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Religious Leaders Unite in Defense of Marriage, Religious Liberty

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Religious Leaders Unite in Defense of Marriage, Religious Liberty

On matters of theology, religious leaders from Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Jewish and Pentecostal communities hold differing views. That is no secret. But leaders from these and multiple other religious traditions are rallying together with a shared perspective on a fundamental institution of society—marriage—and they want to be sure that is no secret either.

n an open letter to the American people, nearly 40 religious leaders “join[ed] together to affirm that marriage in its true definition must be protected for its own sake and for the good of society.”

Entitled “Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together,” the letter released Jan. 12 affirms that the “promotion and protection of” traditional marriage is “a matter of the common good and serves the well being of the couple, of children, of civil society and all people,” adding that changing the definition of marriage would result in “grave consequences.”

Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and Dr. Barrett Duke, the agency’s vice president for public policy and research, were among the signers of the letter.

The other 37 religious leaders who signed hail from denominations and organizations as wide-ranging as the Anglican Church in America, the Assemblies of God, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the Salvation Army, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, among dozens of others.

As the title of the letter indicates, a chief concern about redefining marriage is what it would mean for religious freedom. The two, the signers suggest, are intertwined. To allow for the expansion of marriage, as they rightly note, would open the door to all kinds of problems for those who stand their ground on marriage, citing religious convictions.

Cautioning about what a marriage redefinition could produce, the leaders laid out what they consider to be the “most urgent peril”: “forcing or pressuring both individuals and religious organizations—throughout their operations, well beyond religious ceremonies—to treat same-sex conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct.” This, they argue, is because altering the definition of marriage would change not simply one law but countless laws.

What this means in practice, they warn, is that people of faith will likely find their religious freedom on a collision course with a redefinition of marriage. The leaders note multiple examples. Religious adoption agencies could be forced to place children with same-sex couples in violation of their convictions. Marriage counselors could have their licenses revoked for refusing to counsel same-sex couples. Employers who provide certain health benefits to married couples could be forced to extend the same benefits to employees in same-sex relationships. The list of likely scenarios goes on.

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