Gallagher said Gov. Cuomo should apologize to 65-year-old Ruth Sheldon, a Granby town clerk who resigned because she could not in good conscience sign same-sex marriage licenses.
“There is no cost to protecting religious liberty--failing to do so is simply mean-spirited and pointless.”
Assurances of religious freedom protections appear not to have helped Catholic Charities agencies in Illinois, where the state government is now refusing to renew its contracts for foster care and adoption services after the passage of a civil unions bill last December.
“They believe we’re in violation of the law and are refusing to contract with us because of our religious beliefs, that children are best raised in a home with a mother and a father,” Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, told CNA.
The conference believes the state is interpreting the law in an incorrect manner. Gilligan noted that the civil unions bill included religious freedom protection in its title and the Illinois Human Rights Act “clearly allows a religious adoption agency to discriminate.” An exchange on the Senate floor also established that it was not the intention of the bill to impede Catholic Charities’ or other faith-based organizations’ religious practice.
Nevertheless, Catholic child placement agencies may lose their funding and face closure.
“It’s really a tragedy if the state decides it can’t embrace different organizations of different faiths to perform social services and health care,” Gilligan said. He characterized the action as an impediment to religious liberties of both organizations and individuals.
“There are Catholic foster parents out there that only wish to perform foster care with Catholic Charities agencies,” he said.
Gilligan believes the actions in Illinois signal a major change in the place of Catholic institutions in the public square.
Scholars like Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown Law Center professor and lesbian activist who was appointed to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, foresaw many conflicts coming between gay rights and religious liberty.
“She had trouble thinking of any cases where she believed the rights of religious liberty should triumph over gay rights,” George said.
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He insisted that “(p)eople are bound to follow their consciences, especially in matters of religion, and the state should, to the extent possible, accommodate the religious consciences of its citizens.”
But instead of allowing religious freedom, marriage laws and anti-discrimination laws are being used as “instruments to whip dissenters from the laws into line” in order to change people’s views and to advance an agenda, George charged.
The laws are being used to “brand and label as bigots and the equivalent of racists people who have the temerity to say that marriage is a union of a man and a woman and to say that sex belongs in marriage and not outside of it.”
“It’s a great way to change the culture, by depicting your opponents as bigots and haters, and imposing on them civil disabilities by using the weapons of anti-discrimination law.
“It’s a brilliant strategy. I have to applaud them for the brilliance of the strategy as much as I loathe its bad faith and consequences,” George said.
Gallagher encouraged those who object to the legal recognition of same-sex unions.
“I think Christians and other people from traditional faith communities are being called in a new way to courage,” she said. “Are we going to volunteer to live in a world where the idea that marriage is the union of husband and wife because children need their mom and dad can be treated as the moral equivalent of racism?”