The latest litigation over state same-sex marriage bans is interesting because it has been brought by an entire Christian denomination, the United Church of Christ. The UCC is challenging North Carolina’s ban as violating First Amendment guarantees of religious liberty by actually criminalizing rites the denomination has chosen to perform. Here’s a quick summary from the New York Times‘ Michael Paulson:
The denomination argues that a North Carolina law criminalizing the religious solemnization of weddings without a state-issued marriage license violates the First Amendment. Mr. Clark said that North Carolina allows clergy members to bless same-sex couples married in other states, but otherwise bars them from performing “religious blessings and marriage rites” for same-sex couples, and that “if they perform a religious blessing ceremony of a same-sex couple in their church, they are subject to prosecution and civil judgments.”
UCC churches have been performing same-sex marriages since 2005.
So are the conservative evangelicals so avid to protect religious liberty rushing to the UCC’s aid here?
Don’t think so. Tami Fitzgerald, executive director for the heavily churched-up North Carolina Values Coalition, the most vocal supporter of the state’s same-sex marriage ban, had this to say:
[I]t’s both ironic and sad that an entire religious denomination and its clergy who purport holding to Christian teachings on marriage would look to the courts to justify their errant beliefs. These individuals are simply revisionists that distort the teaching of Scripture to justify sexual revolution, not marital sanctity.
So Tami Fitzgerald assumes the power and wisdom to judge the Christian authenticity of a denomination whose roots are planted in Plymouth Rock. It’s another example, if one is needed, that behind the Christian Right’s claims of simply exercising the right of self-defense is a powerfully arrogant drive to impose its secular views on how society should be organized on believers and unbelievers alike.
UPDATE: At National Review, Matthew Franck makes a reasonably convincing argument that the NC law does not in fact keep clergy from solemnifying same-sex relationships so long as they are not recognized as “marriages” for civil purposes. But of course, he cannot keep himself from a couple of nasty drive-bys about the UCC being free to hold ceremonies for “twos or threes or fives,” etc., etc., engaging in the same sort of arrogant demagoguery as the new Christian hierarch Tami Fitzgerald.