who are offended by the political excesses of the baptists, Catholics who have left the church over the abuse scandals and the coverups, Jews who cannot stand the orthodox control in Israel. But it isn’t just “atheists” who direct hatred towards “those of your ilk.” Look at the comments of those who freely damn other people as “apostates” and heretics”: “You’re not a true Christian like I am” is a commen refrain here. You might want to check out Stuart Reid’s current piece in the Salt Lake Tribune: sours grapes being used to make a whole lot of w(h)ine.

    What I think is actually happening is this, and is what will happen in this country, and any country not controlled by theocrats. Some people are complaining not about being actually attacked and harmed, but about the loss of “Christian” overly-privileged power and status in this country. That’s what all of this cake nonsense is about. they really don’t like it that increasingly, more and more people don’t buy what they are selling. And doubling down on their “righteousness” isn’t helping. It doesn’t make them look right or righteous: it makes them look like a-holes.

    Nobody is trying to take their beliefs away, but there is a huge desire to end their ability to spread bigotry– and not just against gay people– authoritarianism, and campaigns against personal, familial, and religious autonomy, always disguised as religious belief. It’s very difficult for people like Jennifer Marshall to accept this, which is why the middle ground is disappearing. It’s very hard on her ego, but she is going to have to get used to it. I recognize no religious leader as having ANY legitimacy in determining the direction of my life. A lot of people, both religious and not, and a fast growing segment of the population in this country feel the same way. I can guarantee you this, and I have said it before: if conservative religion would just stop claiming that dominion over my life, it would be surprised at how little attention it would get from me.

    No one has lost religious freedom, but a line has been drawn at the borders of religious dominion. If conservative– and by that, I really mean Antigay people using religion as their cover– stay on their side of that line, all will be well. But it is simply no longer the case that gay people, and a lot of others, will allow crossing over that line to go unchallenged.

    Thanks for your kind words and measured response. ?

  • It’s really not a mystery if one looks at it honestly. It’s a combination of the two key words juxtaposed in Lev. 20:13, and we certainly know from ancient Jewish commentary what that verse was talking about. There are many koine greek compound words that involve “koite” such as metrokoite, doulukoite, deuterokoite, and polukoite, but nobody dithers over their quite obvious meanings. Yet change the prefix to arseno- and suddenly there’s a big mystery? I don’t think so — it only becomes a “mystery” to those who simply will not tolerate the obvious.

  • Re: “Let’s ensure that photographers, florists, printers, and all expressive professionals — no matter what view they take on these controversial issues — are free to decline to use their talents to convey views with which they disagree without being fined, sued, or driven out of business because of that free choice.”

    But … why? How does delivering flowers to a wedding (for example) cause a florist “to convey views with which they disagree”? Hiring the florist to deliver flowers doesn’t grant the florist any control over whether a wedding takes place, it doesn’t grant them a veto on it, and in fact, it doesn’t mean they either “approve” or “disapprove” of the wedding at all. Weddings can, and often do, take place without flowers (or photographs or invitations or receptions or banquet halls or deejays or whatever else).

    What it means, when a marrying couple hires a florist, is that a wedding is taking place — nothing more, nothing less — and the florist is delivering flowers to it. That’s all. Flowers don’t make or break a wedding, and for florists to assume they do, is arrogance of the highest order.

    People are confusing the right of gays to marry the spouses of their choice, if they wish to, with what Ted Cruz calls “mandatory gay marriage” … i.e. (as far as I can tell) government forcing everyone to marry same-sex spouses against their will. That has not happened, and it never will happen. For religionists to act as though that’s going on, is juvenile and absurd, and it really needs to freaking stop already.

  • No one wants to talk about the real reason for the charge of bigotry against Christian teaching on homosexuality. But lesbian journalist, Tammy Bruce, formerly an activist in NOW and ACT-UP, knows exactly what that reason is: it is all about propaganda and brainwashing.

    “Having been a liberal ‘community organizer’ in my past, I immediately recognized the strategy being employed. This is an effort to CONDITION [brainwash] the public [like David Gushee] into automatically equating faith with bigotry…To make faith in the public square illegal and dangerous, you need…the notion that acting on genuinely held faith is bigotry per se…Under these rules, freedom of conscience is squashed under the jackboot of liberals…forcing [religious people] in the process to violate a sacrament of their faith as well…It has been disgusting to watch supposed gay ‘leadership’ drag young gays and lesbians through an indoctrination that insists that in order to have equality, you must force other people to do your will, make them betray who they are, and punish them if they offend you…”

    “Horribly, the gay civil rights movement has morphed into a Gay Gestapo. Its ranks will now do the punishing of those who dare to be different or dissent from the approved leftist dogma. To all the young gays who tweet and email me that this is about ‘equality,’ how exactly? Forcing someone to do something against their faith has nothing to do with equality for you, has nothing to do with bigotry and has everything to do with a personal, spiritual understanding of right and wrong. In other words, I tell them, ‘not everything is about you.'”

    “Why would the Gay Gestapo suddenly need to convince everyone that an act of faith must be viewed suspiciously as discrimination and ‘hate’? The real target is the church and temple. If the left can convince our society to force people of faith to violate their sacraments in the name of ‘equality,’ why would we allow that to stop at the church door?”

    Lesbian activist, Cathy Brennan, also reacts against her training as an activist/propagandist.

    “CB: This, to me, speaks more to the fact that the GLBT community as a whole has gone down a path that I quite frankly don’t support. They’ve gone down a path of identifying anyone with views that don’t fall in line with them as being hateful, bigoted, harmful… And just because something makes you feel bad and hurts your feelings doesn’t make it hateful and it doesn’t make it bigoted…I was a gay activist for many, many years before finally I have disavowed the gay community… But you know, I was also VERY WELL TRAINED in ‘this is how you do the activism. You’re a bigot, you know, if you think homosexuality is a sin you’re a bigot.’ Now, I personally, I’m a homosexual. I don’t think homosexuality’s a sin. Do I think all religious people who worship in churches that preach that homosexuality is a sin, do I think they’re bigots? No. I don’t. I think they’re religious. You know?”

  • It’s going to take a while, but eventually they’re going to be down to one lone nutcase sitting on a hovercraft screaming that Jebus is a-comin.

  • The Communist nations tried to “extinguish the light of the Gospel and the faith of the brethren” by using brute force. Now, in America and the West, the decline of Christianity is happening via voluntary rational thinking.

  • There will always be a faithful remnant, even if driven underground by so called rationalists. Even if you could kill the Church in America, it will arise anew elsewhere. The Church cannot be killed.

2019 NewsMatch Campaign: This Story Can't Wait! Donate.