The entirely bogus “religious convictions” objection

Timothy Kincaid

July 20th, 2011

One of the whiny complaints made by anti-gay activists about New York’s new marriage equality bill is that it is not sensitive to the religious convictions of public employees. The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue (who appears to waging a PR campaign to equal Catholicism with pigheaded bigotry) is all wounded and martyry about it in a commentary today:

Indeed, under New York State law, the onus is on the employer to show that it would cause “undue hardship” if an employee were to exercise his “sincerely held” religious beliefs.

Now it is fatuous to say that it would cause an “undue hardship” in the workplace if clerks, and deputy clerks, who do not have an issue with giving marriage licenses to homosexuals handled these matters for those who do. It cannot be said too strongly: Bullying those who have religious objections is despicable.

There is an obvious hole in New York’s gay marriage law: religious exemptions need to be extended to lay people, not just the clergy.

Well, I’m all for respecting sincerely held religious beliefs. But I’m failing to find one here.

Sure there are people who sincerely believe that I should not marry a person of the same sex. And due to those beliefs, they would not attend my wedding, conduct the vows, offer a blessing, or even congratulate me. And I wouldn’t expect them to.

But while I’m familiar with the Bible and pretty up on how religion is practiced in America, I am unaware of any doctrine of any sect that forbids its followers to hand me a piece of paper . That’s what we’re talking about, issuing a form, typing responses in a database. And there are no doctrinal assessments I know of which assign responsibility or any presumption of participation – not even those of the Catholic Church – from the issuance or filing of forms.

Some Christians read in the verse portion from Habakkuk “woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk…” a prohibition on working in a bar or liquor store. Some are even troubled at serving alcoholic beverages as a waitress or grocery clerk. But I’ve never heard even the most conservative of Christians argue that they have some obligation not to hand out the form to request a liquor license.

And it goes without saying that many churches, the Catholic Church in particular, oppose the very existence of medical clinics which offer abortion services. Yet they do not suggest that the County Building Inspector refuse to issue a building license or that the city Clerk refuse to process a Business License. None of this administrative process is considered to be a part of, or the administrators culpable for, the abortions that will be conducted at the site.

There simply are no religious beliefs held by any of these public employees, sincerely or otherwise, which forbid them to administer the paperwork involved with any other businesses, marriages, divorces, or other vital statistics which they find morally objectionable. And if there were, their argument is a bit specious considering that they’ve been violating those beliefs with regularity for years.

Now I have less of a problem with Rosemary Centi, the city clerk in upstate Guilderland, who resigned from her position as marriage officer out of her religious conviction that she should not conduct gay marriages. But she will continue to remain the elected town clerk and issue marriage licenses to all eligible applicants, including gay couples. While I think it a rather peculiar belief that allows you to officiate at marriage between divorcees or people of mixed faith but not gay people, I don’t doubt that her decision is sincere. And I have to respect that Rosemary was able to distinguish between her own personal involvement as officiant and the processing of paperwork.

And I think that this distinction is perfectly obvious to any who think about it.

Why is it that some people would rather quit their jobs than treat gay couples with the same bureaucratic procedure as anyone else standing in line at the clerk’s counter? What is behind the peculiar notion that a public employee can deny civil services to a member of the public if they don’t pass their personal religious test? It certainly isn’t Scripture or doctrine or consistent moral character.

So perhaps Bill Donohue should consider whether he’s doing his church a favor by making this a big deal. His efforts to make Catholics look like victims may result in making them look like something else entirely.

David Foreman

July 20th, 2011

Great points. I’ll be passing this on!

John Blatzheim

July 20th, 2011

“I think it a rather peculiar belief that allows you to officiate at marriage between divorcees or people of mixed faith but not gay people.”

I’ve been thinking the same thing while reading about this. Where is the outrage at filing the paper work for a heterosexual’s second marriage, an interfaith marriage or, if we’re talking about REALLY conservative “morals”, interracial marriages?

Sometimes I wonder if the other side realizes just how much playing the oppressed martyr card in a debate in which they have had the majority and power for decades makes them look ridiculous. It’s hard to take that kind of whiny victimhood seriously, especially coming from people who so routinely deride victimhood.


July 20th, 2011

You’re 100% right, as usual, but still, I wish you hadn’t said “And it goes without saying that many churches, the Catholic Church in particular, oppose the very existence of medical clinics which offer abortion services. Yet they do not suggest that the County Building Inspector refuse to issue a building license or that the city Clerk refuse to process a Business License.” Because they WILL, now that you’ve gone and given them the idea.


July 20th, 2011

These are the same folks who want pharmacists to be able to deny women any access to (chemical) birth control because it might “violate” the pharmacists’ “religious sensibilities”. It’s crap — if you’re a pharmacist, your job is to dispense medication, whether or not you agree with it. Likewise, if you’re a “marriage officer” — is that even a thing? — you officiate over marriages, whether or not you agree with the couple. If you find that you “can’t” perform your job due to (your personal, chosen) “religious” restrictions, it’s time to find another job.


July 20th, 2011

I wonder if there’s not an Establishment Clause issue here: if schools cannot permit prayers in class or Bibles being passed out in the halls, why should city or county governments be able to permit public employees from refusing to marry same-sex couples because of religious beliefs? No one is forcing the employee to abandon their beliefs — they’re just being asked to perform their duties as representatives of the civil government.

Ben In Oakland

July 20th, 2011

There was a Candian decision a year or two ago, abd this court case specifically said that this isn’t infringing on what churches are able to do and believe. It’s simply saying to commissioners who work for the government, “You have a job you were hired to do, and these are the laws. Don’t like it? Get a new job.”

One of the judges made a really interesting point in her opinion:
Justice Gene Ann Smith said the religious objection was secondary.
“These marriage commissioners are not themselves compelled to engage in the sexual activity they consider objectionable. Their objection is that it is sinful for others to engage in such activity,” wrote Smith.
“It is therefore arguable that the interference with the right of marriage commissioners to act in accordance with their religious belief … is trivial or insubstantial, in that it is interference that does not threaten actual religious beliefs or conduct.”

Imagine that! The religious lives and practices of the Religious Right don’t automatically include the lives and practices of other people who don’t share their beliefs?

In other words, you can believe whatever you want to believe, with one exception.

You don’t get to believe that it is OK for you not to do the job you’ve been hired to do for the people you’ve been hired to do the job for, by citing your religious beliefs as entitling you to special rights.

You can cite your religious beliefs, or any other belief or factor, for not wanting to do all kinds of jobs, but the solution to the problem of eating is that you go find yourself another job. No special rights for ANYONE, even God’s Best Buddies.

It is highly telling that just about the only complaints about refusing to do one’s job because of supposed “religious beliefs” crop up whenever these people have to behave politely or decently, let alone amicably, without animus, to gay people who don’t share their unfounded beliefs about gay people.

In other words, as always, I can reject the whole of Christianity– as 2/3 of the world has– and this bothers no one but the most rabid of fundamentalists. But let me say that I am gay, and reject just this itty bitty little ditty of conservative Christian belief, and whoa, Nelly, the sky is about to fall and we are being persecuted for our beliefs.

Sorta makes you wonder if it is REALLY about sincere religious belief at all, dunnit?

Do they think it would fly if a Catholic refused to officiate for a divorced person, or a Hindu for meat eaters, or a Jew for pig eaters, or F. Bailey Smith (look it up), or my Aunt Belle, for that matter, for a mixed faith marriage? Anyone remember that Judge in Louisiana, I think, that didn’t want to perform interracial marriages? He’s not performing any marriages now.

Here’s is where I get VERY cynical about motivations, because OF COURSE they know it would never fly, and that’s why we almost never hear about it. Very bad publicity. It makes them look stoopid and bigoted. But they do think that this religious excuse flies due to 1700 years of unrelenting hostility towards gay people, because so many people share the same prejudice, whether religiously motivated or not.

Justice Gene Ann Smith said what timothy siad so clearly: Freedom of religion does not obligate others to live as if they believed as the believer does, nor even to pretend that the believer has a point.

Steve H

July 20th, 2011

The Catholic Church appears to want it both ways. On the one hand it demands the “right” of Roman Catholics and other Christians to opt out of parts of their job that conflict with their deeply held beliefs whilst in the UK they have spend decades seeking to deny Protestants in Northern Ireland, who are the majority, from discriminating against Roman Catholics in a similar manner. I am being ironic here: the widespread discrimination against Catholics by Protestant employers, the police and council employees was despicable and something every Christian should rightly condemn. However the RCC in New York, which until little more than a decade ago took a very strong stance against allowing the Protestant majority to discriminate against Northern Ireland’s Catholic minority, now seem to believe that discriminating against gays is acceptable. It is no more morally acceptable than allowing Protestants to mistreat Catholics, or Catholic priests to sexually abuse Irish children.


July 20th, 2011

My taxes pay her salary. Next question?


July 20th, 2011

I agree that these religious objections are illogical, I think it’s incorrect to characterize such people as denying you civil services — the particular argument Donohue is making requires that there be someone else available right there to give you your license.

If my ability to get a license is not impeded, I’m perfectly happy to let a bigot be a bigot. And I think it will just speed the day that these clerks will realize their objections are silly.

Richard Rush

July 20th, 2011

I see/hear the phrase, “sincerely held religious beliefs” used frequently, including in this post. So I have a question:

Exactly how are sincerely held religious beliefs different than regular religious beliefs? Are the sincerely held ones more genuine, authentic, or respectable? Are the people holding the sincere ones entitled to more deference, consideration, respect, or special rights? When bigotry emanates from sincerely held beliefs, is it expected to be taken more seriously by society and government than if emanating from regular beliefs?

Are the regular religious beliefs relatively frivolous, unimportant, superficial, and/or trivial when compared to the sincerely held ones?

I seriously want to know, but I suspect I already know the answer: Adding those two words, “sincerely held,” simply adds some imagined sense of gravitas in an attempt to impress people. It’s much like how the word, “Scripture,” adds a sense of gravitas that “book,” or “writings” do not, when referring to the Bible.

Timothy Kincaid

July 20th, 2011


Since you seriously want to know, that phrase is included to eliminate people making a claim of religious belief just to take advantage of the situation.

For example, orthodox Jews have to leave work early on Fridays in the winter when sundown comes early. Employers accommodate that belief, but they do not accommodate it for someone who just decides they are “Jewish this weekend” cuz they want to get a head start on their weekend trip.

And the reason that this accommodation is usually made without complaint is that unlike the weekend partier, the Orthodox Jew cannot drive their car, operate elevators, turn on or off lights and a whole host of other things after sundown on Friday. So it makes you a bit more sympathetic. And, generally, Orthodox Rabbis teach them to try to make up for any lost work time.

This might also come into play into time off at noon on Good Friday, or (perhaps) Samhain for Wiccans (I’m guessing). In my office, a Jehovah’s Witness does not join in any of the birthday celebrations (which is hardly an accomodation – she has to answer the phones while everyone else eats cake).

In application when properly applied (not Donohue’s misuse) a real “sincerely held religious belief” tends to be more of a burden on the employee than anyone else. Which is why his objections are both nonsense and offensive to people who actually do have sincerely held religious beliefs that inconvenience both them and their employers.

Richard Rush

July 20th, 2011

So, in a nutshell, Timothy, it seems that the “sincerely held card” is something that can be pulled out of a believer’s back pocket when they are seeking special accommodations that regular people can’t get.

For example, if I request to leave work early on Fridays because I believe I need to meet with friends for Happy Hour, I will be laughed at, unless I say that a god wants us to meet for Happy Hour, and that we all sincerely believe it – and then it becomes a perfectly reasonable request.


July 20th, 2011

Does anyone remember how in 2007, Minneapolis had an issue where Muslim cab drivers refused to pick up fares from the airport because they were carrying alcohol purchased at Duty Free? The cabbies’ sincerely held religious belief was that the person with the alcohol was sinning, and by transporting that person, they were complicit in the sin.

My stance on that issue is the same as this one. Nobody is holding a gun to these people’s heads, forcing them to do this job. Nobody’s forcing anyone to be a New York marriage commissioner, and nobody is forcing any Minneapolis Muslim to drive a cab, or even to pick up fares at the airport.

But what strikes me as… odd… (*cough* hypocritical *cough*) I don’t seem to remember conservatives being all up in arms to defend sincerely held religious beliefs when it was about the sincerely held religious beliefs of Muslims. Interesting, no?

For quick reference, here’s one of the google hits I got for the 2007 Minneapolis story:

Priya Lynn

July 20th, 2011

Timothy said “Since you seriously want to know, that phrase is included to eliminate people making a claim of religious belief just to take advantage of the situation.

For example, orthodox Jews have to leave work early on Fridays in the winter when sundown comes early. Employers accommodate that belief, but they do not accommodate it for someone who just decides they are “Jewish this weekend” cuz they want to get a head start on their weekend trip.”.

When a person says they have a religious belief the assumption is that is true regardless of whether or not they qualify it as “sincerely held”. A person who is “Jewish this weekend” is lying about having a religous belief so it is superfluous to say a religious belief is “sincerely held”.

Michael DeSelms

July 21st, 2011

He claims “bullying”? Well isn’t it bullying when they try and force their religious beliefs? ya know? I have come to this one understanding…forceing ones religious beliefs on another makes one no better than the Taliban that we have defeated.And the fundies who preach this retoric are no better than the Pharisees of old. and we know what they did! To the cross! In our founding days as a country we had the Puritans. Stoneing, Imprisoning, burning people that would not conform to their beleifs.
Remember people…God is my judge. Not The Right Reverend so and So.

J Ascher

July 21st, 2011

There are already conservative “Christians” who oppose people associated with the building of family planning clinics. Here, in Austin, TX; a group tried to organize a boycott of contractors working on a Planned Parenthood facility. They only succeeded in delaying the construction.

On a related note, the local Catholic diocese, at the last minute, refused to let a Jewish group use one of the churches for Yom Kippur celebrations because of the rabbi’s personal beliefs. The Jewish group had used the facility for years. The local Catholic university, St Edward’s, refused to allow a gay group to participate in a community-services volunteer event because just one of its positions was in favor of marriage equality.


July 21st, 2011

I suspect their use of the phrasing ‘sincerely held religious belief’ ties back to Title VII. From “The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (hereafter “EEOC”), defines religious practice to include “moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views. . . .” [emphasis added] In other words, by adding ‘sincerely held’ they’re trying to impose the force of law.

I find this interesting, though (from the same source), “The fact that no religious group establishes such beliefs or the fact that the religious group to which the individual professes to belong may not set the beliefs, will not determine whether the belief is a religious belief of the employee. . . .” How fascinating. I think I need to start my own religion!

However, I agree with Priya Lynn and Richard Rush: you either believe or your don’t; the distinction between ‘sincerely held’ religious beliefs and ones ‘general’ religious beliefs is nonexistent.


July 21st, 2011

If one is a public employee and one’s beliefs/convictions are at odds with doing one’s job, then one should not be a public employee.

Timothy Kincaid

July 21st, 2011


I am doubting the sincerity of your “I really want to know” statement.

You asked, I told you, and you then deliberately misstated what i said so as to rude and dismissive.

So I guess in the future when you say “I really want to know”, I should assume that you really want to know in exactly the same way that the anti-gay trolls “want to know” things.

Timothy Kincaid

July 21st, 2011

Priya Lynn, you are entitled to your opinion.

Priya Lynn

July 21st, 2011

Yes, you’ve told me that dozens of times, do you think I’m stupid or are you just trying to be obnoxious?

Timothy Kincaid

July 21st, 2011


“The fact that no religious group establishes such beliefs or the fact that the religious group to which the individual professes to belong may not set the beliefs, will not determine whether the belief is a religious belief of the employee. . . .”

Interesting… I seem to recall trials in which the teachings of a denomination were part of testimony to determine whether the belief qualified… maybe I am recalling incorrectly or perhaps while it doesn’t determine the belief it is a factor. I don’t know


July 21st, 2011

This is bs! They are a public servent!!! Where is their professional ethics?!?! So much for seperation of church and state! Pull taxpayer funding then..or their job…i don’t support their religion and I am a taxpayer!

Timothy Kincaid

July 21st, 2011

Priya Lynn,

As Jim recently discovered (and as have many more in the past), arguing with you is a waste of time.

You seem motivated by an inexhaustible thirst to be right and for others to be wrong. You focus on the minutia and pretend that it is as relevant as the point of the discussion. You try to find one thing with which to quibble and act as though this entirely invalidates an entire comment or commentary (which used to quite often be accompanied with “you lied”). And if all of the evidence goes against you, you dismiss it because you have some bizarre hierarchy of who gets to be right and being whatever (bisexual, or female or transperson) trumps evidence.

Generally you disagree because you are disagreeable. I don’t recall you ever posting a complimentary comment towards any commentary author. You pick fights where none need exist.

In short, you waste my time.

So it comes down to this: either ban you, answer you, ignore you, or do what I now do.

Mostly you manage to eek within the lines of our comments policy and besides we really don’t like banning people so that’s not a good option (which you know and take advantage of). Answering you takes hours out of my day. Ignoring you results in repeated insult hoping to get a rise.

So instead, I say that you are entitled to your opinion. This means that I saw your comment, I acknowledge it, I disagree with you, but I see no purpose in going further. Your long and continued pattern of disruption, rudeness, and contrarian obnoxiousness simply don’t deserve any better.


July 21st, 2011

The more I read of Richard Rush, the more I want to marry him.

A “sincerely held religious belief” is not (or, sadly, should not) be a get-out-of-reality-free card. Also, who gets to choose whether someone’s religious beliefs are “sincerely held” or not? You can spend your entire life going through the motions of a religion and not actually believe a word of it, but still get off early on Friday night to go do whatever you want because nobody at work would know, anyway.

Or you could claim, based on no evidence whatsoever, that the god you worship hates the gays but has no problem with you marrying non-virgins, the divorced, or people who believe a fantasy different from the one you claim to believe — all of which the god you claim to worship actually does have a problem with, according to your own religious text.

That legal accomodations are made for people who claim — or actually do — believe in fairy tales is horrifying.

Priya Lynn

July 21st, 2011

That’s one of the biggest piles of BS you’ve ever written Timothy. You don’t recall me posting a complementary comment to any commentary author because you’re willfully blind to it:

You post most of the threads here and I strongly disagree with a lot of what you write. Richard posted a question and we both responded. Somehow you want people to think your opinion on it is full of gravitas and mine is focusing on minutia and trivial. Clearly what distinquishes trivial from substantial for you is whether or not you wrote it.

Priya Lynn

July 21st, 2011

Maybe you can inject some venom towards ZRAinSWVA and justme as well seeing as they agreed with Richard and I. But of course your objections to posts aren’t based on content, but rather who made them.

Timothy Kincaid

July 21st, 2011

Priya Lynn,

Yes, I did not recall that comment. (though as usual, you are focusing on some detail to dispute as though it disproves what I said).

But, as always, you are entitled to your opinion.

Priya Lynn

July 21st, 2011

LOL, that’s a good one Timothy. You criticize me for never praising people posting here and then when I point out that I have rather than acknowledging you were wrong and hasty you claim that is somehow further evidence of one of your imaginary wrongdoings.

Timothy said “But, as always, you are entitled to your opinion.”.

By which you mean not that “I saw your comment, I acknowledge it, I disagree with you, but I see no purpose in going further”, but rather “Your comment is opinion and not fact unlike my comments which are always facts because I’be been endowed by god with omniscience and like the Pope can never be wrong”.
Yes, that’s so believable.

Mark F.

July 21st, 2011

Priya Lynn:

You are entitled to your opinion.

Priya Lynn

July 21st, 2011

Mark, when do you turn eleven?


July 21st, 2011

Sounds like these public servants who don’t want to issue marriage licenses for same-sex marriages on religious grounds need to find employment elsewhere. If every public servant is allowed to inject their personal beliefs (religious or otherwise) into how they do their jobs, we are in trouble.

Mark F.

July 21st, 2011


You are entitled to your opinion of when I turn 11. When do you turn 5?

Richard Rush

July 21st, 2011


The more I read of Richard Rush, the more I want to marry him.

My husband says the more he reads of my comments, the more he wants to divorce me. So this could work out quite nicely.


July 22nd, 2011

It’s plain that this all is an attempt to engineer a backlash.

Will it backfire?

It does seem that “they” have the backing of their big-money donors, so far, from all we can tell from the tea leaves.

Perhaps they are betting that, if it backfires, there won’t be any lasting consequences.

Richard Rush

July 22nd, 2011

ZRAinSWVA, thanks for the link to the Title VII info. about religious rights in the workplace. That is helpful.

It seems that a key requirement for receiving these special rights in the workplace is that a “sincerely held belief” must NOT be supportable by any empirical evidence.

For example, if I request to attend a weekly mid-day conference presenting the latest scientific discoveries in the field of biological evolution, I probably don’t have a prayer. But if my co-worker requests to attend a weekly mid-day religious ritual where they pray for the “truth” of creationism to triumph over evolution, he’s probably a shoo-in.


July 22nd, 2011

However, I agree with Priya Lynn and Richard Rush: you either believe or your don’t; the distinction between ‘sincerely held’ religious beliefs and ones ‘general’ religious beliefs is nonexistent.

And herein lies a beautiful expose of the majesty of the American Experiment, that it all lies On Commonsense, as it was once put.

Of course, there are those on both sides now, ripping at the fabric of that, thinking that they might “win” something, if it were to be erased.

But, of course, it is possible to see through the lies of the rationalists and the literalists alike.

Tim Hulsey

July 22nd, 2011

Hyhybt needn’t worry that Kincaid has given religious fundamentalists any new ideas. They’ve had this particular idea for decades and they’re still putting it into practice. Indeed, in Grayson County, VA, an interfaith retreat had its building permit withdrawn, primarily (it would appear) because local Christian fundamentalists objected. This isn’t a gay or lesbian story per se, but it does suggest that in areas of the country where religious fundamentalists hold serious political power, county inspectors are pressured to withhold building permits for religious reasons. Against private businesspersons and landlords, the machinations of fundamentalist churches are more direct, even ruthless.

Timothy Kincaid

July 22nd, 2011


You are way more intelligent than this. Truly, I’ve read some great stuff from you. So don’t let your disinclination for religion override what you know.

For example, if I request to attend a weekly mid-day conference presenting the latest scientific discoveries in the field of biological evolution, I probably don’t have a prayer. But if my co-worker requests to attend a weekly mid-day religious ritual where they pray for the “truth” of creationism to triumph over evolution, he’s probably a shoo-in.

That is just bizarre. And I think you probably realized that by now.

No, I don’t know of a single employer that would feel obligated (or inclined) to let an employee off for a prayer meeting (unless, of course, they were going themselves). And when the employer said, “no way”, there isn’t a governmental agency or a judge that would think that mandatory attendance at this prayer meeting is a sincerely held belief.

“It’s religious and I wanna go” is not what the law protects. Rather, these protections result from, “my faith requires that I do thus and so and so I need some accommodation to let me to this.” For example, a Muslim must pray at specific times. But that doesn’t mean that his employer must let him pray in the middle of the CEO’s office or over the company loudspeaker. Nor that he be allowed to go across town to pray with others. An employer need not meet any more than the bare requirements (the sincerely held beliefs) and not the whims or wishes.

These type requests are seen as frivolous both by the legal system and by most religious people who know that such abuses reflect negatively on them. (Just like we get annoyed when some gay person cries discrimination when there was none.)

On the other hand, I think it extremely likely that an employer would not only allow but would encourage you to go to any scientific conference that is relevant to your field.

But if you were just going out of personal interest, then they are likely to tell you what the tell the Church Lady and her prayer meeting: do it on your own time.

Russ Manley

July 22nd, 2011

Excellent post, Tim.

Richard Rush

July 22nd, 2011


I understand that Muslims are typically accommodated for going to Friday prayers, which unlike the routine daily prayers, require going to an Islamic mosque (or “center”) to pray with others as a group. Am I wrong about that?

And, yes, I was assuming that the guy wanting to go to the weekly evolution conference was doing so just out of a sincerely held personal interest.

Can we at least agree that a “sincerely held belief,” in the context of qualifying for workplace accommodation, must NOT be supportable by any empirical evidence?

Timothy Kincaid

July 22nd, 2011


I don’t know about Friday prayers for Muslims – I’m woefully ignorant of much of the Muslim faith. So I really can’t answer that.

As for the agreement that religious beliefs are not required to be supported by empirical evidence, I think that’s a given. In fact, that might be a unique characteristic of religion.

I’d even go further. While some religious beliefs (the existence of any form of higher power, for example) are outside our ability to apply empirical testing, some beliefs fly in the face of even the most basic of observations.

To me, that just isn’t relevant. That’s just an exercise in “I’m right”, “No, I’m right.”

Richard, I want to say something here and I don’t know how to do so without being offensive. I know that you are capable of not just lashing back without thinking (some folks lack this ability – you have it) so I hope you will listen and an least consider this. You don’t have to agree, but at least hear me, okay?

We all have beliefs. We all have opinions. We all think that our opinions are right – otherwise they wouldn’t be our opinions. Further we all believe that our evidence, that which we trust, that which instructs our thinking is the correct source. And I’m not talking just about religion, but about politics, philosophy, sports teams, ice cream flavors, and everything that you can have an opinion about.

But we must all of us strive to avoid letting our confidence in the rightness of our position cause us to disregard the opinions of others out of hand or (and this is the biggie) to cause us to see those who disagree with us as inferior by definition and thus deserving of discourtesy, mockery, incivility, and inhumanity.

This confidence-based contempt is, in my opinion, perhaps best illustrated by conservative Christian response to homosexuality during the latter half of the 20th Century. And if we look closely, we can see how it happened.

I’ve heard people mock these conservatives as ignorant and superstitious and basing their views out of hate and a bigoted book of lies from an ancient blood-cult. And while that is convenient if all we want to do is express contempt, it is far from reality.

Yes, the opposition to homosexuality was based in religious teaching. But it didn’t stop there.

Conservatives were confirmed in their beliefs by the vast majority of history’s cultural response from almost all parts of the planet. The biological reproductive process confirmed that they were right. And what they knew of the natural world loudly agreed. Their gut-based discomfort illustrated that even on the most instinctual level, surely everyone must know this without having to be told. And in some places there was universal agreement: the clergy, the papers, the politicians, the legal system, the little old ladies.

And, truth be told, what they knew of us offered no rebuttal. In the 60’s the pictures of men hiding their faces while arrest in the park said we were shame-filled furtive creatures – which wasn’t that far off from how we felt about ourselves. The gay writer of Boys in the Band was trying to play up sympathy and the self-contempt that he put in the mouths of his characters was an honest portrayal of the time. Now it’s painful to watch.

In the 70’s we published literature that not only gloried promiscuity but mocked any attempt to conform to social norms of decency (which surely was, in their view, harmful to society). In the 80’s AIDS showed up to say that God (or nature) wasn’t having it. And our righteous anger, which was deserved, often became personalized. We hated conservatives as much as we hated their teachings, sometimes more, which only confirmed that we were enemies of God, society, and all that is good.

Surely if anyone had good reason to be confident of their opinion, it was social conservatives and their condemnation of homosexuality. Theirs was not the wacky new ‘tolerate what all of history has rejected’ view, but backed up by literally everything that they had ever seen, heard, or heard about.

In their confidence, their certain surety, they forgot one thing: you can’t be raging assholes even if you’re right. Not only because you might turn out to be wrong, but because regardless of who is right or wrong, you’re a raging asshole.

And fifty years down the road, they still think that they are right, but they are now beginning to realize that they are assholes. And that can’t feel good.

Okay, and now the uncomfortable part…

Whatever your intentions, when you comment on religion you sometimes do so in a way that leaves me thinking that you are expressing contempt. If something could be interpreted in different ways, you seem to me to be unwilling to consider any but the view most condemning of religious people.

Sometimes it feels like hate.

I apologize if I’ve offended – and I’m not sure how to avoid offense. And I don’t want to play blame – I’m sure that my perspectives flavor my responses on a whole host of issues. I’m sure some here have experience my comments as contempt.

So all I’m asking is that – going forward – you speak of religious people in the way you’d like them to speak about you. And you give their concerns as much attention as you want yours to be given. And be as careful with the terms you use to discuss someone’s religion as you want them to be when discussing your sexuality.

Because at the end of the day you’d probably rather know that you were too generous to someone’s stupid superstitious nonsense than suddenly think, “oh sh!t, I’m an asshole”

Scott Amundsen

July 22nd, 2011

I might remind these whiny “Christians” that we are talking CIVIL marriage here. The Church has NOTHING whatsoever to do with it, and never did, despite all the Fundiebabble we’ve been hearing lately about “Biblical marriage” (I have been a Christian for forty-three years and I can assure you there is no such thing; these people are reading something that is just not there).

Marriage used to be a completely private arrangement between families, with varying degrees of ceremony but virtually nothing like what we think of today; most of the time couples merely set up housekeeping. (GASP!!) Yet these people rant and rave about marriage being an “institution ordained by God” and blah blah blah quack quack quack.

If there is one thing I really cannot stand it is religious dishonesty.

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