Of the churches within the United States, one of the most gay-friendly is The Episcopal Church, the American branch of the Church of England. Though it varies from region to region, The Episcopal Church allows its priests to perform gay marriages, allows them and their bishops to be gay. So it’s interesting that, across the pond, the Church of England is taking the opposite stand:

Responding to a consultation in England and Wales, the Church of England said government proposals to allow same-sex marriages by 2015 would “alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history”.

It said marriage acknowledged “an underlying biological complementarity which, for many, includes the possibility of procreation”.

Justice Minister Crispin Blunt: “We’re seeking to protect… religious organisations”

The Church claims that plans to exempt religious organisations from performing gay marriages would be unlikely to survive legal challenges in domestic and European courts.

As such, the government’s consultation exercise, which closes on Thursday, was “flawed, conceptually and legally”, it added.

Concerns over forcing churches to participate in ceremonies have been raised over here. If the day ever came where this was seriously proposed, I would stand arm-in-arm with the likes of the Southern Baptist Church, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and Catholic Church in opposition. This, to me, stands at the core of what Freedom of Religion is about. I think such a day is unlikely, though, because I don’t think even a liberal court would allow it, much less force it. Churches have always had great latitude over who they have and have not allowed to marry under their steeples.

The European Union, of course, does not have the same First Amendment history that we do. That creates a whole different set of concerns. I honestly take the Church of England’s concerns in this area a lot more seriously, even though I wish they had the willingness to perform these ceremonies that their American counterparts do (and maybe they do, they just have some hold-outs).

It’s one of the things that points to the Constitution as being a valuable safeguard that, ironically, can allow the government a little more latitude in my view. When we know where there is a limit (at least currently), we feel more free to move a little closer to that limit.

I know that my view on Second Amendment Issues has been greatly effected by Heller v DC and McDonald v Chicago. Prior to that, I would have opposed any sort of gun registration tooth-and-nail in large part because I would fear it be a step along the way to confiscation. Knowing that there are indeed limits to the extent the government can ban guns makes me less likely to oppose some measures that I would otherwise see on a more slope-like surface. Not that I am entirely sanguine on the topic. The confiscations in New Orleans gives me some pause. They had to give the guns back, but there is something quite disconcerting about governments being willing to take the guns when you arguably need them most.

In a comment on a post about anti-discrimination law over at NaPP, Jaybird asks:

Here’s a question that may clarify some things (while it muddies others):

What are the limits to our jurisdiction when it comes to setting things right?

If any, of course.

In the modern day in age, the answer is “nowhere that isn’t expressly forbidden by the Constitution and modern interpretations thereof.” The Constitution is interpreted relatively broadly in some cases, and narrowly in others. Outside certain specific parameters, though, The Commerce Clause covers just about everything this side of a mandate and there’s nothing stopping mandates or anti-discrimination law on the state level which doesn’t even need a paper clause.

It is partially because the government can grab this much power in theory that I think we should sometimes take a step back and say that even though the government can do this and is perfectly within its rights to try to right this particular wrong, is this something we want the government involving itself in? At least a little skepticism in the notion that a wrong that we think might can be righted ought to actually be righted.

I believe that the vast majority of people who cite the possibility of churches having to perform ceremonies would argue against gay marriage in an equal amount if this were completely and entirely not a concern. I do think the CoE does demonstrate, though, that the more open-ended the willingness of the government to right wrongs, though, the more likely you might see some resistance on the basis of slippery-slope arguments. This makes it exceptionally important that when we run across stories like this, that we do not talk of stripping churches that do things we disagree with of tax-exempt status.


Category: Church, Statehouse

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