Readings: On Freedom of Religion, and Unholy Alliances

I posted this link a couple days ago but without comments. It’s worth revisiting (it was in today’s print paper, so I reread it) to dig out key points.

New York Times, Steven Paulikas (an Episcopal priest), 15 Oct 2022: Same-Sex Marriage Is a Religious Freedom (title on homepage: “Why Should Your Religion Be Favored Over Mine?”)

The writer begins by talking about marriages he has conducted, and about how his own marriage was one of the most “profoundly spiritual experiences” of his life.

Our wedding was an exercise of the freedom not only to be married under equal protection of the law but also to practice our religion. And yet a powerful political, legal and social movement is poised to prevail in its mission to relegate the marriages of L.G.B.T.Q. people to second-class status in the name of “religious freedom.” It seems its true goal is not to advance its advocates’ religious freedom but to restrict ours.

And plenty religious tradition, he points out, acknowledge same-sex marriage.

But groups such as the Alliance Defending Freedom claim that the existence of same-sex marriage places sexual rights above the rights of their supporters to worship, express opinions and run businesses as they choose. Tellingly, this strategy has focused on defending the supposed religious rights of private businesses rather than churches or even individuals. …

In a current case, an amicus brief, supporting the defense of plaintiffs against a web-designer who wants to refuse their business yadda yadda, that the petition would “lead many to perceive ‘religion’ as being opposed to L.G.B.T. equality and pluralism more generally.” Well of course! They are!

Court watchers expect the web-designer to prevail.

To be honest, my husband and I wouldn’t have hired a web designer or a baker who didn’t want to celebrate with us. But that’s not the point. If the law allows same-sex couples to be treated differently from other couples, then our religious freedom to be married is not complete. The court is not being asked to rule whether members of the clergy should be forced to perform weddings that conflict with their beliefs or whether houses of worship should be mandated to welcome L.G.B.T.Q. people. As a member of the clergy in charge of a church, I would defend the First Amendment right for religious institutions to conduct themselves without government interference, even if I vehemently disagree with another tradition’s practices. Rather, the question here is whether my God-given right to be married to my spouse matters as much in the eyes of the law as someone else’s.

I pay attention to these cases not as a lawyer but as a gay man and a Christian. The arbitrary nature of what mostly straight people decide queer people can and cannot do trains us to keep an eye out on legal developments. But as a Christian, I consistently marvel at the vast theological differences between me and many of my coreligionists. I often wonder how they square all this legal contortion to restrict the rights of others with Jesus’ Great Commandment to love God and one another with all we have. …

It is probably true that in any society the dominant religious groups presumes, or takes license, to enforce its own beliefs over those of others. Or simply doesn’t, or can’t, imagine that different beliefs are important, or worthy of respect (to degree that any of them are, of course).

The grand irony, of course, is that as the Supreme Court keeps siding for “religious freedom” (for Christians), there’s a growing awareness that the freedoms of various religions conflict with each other, and cannot be reconciled through the law. Better not to rule in any way, and tell the religious to mind their own business. The other current example, of course, is abortion, which is not a problem (certainly not to be criminalized) for the Jews.


From a couple weeks ago.

New York Times, Maureen Dowd, 8 Oct 2022: Donald and Herschel: The Unholy Alliance (print title: “Republicans’ Unholy Alliances”)

I concluded years ago, certainly by the time Trump was elected, that conservative Christians had ceded any and all claims to moral superiority by their support for a man with no principles at all except for grifting people. Who conservatives would have condemned unequivocally had he been a Democrat. (And who was therefore Republican because….)

Dowd begins,

In May 2016, The Washington Post ran the story of how Donald Trump, in his real estate days, would call reporters, pretending to be his own spokesman, to brag and leak nuggets about nonexistent romances with famous women. I thought that would knock him out of the race.

It didn’t, nor did the “Access Hollywood” tape that

showed Trump yukking it up about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women, noting that “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” I once more figured he couldn’t survive as leader of the party of “family values” and the religious right.

Wrong again. Key point:

Once, there were limits, things that could disqualify you from office, especially in the party that claimed a special relationship with Jesus.

But those limits don’t exist anymore.

Conservatives have sacrificed any claim to principle. In an unholy transaction, they stuck with Trump because there was a Supreme Court seat and they were willing to tolerate his moral void in order to hijack the court. They didn’t care how he treated women, so long as he gave them the opportunity to rip away rights from women. They wanted to impose their warped morality, a “Handmaid’s Tale” world, on the rest of us.

Christian-right leaders made clear that, no matter what Trump said or did to women, he was preferable to Hillary Clinton, who supported abortion rights.

And now Herschel Walker. (With details more and more elaborated over the past couple weeks.)

Privately, some Republicans are mortified by the Walker spiral, but they’re going to brazen it out for the win.

Dana Loesch, a right-wing radio host, was blunt: “I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate.”

Republicans have exposed their willingness to accept anything to get power that they then abuse. As Lindsey Graham said out loud, with his fellow Republicans shushing him, they want a nationwide ban on abortion after 15 weeks. And Herschel Walker is key to that.

And of course Trump endorses Walker, a one-time football player who has no qualifications for anything, much less for the Senate. Republicans don’t care.

Dowd concludes,

Walker takes after his mentor with his lies, hypocrisy and know-nothingness on issues. Still worse, he’s following his mentor by denying his transgressions as a womanizer, even as he tries to smash women’s rights.



There’s a big picture here, why I keep posting things like these, why everything on this blog, that I’ve been thinking about recently and will try to spell out in the next few days….

By “Readings” I’m indicating articles that I’m linking to in order to quote and comment about, as opposed to articles I link (mostly) without comments, as I’ve been doing in recent posts.

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