- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 3, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

California did more than just legalize same-sex marriages in June. Its decision has the potential to threaten one of America’s greatest freedoms - religious liberty - by ruling that sexual orientation is a matter of discrimination.

The keyword is “discrimination,” which equates sexual orientation to race, gender, age, etc. This categorization enables homosexuals, transgenders and others to cite their sexual tendencies as grounds for discrimination in lawsuits against employers, insurance companies and those administering such civil duties as granting marriage licenses.

Legal professionals bridging the political spectrum agree that if there is not careful lawmaking, vigilant voters and open dialogue, the ruling could lead to churches and other houses of worship, as well as religious nonprofits, losing tax breaks, rights to license marriages and preach on the issue of homosexuality.

Part of the problem is that most religious-based institutions receive some form of government funding (partly due to President Bush’s faith-based initiative, which has been endorsed by John McCain and Barack Obama, who touts his own initiative on the campaign trail). The initiative seeks to strengthen faith-based and community organizations and expand their capacity to provide federally funded social services. The idea, of course, is that these community-oriented groups are better suited to deliver services to local families and individuals.

The question that arises now is how is the government going to rectify the fact that many Judeo-Christian organizations “discriminate” against same-sex individuals and couples by reinforcing, as the Bible does, that homosexuality is an “abomination,” by refusing to rent their facilities to homosexuals and by denying the sacrament of holy matrimony to same-sex couples.

The answer could be a snowball of problems for those religious groups that refuse to sacrifice their beliefs for the sake of public policy, including but not limited to lawsuits from homosexuals for discrimination in hiring and revocation of tax breaks from the government.

This has already proven true in Boston, where the Catholic Charities adoption agency refused to place children in the care of same-sex couples, adhering to the Roman Catholic Church’s condemnation of same-sex marriage. The result? Catholic Charities of Boston ended its 103-year-old adoption program in June 2006 - opting to relinquish its founding mission rather than abandon the Catholic Church’s teaching and comply with Massachusetts state law requiring that gays be allowed to adopt children.

There was a similar case in Sacramento, where Catholic Charities refused to insure an employee’s prescription for birth control. Once again, the organization stood by Catholic teaching. This time, the organization was forced by the California Supreme Court to provide its employees in California with medical coverage for birth control, in spite of its religious objections to contraception.

These two cases alone - both of which occurred prior to California’s recent ruling on same-sex marriage - have sweeping implications for religion-based groups. Moreover, the implications threaten one of America’s greatest freedoms: religious liberty. What will Americans do about that?

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