I want to look at Eric Reitan’s post on this issue located here. What I want to do is break it up in sections and hopefully respond to all points. Here’s the first part.
There is much about the recent Hobby Lobby ruling that I’m not qualified to comment on, but I have some concerns about a key claim in this case–namely, that the business owners’ freedom of religious conscience offers grounds for justifying the Supreme Court’s decision. There are two problems, in my view–although my thinking on both is still evolving. The first strikes me as less serious than the second.
1. Religious conscience needs to be responsive to matters of fact.
Suppose Pastor Bob refuses to officiate at the wedding of Pat and Alex on the grounds that he is religiously opposed to same sex marriage. If, as a matter of fact, Pat and Alex are a heterosexual couple, then no court of law would treat his religious opposition to same-sex marriage as a legitimate basis for refusing to marry them. And if Bob sputters that it is a matter of religious conviction that this man and woman are in fact both men–well, I doubt that will fly if the facts don’t line up with the conviction.
In other words, there is the moral premise of Bob’s argument–which is derived from his religious convictions. And then there is the factual one–which isn’t a matter of religious belief and shouldn’t be.
I find this to be confusing to say the least. Pat and Alex are either both males or females. What Reitan wants to do is separate the fact of reality, their maleness (together) and femaleness (together) from the religious belief that maleness (together) and femaleness (together) is immorally wrong for he says that IF THEY WERE HETEROSEXUAL (male and femaleness together) another fact of reality and wanted to get married, then no court would treat his (Pastor Bob’s) opposition to such marriage on the basis of his religious views as legitmate. Question: Why would Pastor Bob object to heterosexual marriage on the basis of his religion? If Pastor Bob believed in ONLY “marrying” homosexuals and a heterosexual couple came to him to get married and he refused on the basis that he didn’t believe in marrying heterosexuals on the basis of his religion (which would be odd indeed) well, he would certainly have the right to refuse to marry people on the basis of his religious conviction but: A. Show me a religion that teaches that. B. It is extremely odd for a side that is “equality” of marriage MEANING all people have a right to marry to be against heterosexual marriage. But let’s say for the sake of argument that Pastor Bob refused to marry a couple on the basis of their religious conviction that marrying heterosexuals is immoral. Should Pastor Bob be forced to marry such a couple? Have the couple been discriminated against illegally? Is it not within the Pastor Bob’s right to choose whom he will marry and whom he will not? Is not the “legality question” being stretched too far in such a case? For example, if the Roman Catholic Church believes that women are not allowed to be priests (also on the basis that they are female and for religious reasons) do “civil rights” extend in such a way as to say that the Roman Catholic Church does not get to discriminate in this way? If say, I believe that women SHOULD be ordained in the Church, the legal category, (to say they have a civil right) does not extend in such a way as A. Ordination is calling that is extended by a particular community in which they are bound by their own standards. B. No one has a right to a particular office. For the State to mandate that particular churches do particular things on the grounds of a certain conception of human rights, in my estimation that would be an overstepping of the State’s boundaries. Hopefully, you can see at this point the similarities. The State doesn’t have the right to make theological pronouncements for churches.
Ultimately, Reitan doesn’t attach any religious belief to the factual reality. I find that problematic from a Christian perspective in which the Church has always attached a religious and thus moral significance to the differentiation of sexes.