Whatever the caricatures, almost no one, even among the most religiously conservative, argues that religious freedom outweighs every other concern. Everyone recognizes that as with freedom of speech and other constitutional guarantees, there will be some hard cases.
But it would be tragic to trample over the consciences of citizens whenever their beliefs come into conflict with the fluctuating norms of secular sexual orthodoxy. Likewise, almost no rational person would suggest that a religious-freedom consensus would evaporate our “culture war” disputes. We have real differences, and they are not going away anytime soon. What’s perilous right now is how we choose to have these arguments.
One need not agree with Christians or Muslims or Orthodox Jews or others on marriage and sexuality to see that such views are not incidental to their belief systems. They did not emerge out of a political debate, and they won’t be undone by political power. In many cases, these beliefs aren’t even, first of all, about sex or family or culture in the first place, but about what these religious people believe undergird them. In the case of 2,000 years of small “o” (and big “O,” for that matter) orthodox Christians, this is the belief that sexual expression is confined to the union of a man and a woman because marriage is an icon of the gospel union of Christ and his church.
That does not mean, in any way, that all Americans of deep religious belief agree on how to address these questions in the public square. One could find multiple views — even in church pews — about what, for instance, public nondiscrimination laws should be. It does mean, though, that such views are not peripheral to the missions of many religious institutions. One cannot simply uproot them and expect these people to adjust their consciences to fit the new cultural expectation.
Read it all.