Monday, January 5, 2009

The wrong fight to pick

An Associated Press article I found while checking the CNS News site provides another example of the wrong fight to pick. In this story, a lesbian couple’s request to have their civil union ceremony conducted on a church-owned camp facility with an ocean view was denied by the church that owns the property. Instead of taking their request to another landowner, the lesbian couple sued. The couple took their case to the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, which concluded the church’s refusal to make available its property violated state law.

This is the wrong fight to pick. Even if same-sex couples could be married, any church would, and should, still retain the right to refuse to conduct the ceremony or allow its facilities to be used for the ceremony. It’s not just private property; it’s property owned by a recognized religious organization, which has some of its own constitutional rights that include being able to worship in a manner it sees fit as long as it causes no public harm.

Heterosexual couples often shop for a minister to conduct their marriage when they want a religious ceremony because there are times when the first minister they turn to turns them down. This happens because the minister sees something about the proposed marriage that he or she does not wish to condone. Refusing to conduct a same-sex ceremony, or allowing one to occur, is the type of discretion any church ought to be allowed to have.

We aren’t going to succeed in achieving equal marriage rights by forcing it on people. We can use the law appropriately, but when we encounter an irresistible force (or mind set), we should just move on. I have to wonder if this couple really wants to have an ocean-side ceremony, or if they’re just pissed off and want to make a point. It looks to me that they are just pissed off and bitter, because I bet there is other ocean-side property available they could use.

If they want to pick this fight, I am rooting for the church.

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