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Old 12-13-2012, 11:12 AM  
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Same sex marriage, social conservatives, and the future

This article is written by a social conservative who recognizes that same sex marriage (SSM) is inevitable and who recognizes dangers for those who value religious freedom if social conservatives don't find a way to make peace with that reality.

SSM, Social Conservatives, & The Future

By ROD DREHER • November 8, 2012, 12:27 PM

After the 2008 election, I wrote a Dallas Morning News column (now behind the paywall) in which I contended that social and religious conservatives had lost the argument over same-sex marriage, and that we would be smarter to retreat behind defensible borders.

By that I meant the following:

1) We should understand that this was not an argument we were going to win, in part because the elites, especially in the media, were dead-set against us, but mostly because SSM makes sense given how most people today, especially younger Americans, think about marriage and sexuality. In short, they believe marriage and sexuality has no intrinsic value, that it only has expressive value. In other words, sex and marriage are seen primarily, and perhaps entirely, as an expression of emotions partners have for one another.

For traditionalists — and remember that this was virtually everybody until very, very recently — it’s not that same-sex couples do not and cannot love each other; obviously they can, and do. It’s that their love cannot be marriage, in the same way the mail carrier cannot be Napoleon. It’s possible to explain this, and it has been explained by smart trads, but by this point, doing so is useless. If gay people did not exist, the culture would still have reached this conclusion about the meaning of sex and marriage. If it had not, we wouldn’t have the divorce culture. But because the culture has already accepted that this is what sex means, and this is what marriage means, it is perfectly logical that gay folks would want to participate in it, and that many people, especially those younger people raised post-Sexual Revolution, would see no rational basis for denying them.

On my most charitable days, I tell myself that this is why the cultural left, and even younger adults on the right, call trads “bigots”: because they cannot understand how anyone in his or her right mind could disagree with them. Therefore, disagreement can only be a sign of irrational prejudice and bad character.

Besides, even more consequential to this debate than the shift in sexual and marital mores, we have become a culture in which the pursuit of happiness is valued far more than the pursuit of virtue. Specifically, the pursuit of individual happiness is more important than the pursuit of communal virtue. This is what social conservatives have had to argue against, and it has been a losing proposition. Support for privileging traditional marriage is collapsing so quickly because the cultural revolution of the postwar period washed away the philosophical and psychological foundations for traditional marriage. The point I wanted my fellow social conservatives to grasp is that this is not a winnable argument.

2) The Republican Party is not going to do anything significant to protect traditional marriage. The high water mark of anti-SSM feeling was the 2004 election. In its aftermath, Sen. Rick Santorum and other social conservatives once again brought forth a Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution. It never made it out of the Senate, and despite campaigning on supporting it, and mild public statements supporting it, President Bush never really got behind it. If, in the wake of Bush’s re-election, with Republican control of both houses of Congress, this amendment couldn’t even make it out to the states for deliberation, because the GOP wouldn’t prioritize it — well, that was the handwriting on the wall. The Republicans were happy to run opposed to gay marriage, but when they had the only truly meaningful opportunity to stop it, they balked.

3) SSM opponents would do well to abandon the fight against SSM, and instead focus on the threat SSM poses to religious liberty — this, while there is still the prospect of energizing a majority of people to protect religious liberty.

Though it is repeatedly, even hysterically, denied by SSM proponents, SSM is a clear threat to religious liberty. It is virtually impossible to argue about this with SSM backers, because they insist religious liberty begins and ends with preachers being able to voice opposition to homosexuality, and having the right to refuse to marry gay couples in their houses of worship. This is a straw man, and always has been. The thing to read is this 2006 piece surveying prominent legal scholars, including some who favor SSM, explaining why there is an irresolvable clash between gay civil rights and religious liberty. Something’s got to give.

Nobody, least of all journalists, wants to hear it, but the clash is built into our legal framework. Marriage touches all kinds of laws. Anthony Picarello, general counsel of the Becket Fund For Religious Liberty (which defends religious liberty cases involving all religions) said of same-sex marriage:
“The impact will be severe and pervasive,” Picarello says flatly. “This is going to affect every aspect of church-state relations.” Recent years, he predicts, will be looked back on as a time of relative peace between church and state, one where people had the luxury of litigating cases about things like the Ten Commandments in courthouses. In times of relative peace, says Picarello, people don’t even notice that “the church is surrounded on all sides by the state; that church and state butt up against each other. The boundaries are usually peaceful, so it’s easy sometimes to forget they are there. But because marriage affects just about every area of the law, gay marriage is going to create a point of conflict at every point around the perimeter.”
The truth of all this will be made apparent to everyone when SSM becomes constitutionalized, and religious organizations and religiously devout employers are compelled to offer benefits to their gay employees and their spouses, or face government sanction, including loss of tax-exempt status. For many churches, charities, and religious organizations operating on tiny financial margins, that tax-exempt status means the difference between existing and not existing.

I was not at the time, and still am not, a lawyer, but I wrote in 2008 that social conservatives ought to be putting their money, their strategizing, and their public activism behind building some kind of legal firewall to protect religious liberty once SSM becomes the law of the land. It was my guess that most Americans who favor SSM don’t want to punish churches and religious charities who disagree. We should appeal to them while they still exist.

(Incidentally, by no means do I believe this irenic view is held by all pro-SSM folks. For some, it is not enough that gay couples gain the right to marry; religious “bigots” must be made to suffer, as payback. You hear this week that conservatives could have had peace with the SSM movement if only they had granted civil unions a few years ago, but they refused. Anybody who believes that revisionist nonsense need only look at California, where gay couples had civil unions, and all the legal benefits of marriage, without calling it marriage. That wasn’t good enough. They wanted it all, because to deny it all would be to give some quarter to Bigotry, and we can’t have that.)

The bottom line is that we are fast reaching a place in which before the law, churches that adhere to traditional religious teaching on homosexuality in practice will have the same status under federal civil rights laws as racist churches. Religious conservatives may argue that discrimination against homosexuals is not the same thing as racial discrimination, because there is, in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic teaching, a moral aspect to sexual behavior that is not present in race — they can argue this, and they would be correct, but nobody cares, because the culture in general is coming to accept that there is no particular moral status inherent in homosexual behavior. Nor, for that matter, in most heterosexual behavior.

This is what it means to live in a post-Christian culture. We may wail and moan and gnash our teeth, but we had better get used to it.



In short, I argued in 2008 that social conservatives ought to take sober stock of the battlefield, and use the time we had to carve out some living space for ourselves in the America that was fast coming into being. For this, Maggie Gallagher, who really has been brave and tireless in fighting for traditional marriage, called me a defeatist. I can understand why she felt that way at the time, but what she called defeatism looks today, in 2012, like realism. For the first time ever, three states have legalized same-sex marriage. This is the wave of the future. The people who most strongly oppose SSM are literally dying off. Social conservatives like to tell ourselves that young people will become more socially conservative as they get older, and maybe that’s true. But I see no reason to believe that they will change their mind on same-sex marriage, even if they become more socially conservative in their habits. The fact is, gay marriage is becoming a normal part of bourgeois life. If young people do get more socially conservative as they age, that will likely express itself not in an embrace of traditional views on marriage, but rather in a sense that their gay friends really ought to settle down and marry their partner and lead a more stable, respectable life.

What does this mean going forward? Religious and social conservatives cannot abandon what we believe to be true. What we can do — what we must do — is stop trying to turn back a tide that started rushing in half a century ago, and instead figure out how to ride it without being swamped or drowned by it. Our best legal minds need to figure out the best possible, and best possible, legal protections for religious liberty in the coming environment. Our most able socially conservative politicians need to start talking all the time about religious liberty in relation to same-sex marriage, and not in an alarmist way (“We’ve got to stop gay marriage before they destroy our churches!”) but in a sober, realistic way that opens the door to possible political compromise with Democrats of good will.

It may already be too late for that. Any attempt by moderate Democrats to compromise on religious liberty will be denounced by many liberals as selling out to bigotry. And for all I know, it really will be impossible, under the US constitutional framework, to carve out meaningful exceptions for religious liberty within civil rights law.

But we have to try. What else is there? Republicans can’t join the SSM crusade without alienating us social conservatives, who constitute a huge portion of their base. Choosing to remain silent on the issue is cowardly and stupid, if only because it allows the liberal, pro-gay narrative that all we are is troglodytic bigots to go unchallenged. Now is the time for creative reappraisal of our position, and the most prudent way to advocate for our interests within a changed, and rapidly changing, political and social context.

There are practical political benefits from this exercise too, benefits that go beyond the SSM issue. I fear that strong socially conservative Republican leaders like Bobby Jindal, my own governor, may be fatally compromised at the national level precisely because they have been so strong on the gay marriage issue. If Republicans like Jindal spend the next few years thinking and talking about the issue in terms of religious liberty, and in terms of the need to find a live-and-let-live compromise that maximizes religious liberty within a marriage-law culture that accepts SSM, then this might neutralize the issue as something that can be used against them. To be clear, I’m not talking about Republican pols adopting this strategy as a cosmetic approach; they would have to be sincere, because I see no realistic possibility that the country is going to come around to the socially conservative position on same-sex marriage.

To put it another way, at the political level, social conservatives are going to have to start thinking and talking about gay marriage in a libertarian way. As a general matter, the way you succeed in American politics is by framing issues in terms of expanding liberty. This is not how conservative traditionalists (versus libertarians) think, but if we are going to protect our churches and religious institutions, we are going to have to start approaching SSM in this way. This is not a matter of sleight of hand; it really is true. The expansion of gay civil rights inevitably means a retraction of religious liberty rights for tens of millions of Americans who belong to and practice traditional Abrahamic religion. The media doesn’t talk about this, for obvious reasons, but there’s no reason why Republican politicians shouldn’t talk about it. Highlight the illiberality of SSM proponents who demand that religious folks give up a significant degree of their liberties. The dominant narrative — the only narrative — in American public discourse today is that gay people only want the same liberties that others have, and that conservatives, especially religious conservatives, want to deny them liberty. Republican politicians must start talking about the other side of the liberty story, and position themselves as being the more liberty-minded, in that they are willing to forge a strong and meaningful compromise. Even if that compromise proves elusive, at least it will change the image of conservative Republicans as implacably opposed to SSM, by shifting them to a position of conditional acceptance. We social conservatives don’t have to like SSM, but we are fooling ourselves if we don’t recognize that it is inevitable in post-Christian America, and we had better figure out the best possible arrangement to protect ourselves and our institutions while there is still time.
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Old 12-14-2012, 05:30 PM   #181
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Yeah, I got it. I think that's govt intrusion into religion and is passing a law pertaining to an establishment of religion.
I think it's an elegant solution to achieve separation myself.
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Old 12-14-2012, 05:51 PM   #182
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I think it's an elegant solution to achieve separation myself.
Okay, wait. I am not getting something. You seem to favor a church not being able to discuss political issues because it violates their 501C standing, right?

Would you be in favor of a law saying no clergy could run for office? There was a Father Drinan once in congress. He was a lawyer, human rights activist and Democrat. He was also a law professor.
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Old 12-14-2012, 06:07 PM   #183
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Okay, wait. I am not getting something. You seem to favor a church not being able to discuss political issues because it violates their 501C standing, right?

Would you be in favor of a law saying no clergy could run for office? There was a Father Drinan once in congress. He was a lawyer, human rights activist and Democrat. He was also a law professor.
No, I would not be in favor of a law barring clergy from running for office.

What I oppose is using a church as a political platform. A preacher telling his flock to vote for a particular candidate for instance. Or devoting his sermon to a particular measure that is coming up for election, attempting to compel his flock to vote a certain way. There are ways to preach so that this type of thing never really comes up. I have attended churches where pastors did this expertly. In my experience the members of those churches met at each others houses and planned rallies. They were very active politically, but they separated political activity from worship. They felt that it had no place and would have been offended if it were included.
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Old 12-14-2012, 06:09 PM   #184
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Oh, and my opposition to mixing politics and religion doesn't come from the tax code.
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Old 12-14-2012, 06:13 PM   #185
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Oh, and my opposition to mixing politics and religion doesn't come from the tax code.
Okay. But it looked as though it was used to defend that stand.

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What I oppose is using a church as a political platform. A preacher telling his flock to vote for a particular candidate for instance. Or devoting his sermon to a particular measure that is coming up for election, attempting to compel his flock to vote a certain way. There are ways to preach so that this type of thing never really comes up. I have attended churches where pastors did this expertly. In my experience the members of those churches met at each others houses and planned rallies. They were very active politically, but they separated political activity from worship. They felt that it had no place and would have been offended if it were included.
I think that's a violation of their freedom if govt tried to regulate that. If the placed was only used for that, I would say it's not a church anymore.
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Old 12-14-2012, 06:34 PM   #186
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Okay. But it looked as though it was used to defend that stand.
I was pointing out the illegality of it, after someone else brought up tax exempt status.

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I think that's a violation of their freedom if govt tried to regulate that. If the placed was only used for that, I would say it's not a church anymore.
It's tricky, and I don't believe that the government goes out of its way to find violations. I think the problem comes in when a big election or a big measure comes up. It happens here in the forum. It can dominate discussion. A skilled preacher can still deliver a message without making it political, without endorsing a particular candidate and upholding the integrity of the worship service.
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Old 12-14-2012, 07:31 PM   #187
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Any? No, and that's not what the law says. 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from supporting candidates and are subject to limits on lobbying.
I really don't think churches endorse politics as much as you seem to think, by the way. I've attended thousands of services at dozens of churches and never heard any.
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Old 12-14-2012, 07:46 PM   #188
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I really don't think churches endorse politics as much as you seem to think, by the way. I've attended thousands of services at dozens of churches and never heard any.
In my experience that is incredibly rare. I've never attended a sermon that included political discourse. I have been very picky about what churches I have attended. My family was very picky (for the most part) about what churches they attended when I was a child, and therefore what lessons I would be taught in my youth. I am also very picky about what churches I will allow my minor children to attend, and I speak with them after the services. Occasionally cracking open the Bible to help them understand the lessons.

I do know that it does happen though. You could probably still find articles about it if you want to. Off the top of my head there were some stories that broke when Bush II was running for POTUS. Big elections and important measures bring out discussion. The good preachers (which I believe are the vast majority) lead their flocks in such a way that it isn't an issue.
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Old 12-14-2012, 08:01 PM   #189
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Right, it's about more than the legal ramifications, they want acceptance and equality. I think that's pretty clear.

The people who don't want SSM don't want to accept them.

Those are all the cards laid out on the table. We can see where reasonable people stand and where the bigots stand.


I don't think you know what "bigot" even means. It sounds cool, so you say it a lot without looking it up. There are plenty of vehement anti-gays but there are also plenty of others (me) who don't care what they do. So long as they stop bothering me with their crap. I don't want to hear it. I'm sick of hearing it everywhere I go. If I kept telling you about Marvel Comicbook Heroes and you kept saying "Bitch, I don't care" but I kept pestering you....would you start to dislike Marvel Heroes because of it?
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Old 12-14-2012, 08:33 PM   #190
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I don't think you know what "bigot" even means. It sounds cool, so you say it a lot without looking it up. There are plenty of vehement anti-gays but there are also plenty of others (me) who don't care what they do. So long as they stop bothering me with their crap. I don't want to hear it. I'm sick of hearing it everywhere I go. If I kept telling you about Marvel Comicbook Heroes and you kept saying "Bitch, I don't care" but I kept pestering you....would you start to dislike Marvel Heroes because of it?
Perhaps you should reflect on where you are going if you hear about it everywhere you go. I rarely hear about it (other than on here) and I live in SSM-loving Iowa.
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Old 12-14-2012, 09:08 PM   #191
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Tax law. Churches risk losing their tax exempt status when they allow themselves to become political entities.
I may be wrong, but I think that you overstate the limitations placed upon churches and other nonprofits by the Johnson Amendment.

In response to the "risk", as you put it (however remote it might be), the only thing our church won't do is speak the name of an individual candidate or party. However, sermons during political season regularly address political issues and our members and guests are encouraged to investigate "which candidate" or "which party" might support X, and which candidate might oppose it, and what we ought to do about it.

Our church is very clearly Republican and our leadership doesn't attempt to hide it. Come get us, IRS.

____

In any event, your earlier statement reached too far. It's not illegal for churches to become political machines, although it's potentially a bad move from a financial perspective.

I won't argue with your idea that it's immoral for churches to take a firm political stance. I'll laugh at it, but I won't argue.

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Old 12-14-2012, 09:34 PM   #192
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I may be wrong, but I think that you overstate the limitations placed upon churches and other nonprofits by the Johnson Amendment.

In response to the "risk", as you put it (however remote it might be), the only thing our church won't do is speak the name of an individual candidate or party.
Gee whiz. I wonder why that could be? Does your church enjoy tax free status? Could it be that the law I mentioned specifically forbids it?



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However, sermons during political season regularly address political issues and our members and guests are encouraged to investigate "which candidate" or "which party" might support X, and which candidate might oppose it, and what we ought to do about it.

Our church is very clearly Republican and our leadership doesn't attempt to hide it. Come get us, IRS.
So which is it? Is your church Republican, or do they not advocate any particular party or candidate?

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In any event, your earlier statement reached too far. It's not illegal for churches to become political machines, although it's potentially a bad move from a financial perspective.

I won't argue with your idea that it's immoral for churches to take a firm political stance. I'll laugh at it, but I won't argue.

Yeah, actually it is. It's illegal for churches to take advantage of tax exempt status and then break the laws regarding the legitimacy of that status. That's why they can have their status revoked as well as dealing with the imposing of "certain excise taxes."
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Old 12-14-2012, 10:35 PM   #193
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I'm a Christian and my wife & I file my taxes as married. That said, what business does the government have in recognizing or forcing recognition of a religious union? When it comes to taxes, benefits, etc, etc, you can have whatever government label you want on it for normal people or others - doesn't bother me one bit - but government cannot force me or anyone else to recognize a religious state that is in contradiction to one's religious beliefs. But gays have rejected the idea of a 'civil union' - why? For the explicit purpose of infringing on those who don't agree with their lifestyle, trying to force acceptance. Newsflash - that doesn't work.
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Old 12-14-2012, 10:39 PM   #194
ClevelandBronco ClevelandBronco is offline
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Originally Posted by listopencil View Post
Gee whiz. I wonder why that could be? Does your church enjoy tax free status? Could it be that the law I mentioned specifically forbids it?

So which is it? Is your church Republican, or do they not advocate any particular party or candidate?

Yeah, actually it is. It's illegal for churches to take advantage of tax exempt status and then break the laws regarding the legitimacy of that status. That's why they can have their status revoked as well as dealing with the imposing of "certain excise taxes."
They're not taking advantage of tax free status and breaking the law.

They're taking advantage of tax free status and following the law to the letter while making it clear that they support the Republican Party and its candidates and oppose the democrat party and its henchmen.

Once again, I think you go too far in saying that it's illegal for churches to act as political machines. It's easy for churches to act within the law and as political machines.

I know that pisses you off, but it's just the way it is. If you don't like it, lobby for a stronger law.
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Old 12-14-2012, 11:03 PM   #195
listopencil listopencil is offline
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They're not taking advantage of tax free status and breaking the law.

They're taking advantage of tax free status and following the law to the letter while making it clear that they support the Republican Party and its candidates and oppose the democrat party and its henchmen.

Once again, I think you go too far in saying that it's illegal for churches to act as political machines. It's easy for churches to act within the law and as political machines.

I know that pisses you off, but it's just the way it is. If you don't like it, lobby for a stronger law.

So...which is it? Is your church Republican, or do they not advocate for a particular candidate or party?
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