Full Text–Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together

Dear Friends:

The promotion and protection of marriage””the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife””is a matter of the common good and serves the wellbeing of the couple, of children, of civil society and all people.The meaning and value of marriage precedes and transcends any particular society, government, or religious community.It is a universal good and the foundational institution of all societies.It is bound up with the nature of the human person as male and female, and with the essential task of bearing and nurturing children.

As religious leaders across a wide variety of faith communities, we join together to affirm that marriage in its true definition must be protected for its own sake and for the good of society. We also recognize the grave consequences of altering this definition. One of these consequences””the interference with the religious freedom of those who continue to affirm the true definition of “marriage”””warrants special attention within our faith communities and throughout society as a whole.For this reason, we come together with one voice in this letter.

Read it carefully and read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

4 comments on “Full Text–Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together

  1. Katherine says:

    This is signed by an impressive list of church leaders, including Archbishop Duncan, ACNA, but not including any Episcopalians.

  2. Jill Woodliff says:

    Think of all the religious-affiliated hospitals, schools, and universities that could be affected. If they closed, would our communities be better or worse off?

  3. William Witt says:

    There is a major shift in the ethical language used here that echoes an older ethical tradition including not only pagans like Aristotle, but also mainstream pre-Reformation Catholic ethical tradition (think Thomas Aquinas), but also historic Anglican moral theology (Richard Hooker). The language of “common good” subverts the unquestioned allegiance to the priority of the autonomous individual and “rights” that is assumed without argument by both the political “left” and “right” in late modern Western culture. Debates about abortion, firearms ownership, narcotics use, and taxes, are all consistently framed in the language of “rights” and individual freedom that logically and inevitably leads in a libertarian direction. Once embrace “rights talk” and one is hard pressed to find exceptions for such things as abortion or same sex marriage. At the same time, appeal to the common good has uncomfortable implications for those whose economics owes more to John Locke and Adam Smith than to Aristotle and Aquinas. For Locke, the basic political unit is the autonomous individual. For Aquinas and Aristotle, it is the polis. (To be more specific, for those following not only Thomas, but Augustine, the polis is the civitas dei or the the communio sanctorum.)

  4. Steven says:

    In the Fall 2007 edition of [url=http://www.marshillaudio.org/Resources/Issue.aspx?id=87][i]Mars Hill Audio[/i][/url], Ken Myers interviewed John Witte, Jr. One portion so struck me that I transcribed it and have posted it on my own blog, most recently [url=http://pastorzip.blogspot.com/2011/12/repost-marriage-and-our-culture.html]last month[/url]:[blockquote][i]Ken Meyers’ last question in the interview is:[/i]

    “One of the areas in which there’s a lot of contention about morality and law right now are marriage laws. I know you’ve spent a lot of time studying marriage and family — history of marriage and family. It seems that in some circles there’s a reluctance to assert that our laws concerning family, what constitutes a family, what constitutes a marriage, should be based in some moral vision, that that itself is seen as a transgression of the Social Contract for a kind of pluralism. You think that it’s entirely possible to make moral arguments in the construction of laws governing family.”

    [i]Witte responds:[/i]

    “I think those are absolutely imperative to offer as alternatives in the discourse.

    “It’s important to remember that the architects of our understanding of a social and government Contract (people like John Locke or Jean Jacques Rousseau and some of their American followers and contemporaries) had as their First Contract — before the contract of society and the contract of government — the First Contract was the Contract of Marriage. In Locke’s [i]First[/i] and [i]Second Treatise[/i] that’s presupposed. In Jean Jacques Rousseau’s work that’s presupposed. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson both presupposed that as well.

    “The Marital Contract is the [i]First[/i] Contract. It’s the [i]First[/i] School of Justice. It’s the [i]first[/i] chrysalis in which nurture, education, and habits of citizenship are encouraged in the population. It’s only on the strength of [i]that[/i] contract, from atavistic individuals in nature to this first institution, that we can then begin to build a notion of a Social Contract and, beyond that, a Government Contract.

    “And that’s an [i]ancient[/i] insight that goes all the way back to Aristotle, that goes back to his ‘Politics’ in [i]Nicomachean Ethics[/i], where he said the first institution of the [i]polis[/i] is the family.

    “So if [i]that[/i] is the presupposition in Western understandings of how we organize our polities, it seems to me that it is a non-starter for us to be debating the essentials of marital and family norms, and procedures and policies, and exclude from that discourse [i]all[/i] of the rich cultural, philosophical, and theological traditions that have helped to cultivate our understanding of marriage and family, and how it works within the broader polity.

    “And religious communities that bracket their theological discourse, that choose to forego a deep reflection on the goods and the goals of what marriage and family life are all about in an attempt to be politically correct, or an attempt to avoid a political fence — or in an attempt to First Amendment-ize themselves per the caricature of the separation of Church and State — in my view, both are engaging in theological bracketing and trimming that’s unnecessary. What they’re ultimately engaging in [is] an omission from the discourse that’s going to harm the polity in the long term.

    “And that’s not to say that there’s a preordained result about how these marriage and family debates are going to work out at the State level. But it [i]is[/i] to say that, if we’re going to have a real, serious discourse about changing 2500-year-old patterns about how marriage and family life come together in the West, we better do that with [i]full[/i] ventilation of all of the philosophical, theological, moral, economic, sociological issues at stake.”[/blockquote]I think this Open Letter, like the [url=http://www.manhattandeclaration.org/home.aspx]Manhattan Declaration[/url], is trying to engage in that serious discourse.

    [url=http://pastorzip.blogspot.com]The Rev. Steven P. Tibbetts, STS[/url]