Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Religious freedom?

The State of New Jersey has revoked the tax-exempt status of a Methodist-owned boardwalk in Ocean Grove NJ, while its equality commission is investigating whether the camp violated the state's equal rights law when it denied a lesbian couple a civil-union ceremony on its property. (Via the CT weblog) Commentary by Maggie Gallagher.


Mattheus Mei said...

You know, I agree with the Church here in this instance, just because the government recognizes civil marriages doesn't mean that the religious folk do. But what I do question is to why the Methodist own a boardwalk? Is it simply a matter of conservation for the "public good" (key word being public, meaning that the property is open for anyone's use or appreciation - like a park) or a place designed for the "spiritual welfare" of its congregants? The answer to this question I think would clarify if the State were right to revoke exempt status.

Gashwin said...

Does it matter? It's private property ... the State doesn't give privileges to own property. Private property owned by a church ought not to be forced to be used by the church against its own beliefs ... and the larger question is: why does the state give tax breaks to religious organizations? If it is because the State sees a compelling public interest in promoting (all) religion, well, then, stick to that.

Remember, in this case, the State hasn't even determined finally that the church violated its statutes. It assumed that when the tax exempt status was revoked while the property is under investigation.

And the gay-rights groups reacted because this penalty -- this guilty--until-you're proven innocent sentence -- wasn't harsh enough.

These things just clearer and clearer for me.

Gashwin said...

And in this case NJ does NOT recognize civil marriage -- it assumes that denying a private ceremony on privately owned property violates its non discrimination statutes.

Gashwin said...

Here's the part from the column that I linked that nails the issue -- it goes far beyond ideas like tolerance, love, and acceptance of people in their struggles. It's not about hatred at all, though one side, I think, will try to portray it in those terms.

"The goal of gay marriage activists from day one has been to treat sexual orientation in law and society in exactly the same way we treat race. What does this mean in practice? It means that people like you and me who think marriage is the union of husband and wife will be treated like bigots who oppose interracial marriages. Ideas have consequences. Pay attention to what people say. Usually they mean it.

"How can Adam and Steve's marriage hurt you?" I've been asked over and over again, as if gay marriage were primarily about expanding personal liberty. Many libertarians and conservatives, in particular, have been seduced by this false framing of the issue. Liberty arguments lead to values pluralism: Live and let live; let each of us do what we want.

Equality arguments are, by contrast, high-octane fuel for expansions of government power. In this case the government of New Jersey has officially endorsed the idea that treating same-sex couples any different from unions of husband and wife is immoral discrimination -- and those who do so must be disciplined for their bigotry.

At least the stakes are becoming clear."