The Washington Post opinion piece “‘Fortnight for Freedom’ distorts true religious liberty” by Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, distorts matters when it compares the Roman Catholic Church’s stance on its agencies not providing adoption services to gay couples with segregationist practices in the past. I am not a Roman Catholic, but a Protestant. Still, there is something at stake for all of us, when sound logic is missing from arguments on ethical matters of national import.
Before proceeding to analyze this portion of Murphy’s argument, it is important to answer a few questions for my readers. First, what is the Fortnight for Freedom? The Fortnight for Freedom is championed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It is a fourteen day vigil (June 21st to July 4th) that includes the following activities and aims: “this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action will emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty”.
Second, so what led to the Fortnight for Freedom? Namely, the concern on the part of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that Catholics’ religious liberties as Americans are not being protected as it pertains to such matters as contraception, abortion, and adoption. Of concern are the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) stipulations that federal funding be provided only to those groups that offer services involving contraception and/or abortion and/or adoption for gay couples (depending on the scope of services such groups provide). Roman Catholic agencies in the relevant spheres do not provide such services based on religious convictions, and as a result would not receive federal funding.
Now to Murphy’s argument. She writes, “Don’t be fooled. It’s about discrimination plain and simple. And it’s not the first time this has happened.” She maintains that Catholics cannot assert their religious liberty in this context. She then proceeds to make connections between the Catholic Church’s stances on such matters as providing gay couples with adoption services and segregationist stances in the past.
This won’t do. For example, there is a major difference between racial segregation and not providing adoption services to gay couples. Regardless of what one makes of the Roman Catholic Church’s stance on this matter, racial segregation is based on skin color. For the Roman Catholic Church, homosexual activity is contrary to nature, while different skin colors are not. For the Roman Catholic Church, not providing adoption to gay couples is based on sexual lifestyle (as part of their theology of the family which entails not simply being, but also activity).
I need to pause at this point. While I disagree with Murphy on the connection she makes between the Roman Catholic position on these matters and segregationists, I am sympathetic to her point that many Christians have used the Bible to dehumanize those whom we see as not holding to a biblical worldview or ethic. It is important that Roman Catholics and other Christians seeking to present a biblically orthodox model of ethics argue for their positions based on what’s best for the common good and the humanity we all share (I believe this is how Archbishop Lori argues in his Washington Post op-ed piece noted below; this is also how I seek to promote the common good and affirm people who practice homosexuality while at the same time arguing for heterosexual relations as alone warranted by Scripture in the chapter on homosexuality in Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths).
Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths. This volume can be found wherever fine books are sold.