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I Agree with the National Organization for Marriage

This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect that of any other author at Box Turtle Bulletin

Timothy Kincaid

April 23rd, 2009

The State of Connecticut has enacted law to formalize the State Supreme Court’s decision which legalized same-sex marriage. At the last minute they accepted amendments which would codify the constitutional rights of religions to reserve recognition to those marriages of which they approve.

In response, the National Organization for Marriage, that wacky group of storm-fearers, released the following press release.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) applauds the Connecticut legislature which, in a surprise move today, adopted substantive religious liberty protections as part of what was expected to be a routine bill implementing the Connecticut court decision ordering same-sex marriage.

I agree with this paragraph. *

The language adopted by the State of Connecticut seems reasonable to me. It exempts churches, religious societies and other religious non-profits from “services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges” if the refusal is based on their objection to a marriage which is “in violation of their religious beliefs and faith”. It also exempts religious fraternal benefit societies (eg. the Knights of Columbus) to deny membership and insurance benefits. The third provision would exempt religious organizations from recognizing marriages for purposes of adoption, foster care and other social services provided that they don’t receive public funds for those services.

I have no objection to these provisions and I dare say that most gay folk are just fine with them as well. In fact, I don’t see them as any additional protection than was already guaranteed by the US Constitution.

If anti-gays wanted to drop all of their campaigns against marriage equality, in exchange I’d happily support language that redundantly gives their churches and religious organizations the same protections that they’ve always had. I’d make that deal in a second.

But I wonder why Maggie and crowd are so excited. This language, if adopted, would entirely neuter some of her scare stories. She can’t wail about church groups in New Jersey or Catholic Charities in Massachusetts if the proposed laws exempt these organizations. **

Were all states considering marriage to use this language, Maggie would no longer be able to claim that religious freedoms are impacted and would instead be forced to argue her real objections to civil equality: religious arrogance and personal animus.

- – -

* Of course the rest of the release is full of nonsense including the notion that there is “serious potential implications of same-sex marriage for traditional faith communities” and implying that supporters of marriage equality had previously lacked “willingness to accept broad conscience protections.” But we don’t really expect Maggie to be truthful, now do we?

** Ironically, Catholic Charities would not be exempted because they took state money for their adoption program.

Amendment

Sec. 501. (NEW) (Effective from passage) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a religious organization, association or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association or society, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges to an individual if the request for such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges is related to the solemnization of a marriage or celebration of a marriage and such solemnization or celebration is in violation of their religious beliefs and faith. Any refusal to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges in accordance with this section shall not create any civil claim or cause of action, or result in any state action to penalize or withhold benefits from such religious organization, association or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association or society.

Sec. 502. (NEW) (Effective from passage) The marriage laws of this state shall not be construed to affect the ability of a fraternal benefit society to determine the admission of members as provided in section 38a-598 of the general statutes or to determine the scope of beneficiaries in accordance with section 38a-636 of the general statutes, and shall not require a fraternal benefit society that has been established and is operating for charitable and educational purposes and which is operated, supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization to provide insurance benefits to any person if to do so would violate the fraternal benefit society’s free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States and section 3 of article first of the Constitution of the state.

Sec. 503. (NEW) (Effective from passage) Nothing in this act shall be deemed or construed to affect the manner in which a religious organization may provide adoption, foster care or social services if such religious organization does not receive state or federal funds for that specific program or purpose.

Comments

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David C.
April 23rd, 2009 | LINK

If anti-gays wanted to drop all of their campaigns against marriage equality, in exchange I’d happily support language that redundantly gives their churches and religious organizations the same protections that they’ve always had. I’d make that deal in a second.—Timothy Kincaid

I wouldn’t hold my breath, Timothy, even though this would be a model for legislation intended to rebut or at least hedge against the standard anti-SSM arguments offered up by religion-based anti-gay organizations.

We hope this decision represents a change of heart among gay marriage advocates and a new willingness to accept broad conscience protections.—NOM Press Release

I think this is more a change of heart on the part of NOM, which still pats itself on the back for its campy “Gathering Storm” ad. The indeed redundant “protections” were enough of a bone thrown to NOM and its supporters to act as cover for Connecticut legislators as they enacted a law consistent with the court’s ruling.

Perhaps the light is starting to dawn for Maggie and NOM: resistance to justice is futile. Maybe she is taking the advice of Rod Dreher where he argues that instead of fighting against SSM:

… we trads should focus our efforts on erecting constitutional walls of protection behind which religious institutions can operate freely

albeit showing just how little such individuals seem to understand about how well religious freedom is already protected in this country.

Stefano A
April 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I’m glad you posted the text of the amendment(s). Until reading the new section 503, I had some serious reservations about the amendment. However…

… if such religious organization does not receive state or federal funds for that specific program or purpose.

This alleviates my reservations.

Although, the amendment seems incredibly redundant as the federal constituion already provides these exact protections.

Stefano A
April 23rd, 2009 | LINK

David C… hadn’t seen your post before posting.

showing just how little such individuals seem to understand about how well religious freedom is already protected in this country.

Indeed!

Which is what relegates all of their objections to being nothing more than fear-mongering.

Timothy Kincaid
April 23rd, 2009 | LINK

The only “new” protection that seems to be present would be something similar to the NJ Methodist pavilion. It seems that a new protection comes into play in that at least in Connecticut they could have a tiny exemption to discriminate on the basis of same-sex marriage (not orientation) in denying use of the pavilion without losing their ‘green space’ tax benefit.

I can live with that.

And I still think they would have to show that their restrictions were based on all marriage that was contrary to their teachings (e.g. pagan, mixed faith, secular) rather than just gay marriage.

Stefano A
April 23rd, 2009 | LINK

The only “new” protection that seems to be present would be something similar to the NJ Methodist pavilion. It seems that a new protection comes into play in that at least in Connecticut they could have a tiny exemption to discriminate on the basis of same-sex marriage (not orientation) in denying use of the pavilion without losing their ‘green space’ tax benefit.

And that’s the source of my “reservations”. The pavilion lost their case because they accepted public funding. If you they can still receive public funding and still discriminate then I am adamantly opposed. To me it’s no different than saying because an Aryan Brotherhood organization operates a pavillion but has deeply held religious beliefs about white supremacy it’s okay for them to discriminate.

I just don’t accept/agree with the line of thought regarding such “religious conscious” exemptions regarding to publicly funded entities.

If your entity receives public funded then you should not be able to discriminate against members of the public period. Otherwise, give up your public funding.

Stefano A
April 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Addendum:

to discriminate on the basis of same-sex marriage (not orientation)

To me this is rediculous as in my mind it is the equivalent of saying the use of a facility can be denied if it’s an inter-racial or inter-faith marriage, but I can’t deny you for being Jewish or based upon ethnicity. That’s a rather spurious line of distinction considering the source of prejudice for denying the marriage would still be underlain with the discrimination based on orientation (or faith/ethnicity).

Regan DuCasse
April 23rd, 2009 | LINK

I think because how one expresses their religion isn’t enforced in this country, a religious exemption would be a hard thing to prove unless, as Tim K says, they do ALL exemptions consistently for everyone and not just against gay people.

It’s not like those of whatever faith, but have services they provide have signs out in front specifying WHICH people they would have exemptions against for those religious reasons.

Churches and their grounds are specific, NON religious facilities are not.
And considering just how many religions there are in this country, somebody somewhere could just all of a sudden think of something that would make their objections a point of discrimination.

So, in NOM’s commercial where a woman says ‘I’m a doctor and I’d have to choose between my job and my faith’.
Oh yeah, well how is someone supposed to NOT CHOOSE YOU for the same reason?

I watched one of John Quinones’s show, “What Would You Do?” and the scenario was a 16 year old girl trying to fill a prescription for birth control pills.
Another actor posing as the pharmacist refuses and tells the girl he won’t fill it on moral grounds.
A woman whispered to the girl, it wasn’t his business and a nun said perhaps she should try somewhere else, but didn’t admonish the girl for the prescription.

I know EXACTLY how I would handle it.
Up in the pharmacist’s face.

Hey YOU, doc! Birth control pills are ALSO used for control of CRAMPS, excessive menstrual bleeding, acne, hormone imbalances and severe PMS AND fibroid tumors!

So FILL THE DAMN prescription! Since you don’t know why that girl is here, didn’t ask…it’s NOT for YOU to decide WHY, her doctor felt she needed them. Don’t MAKE me lodge the kind of complaint that will get you cited for discrimination, jack!

Being a MAN, I guess as a pharmacist the OTHER uses didn’t occur to him. Just his dirty mind told him a single reason?!

I was sitting there seething at the way supposedly ‘religious people’ seem to have really selectively prurient interests only when it comes to how and towards whom they direct their discrimination and deprivation of legitimate medical care.

So some discrimination just isn’t a matter of inconvenience, and most of it IS very selective so that you don’t know how to avoid it.

Richard Rush
April 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Virtually all religious entities receive public funding – in the form of tax exemptions. How is this really any different than receiving a check from the government? The rest of us pay more tax so that churches don’t have to. And these people whine about gays seeking “special rights.”

grantdale
April 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Note to Maggie:

The Connecticut legislature didn’t “adopt” anything. Those ‘substantive religious liberty protections’ have always existed, and would have done so regardless.*

The bill simply restates the fact. The language is indeed redundant.

If doing that is all that is required to make those dark, menacing storm clouds roll away… who could care less.

But we all know it isn’t enough. Maggie is spruiking this ‘development’ to keep her name in the papers and proclaim some sort of vitory to her supporters… but her vile campaign has never been based on protecting a continuing right for religious groups to determine their own internal workings. That’s a ploy to hide their true fear: ie heterosexuals will not behave themselves unless gay people get treated badly.

(I know, I know; the logic behind that escapes me too.)

/sigh. That woman has had two marriages, and her gay neighbours have had none. Define ‘glutton’ for me again…

* I think we’ll find that receiving public funding to support religious activity also remains unconstitutional. That is not controlled by NJ law, ultimately. Public access will remain public access, including access to pavilions on beaches, and will not have been converted into ‘public except for those public we don’t want’.

Lynn David
April 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Care to take a wager that Maggie thinks the get out of gay marriage free card extends to the odd Christian florist, hairdresser or wedding planner in the private sector?

grantdale
April 23rd, 2009 | LINK

sorry: I meant to alter “controlled by NJ law” to “controlled by state law”. I do realise NJ is not CT :)

cd
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

My problem with it is that it provides more verbiage for the Maggie Gallaghers of the country to stretch into a kind of anti-gay special privilege. Which seems to me the point of these tantrums about “religious liberty”. Laws written to appease them lead to more arguments and problems down the road. I think Connecticut may have to repeal some of those accommodation amendments eventually. If not, someone will in due course generate a lawsuit where these clash with federal First Amendment doctrine.

I’d be happy to trade accommodations of the kind for those folks dropping their opposition to SSM or the like, too. It’s just that, from reading one or another of the blogs referred to in this thread for a long time, I doubt highly that they will.

Timothy Kincaid
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Richard Rush,

Virtually all religious entities receive public funding – in the form of tax exemptions. How is this really any different than receiving a check from the government? The rest of us pay more tax so that churches don’t have to.

This is a common misconception. Many folks, often those with antipathy towards religion, believe that if chuches were “regular” entities that they would have to pay taxes.

This is not the case.

If churches were organized as non-religous educational or charitable organizations (such as GLAAD or AIDS Project Los Angeles) they still would be exempt from taxes and their donors would still get tax exemptions.

But supposing we said that we really don’t like churches and therefore they should be treated like fraternal or political organizations. Guess what, the Masons and the Democratic Party don’t pay taxes and neither would churches.

OK, so now we hate churches and insist that they be taxed like big nasty corportations. Fine. What you may not know is that corporations only pay taxes on their net income (their profit). And because nearly all churches spend what they get in (that’s their purpose, after all) most of them wouldn’t be paying much tax at all. Oh, there are a few that build a fund in case of bad times and they would be taxed on the amount they saved, but other than a handful of mega-churches the amounts usually are small.

And churches do pay taxes. First they pay all the sales tax and phone tax and in most places they pay property tax just like you and me. And if a church has some side business – say a religious book store – they pay income tax on that portion of their operations.

The truth is that you really do not pay more taxes to make up for churches. Or not more than a religious conservative pays to make up for the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.

Timothy Kincaid
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Lynn David,

Care to take a wager that Maggie thinks the get out of gay marriage free card extends to the odd Christian florist, hairdresser or wedding planner in the private sector?

She knows it doesn’t.

They tried to put in exemptions for those who want to stand in the doorway of their business and scream, “Flee evil sodomites and darken my door no more” but the legislature said no.

One of the Republican legislators is making noise about running for Governor on the “it didn’t provide enough extra-special exemptions for the church ladies” platforum.

coyote
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

“She can’t wail about church groups in New Jersey”

Actually, she can. The NJ church was denied a *secular* tax exemption based on their lack of equal access to a non-church property. The church itself did not lose its tax exemption… but the beach pavilion did, because the only reason it had a tax exception was because they agreed to allow equal access to the public. They reneged on their agreement, so lost their exemption.

BobN
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Maggie is cheering because she’s all about PR and if you win (even though you win substantially less than you sought), you’re supposed to cheer about it.

Cheering also increases the chances that you’ll get more next time by pointing out how “the CT legislature accepted our suggestions”, ignoring that they dropped the most important one for Maggie, the “marriage validity” language.

Maggie is also cheering because winning this accommodation means she’ll be able to earn a living fighting for them for another good decade or so.

Peter
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

I can’t help but wonder what the requirements are to become a “society” or an “association” who is therefore exempt.

I don’t know enough about Connecticut law. Does the organization have to act on its own as the society, or can independent businesses join the association? How specifically does the mission and actual activity of the organization have to be religious?

This clearly exempts Catholic hospitals, adoption agencies and such, and presumably Catholic schools and such. (and their non-Catholic religious equivalents.)

But what makes a Catholic hospital exempt and a Catholic association of restaurant owners non-exempt? After all, if you can make a tenuous connection between Christianity and “healing the sick”, you should be able to make the same one between Christianity and feeding the hungry. Don’t tell me hospitals don’t make money.

Would it be only that the actual employees at the offices of the Christian Restaurant Owners Association would be exempt and the individual restaurants aren’t?

Or is someone going to open the Christian Business Owners’ Association and for a nominal fee, grant any secular employer in the state the right to discriminate against gay people as employees and clients?

Timothy (TRiG)
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Ah, a proper cynic. That’s what I like to see, BobN.

TRiG.

Timothy Kincaid
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Peter, I believe the definition is the one the IRS uses.

An association of Catholic restuarant owners – if operated, supervised or controlled by the Church – would be exempt.

The individual restaurants would not.

Mark F.
April 27th, 2009 | LINK

Tim,

Your post is confusing. First you say churches don’t pay taxes, but then you say they do pay some taxes. CONTRADICTION. Kindly research this further and clarify.

Timothy Kincaid
April 27th, 2009 | LINK

Mark,

I think perhaps you should read my comment more carefully. But the gist is that churches generally do not get any tax breaks that are denied to, say, the Gay and Lesbian Center.

As for the details, I’d gladly discuss with you how the tax code treats transactions of non-profits, including churches, if you have specific questions. Otherwise, I don’t think this thread is the appropriate place for a comprehensive essay on the subject.

It’s probably sufficient to simply state that the rest of us do not pay more tax so that churches don’t have to.

Priya Lynn
April 27th, 2009 | LINK

I’m not able to draw that conclusion from what you wrote. I don’t believe it.

Timothy Kincaid
April 27th, 2009 | LINK

What don’t you believe?

Priya Lynn
April 27th, 2009 | LINK

I do not believe that we do not pay more tax so that churches don’t have to.

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