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February 02, 2013

NOM-Rhode Island Makes False Claims About Religious Voices In The Marriage Equality Debate (Updated)

Posted in: marriage equality

Note: The code on yesterday’s original version of this post somehow got corrupted and was irreparable. That post was deleted and recreated here. I have reproduced below the comments left on the original post.

“Your (sic) religious?! Your opinion has no equality here!”

On Thursday National Organization for Marriage in Rhode Island, an opponent of Rhode Island’s marriage equality bill (H 5015), posted the following photo and statement:

Same-sex marriage (SSM) activists frequently attack religion as the source of their unfounded and libelous “bigotry” and “homophobia” claims. However religion is a straw man for their anti-faith arguments. The painful truth for SSM activists is that most of the reasons behind leaving the definition of marriage as-is are not based on faith at all, and they know it, but that wont stop them from leveling their guns on religion.

This statement makes two assertions, both of which are false. First, it implies that supporters of marriage equality wish to silence (literally, with guns) the religious voice. Second, it asserts that opponents of marriage equality aren’t motivated by their religious beliefs.

False Assertion One: marriage equality supporters wish to silence the religious voice

Far from wishing to silence religious voices, Rhode Islanders United for Marriage has among its founding members the Rhode Island Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality, which represents more than 100 clergy and faith leaders from 13 different denominations.

“Giving all Rhode Islanders full access to marriage is an opportunity to remove roadblocks to pastoral care for those faith traditions that welcome and affirm same-sex relationships,” Rev. Gene Dyszlewski, chair of the Rhode Island Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality said at the launch of Rhode Islanders United for Marriage. “Christ welcomed all to His table and so, as faith leaders for equality, we hope to walk on the path He set for us – living by His example – and affirming His commitment to tolerance and justice.”

On the same day that NOM-Rhode Island posted their assertions, the Rhode Island State Council of Churches “called upon the General Assembly to pass, and Governor Chafee to sign, marriage equality legislation this session”.

“We believe this is an issue of tolerance and religious liberty. While there is broad diversity within communities of faith on this issue, many traditions choose to welcome same-sex relationships to the covenant of marriage,” said Rev. Dr. Don Anderson, executive minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches. “Under current law, those open and affirming traditions are unable to do so in Rhode Island. While No church or clergy would be required by this law to contradict the teachings of their particular faith, the State Council of Churches believes those congregations who wish to perform same-sex marriages should be able to do so.”

The truth is that people of faith are among some of the most dedicated supporters of Rhode Island’s marriage equality bill. Far from marriage equality supporters trying to silence religious voices, people of faith and marriage equality supporters are very frequently one in the same.

False Assertion Two: marriage equality opponents aren’t motivated by religious beliefs

NOM-Rhode Island’s second assertion, that opponents of marriage equality aren’t motivated by their religious beliefs, is rather shocking considering their own tendency to place religious speakers and arguments front and center.

Mid January, NOM-Rhode Island helped launch Faith Alliance to Preserve the Sanctity of Marriage as Established by God (Faith Alliance), a group that “includes representatives from the Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, the National Organization for Marriage and a number of Hispanic and Latino church groups,” according to Providence Journal. NOM-Rhode Island’s director, Chris Plante, was a speaker at the press event launching the organization.

“The purpose of the Faith Alliance is to safeguard and promote God’s covenant and definition of marriage,” its website states.

“Preserve the Sanctity of Marriage Established by God!!”

NOM-Rhode Island has featured the participation of Faith Alliance in its subsequent reportage. NOM has also posted a video showing Faith Alliance leaders speaking before a banner which reads “Preserve the Sanctity of Marriage Established by God!!”. The video also features a bill opponent stating that marriage discrimination should remain “because God establish a man and a woman only”.

If Faith Alliance’s name and membership weren’t proof enough that NOM-Rhode Island is using religious arguments to oppose marriage equality, Faith Alliance’s position statement is very clear on the matter:

Position #1
Marriage is a sacred covenant between God, man, and woman. It was the first covenant that God made with man and woman. The proposition of “same-sex” marriage does not conform to God’s definition of marriage and is not consistent with Biblical principles or its recorded history. The Church and people of faith have been given the charge to protect and preserve God’s holy institution of marriage. The members of the Faith Alliance intend to meet that call.

Position #2
The state, by law, only has the right to ensure the “legal” administration of God’s covenant of marriage to ensure the protection of children; it is not authorized to change, amend, or revise God’s definition of marriage. Marriage has been established and defined by God as a spiritual union between a man and a woman, and it is not to be altered by mankind or its government.

Position #3
Marriage was created and defined by God and given to religious institutions to administer. Civil union was created and defined by man and given to the government to administer. The attempt to recreate or redefine God’s covenant of marriage foreshadows a dangerous blurring of the line separating church and state. …

In January, NOM-Rhode Island was instrumental in making sure that anti-gay religious voices were present at a House committee hearing on the marriage bill. “The Rhode Island office of National Organization for Marriage (NOM) brought in several good high-profile speakers, including Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute, who came from California, and Dr. Susan Yoshihara…,” reported MassResistance president Brian Camenker.

Both NOM-sponsored speakers represent organizations whose opposition to marriage equality is primarily religious-based. Ruth Institute is itself a project of NOM. Its website states that “Christianity has always taught that marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman.”

Dr. Morse concluded her testimony against the marriage bill with “As for me, I shall sleep soundly tonight, knowing that I have done my duty to God and my country and to future generations.”

Dr. Yoshihara’s employer C-FAM, or Catholic and Family Human Rights Institute, exists “to monitor and affect the social policy debate at the United Nations and other international institutions”. Its website currently features an editorial titled “Editorial: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity are Not Human Rights”.

The editorial asserts that including sexual orientation and gender identity as categories of non-discrimination in international law “would mean changes in marriage laws, adoption laws, and even the use of public restrooms. It would mean such notions couldn’t be kept out of any level of schooling including grade schools. As often as not, such claims of non-discrimination end up discriminating against Christians and others who have moral and religious objections to such notions.”

By way of explaining their mission, C-FAM quotes Pope Benedict XVI:

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge clearly today: …

- recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family – as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage – and its defense from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role;

Rhode Island blogger Steve Ahlquist has posted several videos taken in the Rhode Island state house on January 15, the day that the House Judiciary committee was taking public comment on the marriage bill. The videos make clear that the opponents of the bill, who NOM-Rhode Island assembled there, were using religious-based arguments to oppose the bill.

The first video features NOM-Rhode Island associate Chris Young proselytizing a boy and coaching him on what to say in his committee testimony.  The second video features a religious revival meeting being held in the rotunda. At one point the revival leader exhorts everyone to “Pray for all those people that are confused about marriage.” Later the crowd chants “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!“.  The last video shows a woman holding a sign which reads “Preserve the sanctity of marriage as established by God” while standing next to a boy and a girl dressed in wedding attire.

Despite NOM-Rhode Island’s assertion that they and their supporters aren’t motivated by their religious beliefs, their own words and actions prove otherwise.

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