Thursday, September 11, 2008

opening a can of worms

Or pandora's box. However you want to look at it. Let's get political. But first let me preface this: I don't really consider myself a huge political person. Sure, I have opinions, but I'm not one to get into big long debates--mostly because if I don't know a ton about a subject, I feel it best not to put my foot in my mouth. I do, however, like to be informed. I've done some reading on this and would love to hear what you guys think. But first, some ground rules.

1. Play nice (and intelligent). I'm not a fan of closed-minded, rude arguments. I'm a fan of discussion.
2. This is NOT a debate over homosexuality. I'm not really interested in your opinions about whether homosexuality is right or wrong.
3. This is NOT a debate over who should be able to use the word "marriage" or whether the word "marriage" is religious or not.
4. If you can come up with concrete examples to back up your opinion, please feel free to use them.
5. If you feel you can't follow these rules, I'd rather you stop reading now. :)
6. I don't base my friendships on political views, so don't worry. I'll still love you in the morning.

So on to the question. Along with many many arguments on the table for and against the recognition of same-sex marriage, it has been argued that religious institutions could potentially be in trouble if same-sex marriage is recognized as a civil right. Churches could lose their tax-exempt status if they deny marriage ceremonies to same-sex couples. Religious adoption agencies could be shut down if they deny access to same-sex couples. And so on. So let's pretend same-sex marriage is considered a civil right across the entire country (not just California and Massachusetts). Do you think religious institutions would be in jeopardy if they didn't offer services to same-sex couples. Do you think the separation of church and state would be on the rocks in this situation?

I already know my opinion on this, but I want to hear yours.


LJ and DC said...

I have no idea but I sure hope not. I think this is more of a legal question isn't it? A question regarding the rights of private institutions?

Molly said...

Exactly. And that's why I don't want people confusing this debate with the "is same-sex marriage ok" debate.

Ashley C. said...

I don't think churches will be affected. I mean, for example, the LDS church right now has a right to discriminate against who they allow to get married in the temple (and I don't mean discriminate in a mean, hateful way). If they don't believe the beliefs of the people wanting to get married are in line with the beliefs of the church, they have a right to say no, right? Can a straight couple sue and demand that the church let them marry in the temple and recognize that marriage? I could be wrong but it seems that churches have more leeway when it comes to those sort of issues.

Ashley said...

The scary thing is that it doesn't matter what any of us think will happen--we are not the ones who get to decide what happens in the future. Those decisions will lie in the hands of a few individual judges who are not accountable to the people, and who make whatever decisions suit their agenda. There is plenty of legal precedent out there for a judge to write an opinion saying equal protection is violated if, for example, a Catholic priest refuses to marry a gay couple--IF gay marriage is considered a fundamental right equal to traditional marriage. We can be certain the lawsuits will come. We can't be certain how the judges will rule. But personally, I wouldn't trust the California courts (known as the most activist in the nation) to uphold religious activity it finds to violate a fundamental right. So my answer, yeah I think it's possible. And scary.

Jena Wise said...

I don't feel like the adoption agency issue is an issue because isn't LDS family services a private organization, not funded by the government? If they don't accept funds from the government than can't they make their own decisions as to who can adopt and what not? I feel like (and maybe this is a completely different can of worms) the church's adoption system is incredibly biased and perhaps discriminatory. In all honesty don't good looking rich families have all the luck in getting chosen to adopt? I think it should then be the same with churches (government not involved) since they are separate from the government and we don't receive $$ from the government.
One of the most poorly written paragraphs, but hopefully you get my ideas. And I could be totally wrong... I haven't done all my research :).

josh hallmark said...

as someone who was raised secular and happens to be gay, i would be the first to admit my opinion probably isn't the most objective; however, i think it's fair. with a 6 year legal background, recent travels to third world nations, and a general acceptance for fair views that differ from my own, my opinion is this:
religions pride themselves on their views and beliefs. and there absolutely is a separation of church and state. i think it's unfair to use this solely in line with secular agendas. so i think should equality of marriage become nationwide, churches should not be forced by politicians to change these beliefs. i think if two gay mormom/catholic/whatever men/women want to get married within their church, and their church doesn't approve of their marriage, rather than suing, perhaps they should look at other, more liberal organizations. this universal need for every individual to have and maintain the same beliefs, whether by force or coercion, is what creates so many problems the world faces today.
as for adoption agencies: there are so many children in need in this world. so many children who are alone and ignored and left behind, that for any child to be denied a loving, caring family based on something as shallow as their sexual orientation is both a slap in the face to the child and the family.

Kaylynn said...

Hi Molly,

I've heard this argument over and over again, and while I have my beliefs that it's an insane argument and will never happen, I decided to look up the real rules.

So, from the IRS website:

"To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.

Organizations described in section 501(c)(3) are commonly referred to as charitable organizations. Organizations described in section 501(c)(3), other than testing for public safety organizations, are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions in accordance with Code section 170.

The organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, and no part of a section 501(c)(3) organization's net earnings may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. If the organization engages in an excess benefit transaction with a person having substantial influence over the organization, an excise tax may be imposed on the person and any organization managers agreeing to the transaction.

Section 501(c)(3) organizations are restricted in how much political and legislative (lobbying) activities they may conduct. For a detailed discussion, see Political and Lobbying Activities. For more information about lobbying activities by charities, see the article Lobbying Issues; for more information about political activities of charities, see the FY-2002 CPE topic Election Year Issues."

I think the tax-exempt status argumetn came about when adoption agencies started closing down because they didn't want to have to give babies to SS couples. Well, they receive money from the government, so their option is either follow the new rules, or get out. For the church, we don't receive money from the government, and if we did we wouldn't be tax exempt. So, I feel as though this argument is a moot point.

The Bundys said...

I can see both sides of the argument - having a gay cousin with an adopted daughter - but I still think that as laws get put into place that run so contrary to natural law we will see problems grow in our society. I do believe that this law will have an effect on religions and churches. Whether it will be laws and regulations on how it is ran or increased law suits. Once the ball gets rolling, more laws will make things continually worse for private religions and organizations. As a mother, I have learned how society and social norms impact a child’s thinking and learning development even as young as 2 or 3 years old. I believe just the teaching of different marriages in schools will cause many problems in adolescent development, which will increase adolescent insecurities, behavioral problems, and family stability.

Tyler said...

I'm more curious to know what you think now that your church has encouraged its members to pick a side on the issue.

Molly said...

Thanks for everyone's comments. My opinion? I think it's possible. Everything is possible in this day and age. Like Lenessa said to me earlier--there are lawyers who drive around looking for businesses that don't have wheelchair ramps just so they can sue them. People are sue happy and will take advantage of everything they can. But do I think that's a good argument against gay marriage? No. I think it's a scare tactic. I think people have very very good reasons for supporting or opposing gay marriage, and I think that religious reasons are quite valid. Are people who oppose gay marriage for religious reasons being bigots and forcing their beliefs on other people? No. They are exercising their right to vote and have their opinion heard. For many members in our church, the plan of life (and eternity) revolves around men and women sealed together with children who are sealed to them. It's really not surprising that having such a strong belief about an eternity designed around the traditional family gives people reason to want to protect it. And I applaud people for standing up for what they believe--be it traditional marriage, gay marriage, animal rights, etc. Stand up for what you believe in and let others stand up for what they believe in. But don't use scare tactics to try to convince people to agree with you. That's my issue with this argument.

Tyler--If you really want to know how I feel about the relationship between my feelings and what the church has asked us to do, you can call me. :) My relationship with my religion is deeply personal and not something I'm comfortable sharing on my blog. Plus, it would take me way too long to discuss everything. But I'm more than happy to tell you how I've been feeling in person.

Tyler said...

Not a bad response. It's touchy subject and you handle it well. I've started a half dozen blog posts on the subject only to delete them because I fear that people won't get that I do in fact see that there are great reasons to argue either side of the issue.

To be honest, if I wasn't religious, and didn't have a wonderful marriage, and didn't have two beautiful boys whose future I want to protect, yeah, I might have voted differently come November. But I am, and I do, so I won't.