Thoughts before vacation

During the next two weeks there will be no Anchor, as our staff takes a well-deserved break from presenting the news to you. Before we leave, we would like to address the controversies of the last several weeks.

In the last month Marriage has been redefined by the Supreme Court, a massacre occurred in a church in Charleston, S.C., and the so-called Islamic State continues its killing- and kidnapping-spree in many countries of the world (with hopes to bring it to this country). All three of these events continue to reverberate and will have impacts far into the future.

Two weeks ago in the editorial we presented Pope Francis’ teachings on Marriage (which are not “new” teachings, just presentations made by him over the last year, in which he reaffirmed that Marriage is between one man and one woman, but he did present “new” challenges which the spouses face). On March 27, three months before the Supreme Court’s decision, we presented an editorial, “Respecting Religious Freedom Domestically,” in which we discussed threats to the freedom of religion (as opposed to the “freedom to worship,” to which many claim the Obama Administration would like to reduce the First Amendment Freedom).

The majority opinion of the Court in the Marriage case did acknowledge that concerns about religious freedom would arise from its decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by Divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate.”

However, since the decision was handed down last month, many on the victorious side have tried to claim that the debate is over and that those who do not believe in same-sex marriage should not be allowed to expound their beliefs. One newspaper even announced that it would no longer allow opposition to same-sex marriage to appear in its pages (although it later partially backtracked). The editorial board of PennLive/The Patriot-News of Harrisburg wrote, “As a result of Friday’s ruling, PennLive/The Patriot-News will no longer accept, nor will it print, op-eds and letters to the editor in opposition to same-sex marriage.” Faced with complaints about quashing free speech (although, as a non-government run newspaper, it is free to be as choosy as it might like to be), the paper announced a new policy, which would only allow legal objections to same-sex marriage. “And we would not entertain such criticisms that these unions are morally wrong or unnatural any more than we would entertain criticisms of interracial marriage or those claiming that women are less equal than men in the eyes of the law. We will, however, for a limited time, accept letters and op-eds critical of the high court’s decision and its legal merits.”

At the same time bakers, florists, wedding photographers and civil marriage officials are being placed in the position of either quitting their jobs (or changing them to no longer include any Marriage work) or going along with something that they see as a collaboration with evil. A State of the First Amendment Survey released on July 3 (although conducted before the Court’s decision) found that 55 percent of Americans “would not require vendors with religious objections to same-sex marriages to serve same-sex couples,” according to Charles Haynes, writing in the Attleboro Sun Chronicle. Haynes noted that that was an increase of 10 percent compared with 2013. He observed, “as support for gay marriage has grown so, apparently, has support for finding ways to address religious claims of conscience.” One would hope that opinion leaders would come to see this, since their actions seem more similar to those of the editorial board of PennLive/The Patriot-News.

Meanwhile, in Charleston, an abridging of religious freedom that was obvious to everyone occurred — the murder of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Here it was much easier to see the difference between the work of the devil (placing such hatred in the killer’s heart, as well as many other psychological problems) and the work of the Lord (how the last thing the victims did was pray and offer hospitality; how the victim’s family members forgave the killer). 

One of the victims, Rev. Clementa Pickney (also a state senator), said in a 2013 speech, “Could we not argue that America is about freedom — whether we live it out or not — but it is really about freedom, equality, and the pursuit of happiness, and that is what the church is all about. Freedom to worship, and freedom from sin, freedom to be fully what God intends us to be, and freedom to have equality in the sight of God. And sometimes you gotta make noise to do that. Sometimes you may have to die. Sometimes you have to march, and struggle, and be unpopular to do that.”

The unpopularity that Rev. Pickney was referencing was the unpopularity she had faced in her life for being African-American. Our country still needs to deal with our history of racism (see our April 3 and May 1 editorials on this topic). We need to be one with each other, while being able to respectfully air our differences on issues such as Marriage.

Meanwhile, while our country hotly debates these issues and others, ISIS has us in its sights. May God protect us (and all other people on earth, especially their fellow Moslems, who have been the most numerous amongst their victims — and have been even more cruelly killed than us Christians by ISIS) and may God help them to convert from such evil. He did so with Saul and Augustine. We pray, as did SS. Stephen and Monica, that He will prevail again.

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts