Religious liberty

Christians Started the Wedding Wars

Defenders of traditional marriage used the law to persecute polygamists. Now they're the ones under attack.

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Joanna Andreasson

A man who lived with more than one woman was anathema in the 19th century; the media called polygamy an "act of licentiousness" that deserved to be categorically denounced, its adherents disenfranchised. In 1885, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal law making plural marriage a felony, declaring that "the union for life of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony [is] the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization." A New York Times editorial celebrated that result, observing cheekily that "we had not supposed there had ever been any serious question."

Today, it's the old-timey view that marriage is between one man and one woman only—and that sex should be reserved to that union—that raises the Grey Lady's ire. When Californians sought to ban gay marriage in 2008, the editors of the Times called the initiative a "mean-spirited" effort "to enshrine bigotry in the state's Constitution."

Even assuming you think the paper was right the second time around, the reversal is striking. But while the norms have clearly changed, the desire to punish anyone who refuses to comply with those norms appears to be forever.

As the nation goes to war over birth control mandates and gay wedding cakes, many religious supporters of traditional marriage and sexual mores understandably feel their rights are being trampled. But so did the Mormons a century ago. To justify the anti-polygamy laws forbidding that group to live out its faith, Christian traditionalists stretched the First Amendment to precarious lengths. Now, the arguments they created and employed are being turned against them.

Discrimination Nation

"We can't promote a marriage that God says isn't really marriage," the blog post would have read. "Even if our beliefs are a bit different or unpopular, we have to stick to them."

But those words, penned by Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, were never published to their website. The authors feared the government of Phoenix might come after them if they were.

The young women, aged 23 and 24 respectively, are the owners of Brush & Nib Studio, an Arizona-based custom artwork and calligraphy shop. Shortly after getting their new business off the ground in 2015, they realized that a city ordinance passed two years earlier opened them up to enormous fines and even jail time as a result of their beliefs. The law forbids certain companies not just from discriminating against gays and lesbians but also from saying anything that so much as implies a customer would be unwelcome because of his or her sexual orientation.

Duka and Koski don't want to be forced to create wedding invitations and other artwork that celebrate same-sex marriage, so they're suing to overturn the Phoenix regulation as a violation of their First Amendment rights. Their prospects seem grim, however: In September of last year, the Maricopa County Superior Court denied their request for a temporary injunction to stop the law from being enforced while the challenge proceeds. "There is nothing about custom wedding invitations made for same-sex couples that is expressive," the decision, incredibly, reads.

That ruling is just one in a litany of recent instances in which small business owners have faced serious legal consequences for not wanting to be involved in commemorating same-sex unions. In Colorado, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop was hauled before the state's Civil Rights Commission. In Oregon, the proprietors of Sweet Cakes by Melissa were fined an eye-popping $135,000 and had to shutter their storefront. In New Mexico, the state Supreme Court told photographer Elaine Huguenin that she and her husband would be "compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives." In upstate New York, a couple was forced to stop renting out their farm for wedding ceremonies unless they agreed to let gay couples marry there as well.

In theory, the Constitution is supposed to prevent things like this. The First Amendment says that the government "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In each of the above cases, though, the government got around that limitation by arguing that individuals have the right to believe as they like on their own time, but when they venture out into the marketplace, they forfeit the privilege of acting in accordance with the dictates of their faith.

The same supposed distinction between private opinions and public behaviors also features prominently in debates over the Obama administration's contraception mandate.

That rule, which was handed down by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 2012 as part of the Affordable Care Act, said that free birth control coverage had to be included in all employee health insurance packages. But some religiously affiliated employers, and in particular Roman Catholic ones, believe that facilitating the use of contraception makes one complicit in sin.

The agency exempted houses of worship from the rule, which let Catholic churches off the hook. But that did nothing for Catholic schools, hospitals, nursing homes, adoption agencies, and other charities. Eventually, the administration offered an "accommodation" in which the groups' insurers, rather than the groups themselves, would technically be responsible for paying for the coverage. Not surprisingly, this accounting sleight of hand did not allay the charities' concerns.

In Zubik v. Burwell, a coalition of faith-based nonprofits asked the Supreme Court to determine whether the mandate, as applied to such organizations, violated their religious freedom. Among the petitioners are the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns who care for the indigent elderly and have become the public face of this dispute.

Despite the nuns' sympathetic character, the political left remains strongly opposed to allowing them and their coreligionists to opt out of the requirement. "What these people are after isn't religious freedom," wrote Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, in a blog post that represents the general tenor of progressive rhetoric on the matter. "It's the right to use theology to control the private behavior of others, to impose their religion on the unwilling and to employ narrow dogma as an instrument of discrimination."

Discrimination is a term that comes up frequently in these debates, since "the very nature of religion is 'discriminatory,'" says U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Peter Kirsanow. "Now, it's not invidious discrimination. But Catholics are different from Jews. And Jews are different from Muslims. And Muslims are different from Protestants, and on and on."

Kirsanow argues that those differences ought to be respected. "One of my main concerns is the elevation of principles of nondiscrimination over principles of liberty," he says. "We should be more concerned about government coercion than we are about individual coercion. Both may be bad, but one is scores of orders of magnitude more serious than the other. And one was the principal reason we fought a revolution."

Yet in case after case, the desire to prevent business owners from taking steps that inconvenience someone else—either by forcing a customer to drive a few miles to a different pharmacy or wedding vendor, or by requiring an employee to sign up for a separate insurance plan that covers contraceptives—is treated as the ultimate consideration. Religious liberty, at least as far as it informs a believer's actions and not just her opinions, is treated as subordinate.

America vs. the Mormons

The idea that the Constitution protects only what happens between a person's ears isn't novel. It has roots in a series of laws, and the Supreme Court decisions that upheld them, from 1862 through 1890. The goal at the time was to rein in a new and dangerous-seeming religious movement called Mormonism by criminalizing its most eccentric practice: polygamy. But by claiming the right to regulate the behavior of people of faith, mainstream believers set the stage for the modern political left to step in and regulate them—and to have 150 years' worth of precedents on their side when they did it.

The Mormon faith, today known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), was founded in 1830 by a farmer named Joseph Smith. As the nascent religion picked up followers, it attracted an increasingly violent resistance from the non-Mormon "gentile" community, eventually culminating in an all-out legal assault against the early Church.

Smith and his followers were repeatedly driven westward—forced from their encampments in Kirtland, Ohio; Jackson County, Missouri; and Nauvoo, Illinois, before settling in the Great Basin region of what is now Utah. They were harassed wherever they went, often with the approval of local officials. On one occasion Smith was tarred and feathered. Years later he was murdered by a mob that broke into the Illinois jail cell where he was being held. Even after the Mormons settled along the Great Salt Lake, they were still hounded by government authorities. In the 1850s, President James Buchanan sent forces to Utah in what the people there viewed as a military invasion. Relations between the federal troops, the Latter-day Saints, and the fortune seekers streaming west to partake in the Gold Rush remained tense for decades.

There were a number of reasons for Americans' deep hostility toward the Mormons, from fears they were amassing too much political power (they tended to vote as a bloc) to the perception that they were zealots bent on establishing a theocratic government on American soil. "I think they were unwise in some of the statements they made to the locals," says the Brigham Young University historian Brian Cannon.

But the emblem of the alleged Mormon threat was polygamy, a practice Smith introduced to his inner circle in Nauvoo shortly before he was killed.

In 1852, the LDS Church began openly defending plural marriage. This is what elevated the "Mormon problem" to the national stage. Beginning in the 1850s, Eastern newspapers were rife with references to polygamy as "evil," "licentious," a "brutalizing practice," "repugnant to our sentiments of morality and social order," and "shocking to the moral sense of the world." The New York Times editorialized repeatedly for taking direct action against the Latter-day Saints. "The fact, if it be a fact, that the women are willing to live in polygamy, is no reason for our allowing them to do so," the editors of the paper wrote in March 1860. What had begun as rival groups skirmishing over frontier resources came to be seen as an existential conflict: The soul of the whole country seemed to be at stake if the federal government allowed such behavior to continue.

Plural Marriage 'Extirpated'

Plural marriage was tied up with slavery in the politics of the day. The GOP platform in 1856 famously called upon Congress "to prohibit in the territories those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery." But not everyone agreed—with the second half of the Republicans' prescription.

In 1853, a "Southern contributor" to one of New York City's daily newspapers published a lecture arguing that of the two, polygamy was actually the worse offense. (At least slavery, he said, was tolerated in the early Christian faith.) Arguably one reason a prohibition on plural marriage wasn't passed sooner was a fear among some Democrats that abolition might follow. North Carolina Rep. Lawrence O'Bryan Branch said he could not support a federal ban because "if polygamy was declared criminal, there would be no reason why the same action might not be taken regarding slavery."

Even so, they made their feelings about the Mormon practice clear. "The knife must be applied to this pestiferous disgusting cancer which is gnawing into the very vitals of the body politic," thundered presidential hopeful Stephen Douglas in 1857. "It must be cut out by the roots and seared over by the red hot iron of stern and unflinching law."

The Civil War eventually put an end to the prohibitionists' need to allay Southern concerns about federalism, and in July 1862 the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act became law. "That the purpose of the bill is entirely right and commends itself to every true friend of morality and civilization," wrote the editors of the Times, "will scarcely be questioned anywhere outside the circles of Mormondom."

At first it meant little. Since most everyone in Utah territory was Mormon, attempts to enforce the ban turned out to be virtually impossible. How do you prove a man has taken multiple wives if no one will testify against him? With the judges and juries populated by polygamists and their neighbors, the Morrill Act was effectively a dead letter.

Lawmakers in Washington and the good, upstanding Christians they represented were not about to roll over and accept polygamy, though—even 2,000 miles away. Agitation began for legislation to increase the penalties against those who condoned plural marriage.

By the early 1880s, the Rev. Dr. John Philip Newman, a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was giving sermons in which he "pleaded in behalf of women, God's last, best gift to man, that the curse should be wiped out." He didn't mince words: Since "the people of Utah are clothed with the rights of citizenship, and have their courts," he said, "the courts must therefore be overthrown by a military invasion."

The government didn't quite go to war. But it took to arresting those it found to be living with multiple women, even if it couldn't show they were married. According to law professor Ray Jay Davis in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, more than 1,300 Mormons were jailed as "cohabs" during the 1880s.

Prosecutors even tried to argue they could re-arrest cohabs as they left prison—after all, residing with more than one wife was a "continuing offense." But "in a rare win for the Mormons, the courts ruled that officials had to find new evidence of violations of the law before arresting someone who had already done time," says Kenneth L. Cannon, an attorney whose great-great-grandfather, the Mormon leader George Q. Cannon, was convicted of unlawful cohabitation in 1888.

In December 1881, Sen. George F. Edmunds of Vermont introduced a law to make anyone who accepted the Church's teachings on polygamy ineligible to vote, hold public office, or serve on a jury. Again, the editors of the Times endorsed the act's passage: "It must be admitted that the Edmunds bill is a harsh remedy for polygamy. But then the disease in Utah has gone beyond remedies that are not more or less heroic."

It passed, as did another law five years later disincorporating the Church and declaring that all Church property and assets above $50,000 would be confiscated by the government.

The efforts worked—but only "after four years of harsh and in some cases ruthless enforcement, and only after thousands of lives had been ruined," according to a 1987 article in The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal.

On October 6, 1890, LDS President Wilford Woodruff published a manifesto reversing the institution's position on polygamy: "I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land."

"It is not coincidental that Woodruff proclaimed the official end of plural marriage" mere months after the Supreme Court upheld the seizure of the Church's assets, George Q.'s great-great-grandson Cannon says. The day after penning the letter, Woodruff wrote in his journal that he was motivated by a desperate pragmatism: "I am under the necessity of acting for the temporal salvation of the Church."

Free to Believe but Not to Act

The Manifesto of 1890 was a landmark victory for the traditionalist view that, as Pope Leo XIII had put it a decade earlier, "marriage, from its institution, should exist between two only, that is, between one man and one woman." But it came at the expense of important constitutional limits on the state's power.

Proponents of the laws barring polygamy were no doubt aware that the First Amendment was implicated. Yet they tended to dismiss these concerns. When pressed on the issue, the New York Democrat Hyrum Waldridge likely summed up the feelings of many supporters of the ban: "I do not propose to say whether it is constitutional or not—I am viewing this as a great moral question."

The laws outlawing plural marriage and then ratcheting up the punishments didn't go without legal challenge. In 1875 George Reynolds, secretary to Church President Brigham Young, agreed to be prosecuted for bigamy as a means of forcing the Supreme Court to consider whether the Morrill Act violated the Constitution. Convicted of having two wives and sentenced to two years' hard labor, he appealed on the following grounds: that he was a member of the LDS Church; "that it was the duty of male members of said church, circumstances permitting, to practise polygamy"; that the punishment for refusing "would be damnation in the life to come"; and that, since his behavior was "in conformity with what he believed at the time to be a religious duty," he should not have been found guilty.

The justices were not persuaded. They acknowledged that "Congress cannot pass a law…which shall prohibit the free exercise of religion." Nonetheless, they held that the conviction in Reynolds v. United States would stand, and they got there by declaring that only the right to believe, and not the right to act on your beliefs, is protected by the Constitution.

"While [laws] cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices," Chief Justice Morrison Waite wrote in 1878 for a unanimous court. After all, "if a wife religiously believed it was her duty to burn herself upon the funeral pile of her dead husband; would it be beyond the power of the civil government to prevent her carrying her belief into practice?…To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land."

The decision should have been suspect from the beginning. It turned on the distinction between beliefs and behaviors, even as it quoted the constitutional prohibition on laws that impinge religious exercise—an active word if ever there was one.

Twelve years later the Mormons filed another objection, this time to Edmunds' law disqualifying them from voting, holding public office, or serving on a jury. Again the Court rejected the challenge. Again the ruling was unanimous.

"It was never intended that the first Article of Amendment to the Constitution…should be a protection against legislation for the punishment of acts inimical to the peace, good order, and morals of society," wrote Justice Stephen J. Field in Davis v. Beason. "However free the exercise of religion may be, it must be subordinate to the criminal laws of the country."

To justify a prohibition against polygamy, the Court had taken the teeth out of the First Amendment.

What traditionalist supporters of the bans did not know at the time was that they had set a precedent with Reynolds and Davis that would later be turned against them. Today, a century after they succeeded in "extirpating" the "evil" of polygamy, it's those who believe in marriage as an institution between one man and one woman only who are left to appeal to the importance of free exercise. Meanwhile, their secular opponents argue that the Constitution protects beliefs but not practices—and certainly not institutional practices.

A Balancing Test Upended

The tables didn't turn all at once, and there have been some wins for religious liberty in the last hundred years. For a time, the Supreme Court used a balancing test to limit the government's power to regulate religion.

In the 1972 case Wisconsin v. Yoder, the Court declared that the Amish could not be punished for taking their children out of school after eighth grade. The requirement "affirmatively compels them, under threat of criminal sanction, to perform acts undeniably at odds with fundamental tenets of their religious beliefs," the Court said. And granting an exception would not cause "harm to the physical or mental health of the child or to the public safety, peace, order, or welfare."

Note that the justices didn't find that the law automatically succeeded because it was a regulation of behavior. Nor did they find that it automatically failed because it was an infringement on someone's First Amendment rights. Instead, they weighed the government's interest in enforcing the schooling requirement against the burden it placed on the petitioners' religious freedom.

The idea that there should be a balancing test had been introduced in Sherbert v. Verner in 1963, when the Supreme Court held that South Carolina could not withhold unemployment benefits from a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church who found herself without work because of her religion's proscription on laboring on Saturdays. Her religious liberty was found to outweigh the government's interests.

Making restrictions on religious liberty subject to a stringent balancing test (that is, subjecting them to "strict scrutiny") might seem like it opens the door to much friendlier rulings for people of faith. But a 1992 article in the Virginia Law Review found that in fact, the courts rarely sided with people seeking exemptions on religious grounds. Of the 97 free exercise claims brought in the federal courts of appeals from 1980 to 1990, 85 were rejected. "For some courts, the mere fact that a law or regulation existed sufficed to demonstrate a compelling state interest," the author wrote. A George Washington Law Review article that same year described the balancing test as "strict in theory, but ever-so-gentle in fact."

Then in 1990 came the knockout punch to defenders of religious freedom. Adding insult to injury, the ruling was handed down by a conservative folk hero—Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The recently departed jurist is today remembered as a champion of the rights of believers. During oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country, Scalia voiced his apprehension about what he and his colleagues were being asked to do: "I'm concerned about the wisdom of this Court imposing through the Constitution a requirement of action which is unpalatable to many of our citizens for religious reasons."

But 25 years earlier, in Employment Division v. Smith, Scalia wrote a decision that dramatically curtailed Americans' ability to make free exercise claims. In that case, two members of the Native American Church sought an exception to an Oregon statute prohibiting the use of the hallucinogen peyote. Federal law said the substance could be used in bona fide religious ceremonies, but the state law contained no such caveat.

Though Scalia acknowledged that the Church members' use of the drug was religiously motivated, he concluded that the ban was not: It applied to all Oregonians, not just adherents of one particular faith. "The right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability," he wrote. Thus, Oregon was under no obligation to allow peyote use, even for religious reasons.

Scalia made it clear his reasoning was grounded in the Supreme Court decisions that had validated the bans on polygamy 100 years earlier. "The rule to which we have adhered ever since Reynolds," he wrote—the rule, that is, that gives the state maximum berth to regulate people's behavior, including religious behavior—"plainly controls."

This time, the public was aghast. The Los Angeles Times described Smith as "strip[ping] religious believers whose practices violate certain general laws of the[ir] constitutional protection." The Washington Post accused Scalia of having read the "protection of individual conscience" out of the First Amendment. A spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union called the ruling "terrible" and "an end run around" the country's longstanding commitment to religious freedom. And at a hearing on the matter, Rep. Stephen J. Solarz—a New York Democrat—said the justices had "virtually removed religious freedom from the Bill of Rights."

Americans of all stripes suddenly realized the Constitution would not be enough to shield against laws that interfered with the practice of faith, assuming the laws were "generally applicable." What if the authorities decided to go after a Catholic church for serving Communion wine in a dry county? Or an Orthodox rabbi for "discriminating" by only solemnizing marriages between Jews?

"The ruling galvanized virtually the entire American religious landscape, in part because every faith can envision itself as a vulnerable minority in some situation," the University of Oklahoma political scientist Allen Hertzke wrote.

"To many groups concerned with religious liberty, the case was an alarm bell," Peter Steinfels explained in The New York Times. The Court "was petitioned to reconsider its decision by an improbable alliance" that included everyone from civil libertarian groups to the Traditional Values Coalition.

Some 55 constitutional scholars signed on to the letter, but the justices refused to give the case another hearing. Because of Smith, the government no longer needed to show it had a "compelling interest" when it came to laws that incidentally burdened someone's religion.

Exactly 100 years after the Mormons were bullied into giving up polygamy, those legal precedents had come home to roost.

Freedom Fights Back

Recognizing that the Smith ruling could prove dangerous not just for small minorities like Native Americans and Mormons but for mainstream believers as well, activists, scholars, and legislators sprang into action. Their solution was to pass a law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), that would re-instate the Sherbert balancing test.

Even The New York Times endorsed the idea. Whereas in Smith the Court "threw away decades of precedent and watered down the religious liberty of all Americans," it editorialized, this law "reasserts a broadly accepted American concept of giving wide latitude to religious practices that many might regard as odd or unconventional."

In November 1993, RFRA passed by the lopsided margin of 97–3 in the Senate and by a unanimous voice vote in the House. Over 30 states would eventually follow suit, ensuring that both the federal government and most state governments would have to meet a high bar before they could burden religious liberty.

"Usually the signing of legislation by a president is a ministerial act, often a quiet ending to a turbulent legislative process," then–President Bill Clinton said upon inking the bill into law. "Today this event assumes a more majestic quality because of our ability together to affirm the historic role that people of faith have played in the history of this country and the constitutional protections those who profess and express their faith have always demanded and cherished."

The Smith decision's smothering of the First Amendment had seemingly been forestalled. And indeed, a 2014 study by Robert Martin and Roger Finke found that in the post-Smith, pre-RFRA period (1990–1993), just 28 percent of free exercise legal challenges had been successful. In the four years following the act's passage (1993–1997), the success rate jumped to 45 percent.

In 2014, the foresight that caused people of faith to support RFRA paid off when the Hahn and Green families (owners, respectively, of Conestoga Wood Specialties, a cabinet-making company, and Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft stores) brought a suit against the federal government. The families objected to the HHS rule requiring employers to provide coverage to their workers for abortifacient drugs.

The Supreme Court, looking to RFRA, sided with the petitioners. "A Government action that imposes a substantial burden on religious exercise," wrote Justice Samuel Alito for the majority, has to "constitute the least restrictive means of serving that interest, and the mandate plainly fails that test."

Justice was restored—except that now, many of the same groups who had praised RFRA's passage in the '90s had come to see things differently. No longer was religious freedom "the most precious of all American liberties," as Bill Clinton had said in his signing statement. Clinton's wife, gearing up for her second presidential campaign, now blasted the Hobby Lobby decision as "deeply disturbing."

The next year, Indiana, which did not yet have a state-level RFRA on its books, moved to enact one. The reaction was explosive. Hillary Clinton tweeted that it was "sad" such a law could "happen today," while TV and radio personality Larry King described it as "absurd," "insulting," and "anti-gay." Major corporations, including Nike, Apple, and Marriott, condemned the proposal. The National Collegiate Athletic Association, headquartered in Indianapolis, threatened to leave the state if the statute passed. Public opinion had once again turned.

Beliefs vs. Conduct

Time and again, liberal activists return to one idea in today's religious liberty controversies: that the First Amendment protects your right to believe whatever you want, but not your right to act on those beliefs. The monster legal precedent that Chief Justice Waite forced into being in Reynolds slipped its cage and found a home on the political left. And like so many invasive species, it strangled much of what predated it, including the previously widespread notion that religious liberty is and should remain America's first freedom.

In September 2016, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a report asserting that "ensuring nondiscrimination" is of "preeminent importance in American jurisprudence," and should be privileged, even when it conflicts with free exercise claims. After all, the report suggested, "a doctrine that distinguishes between beliefs (which should be protected) and conduct (which should conform to the law) is fairer and easier to apply."

That idea is the (sometimes explicit) rationale for going after wedding vendors who don't want to participate in same-sex commitment celebrations. As recently as November 2016, when Barronelle Stutzman went before the Washington Supreme Court to challenge a fine for declining to make custom floral arrangements for a gay wedding, the refrain reared its head.

Asked by the court how he would respond to the florist's objections, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson replied: "There is a difference, your honor, between the freedom to believe and a freedom to act. Ms. Stutzman is free to believe what she wishes. But when she…avails herself of the protections and the benefits that come with being a business, there are of course responsibilities that flow from that."

Discussing an attempt by Sen. Mike Lee (R–Utah) to stop states from forcing people to work gay weddings against their will, Washington Post columnist Joe Davidson dismissed the Mormon senator's concerns because, he said, "at question is offensive action, not a belief."

It's the same idea that undergirds the federal government's assault on the Little Sisters of the Poor and countless other religious nonprofits. And it's the same justification Washington invoked in 2007 when it required even privately owned pharmacies to stock and dispense the morning-after pill. Under the rule, pharmacists with conscience-based objections are forbidden from referring customers to another nearby store to fill such prescriptions—they're required to do it themselves.

In 2012, the American Pharmacists Association and more than 30 similar groups submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court expressing deep concerns about the regulation. "Pharmacies have long enjoyed nearly unfettered control over stocking decisions," the document read. "Indeed, the ability of health professionals to opt out of services they find personally objectionable is an important component of the health care system."

It didn't matter. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the requirement on the grounds that, like the Oregon peyote ban, it is "both neutral and generally applicable," and the Supreme Court declined the pharmacy associations' pleas to reconsider the decision.

A century ago, the notion that sex and marriage ought to be expanded beyond their traditional confines was considered depraved, and the use of force was considered justified to stop it. Ironically, the same is now true for old-fashioned beliefs about marriage and sex.

The lesson in all this could not be more clear: When a group uses the law to enforce its particular version of morality on others, it sets precedents that may in time be turned against it. The lawmakers (and their constituents) who voted to punish polygamists in the 1800s had every reason to believe they would remain in the political majority. It would have been unthinkable at the time that the Supreme Court might one day rule nontraditional marriage unions a fundamental right. Yet on June 26, 2015, Obergefell did just that.

Christian traditionalists today, instead of being the propagators of moral norms, increasingly find themselves painted as on the "wrong side of history": opposed to marriage equality, favoring discrimination, supporting policies that are anti-woman. A hundred and fifty years after the Morrill Act, they're finally discovering just how important it is to have a legal system that tolerates dissent and carves out space for lifestyle choices beyond the cultural mainstream. Because suddenly, they are the dissenters.

But there's a cautionary tale here for the political left as well. Loose talk about the "right" and "wrong" sides of history suggests progressives are busily making the same error mainstream Christians did in the second half of the 19th century: assuming the moral forces that are ascendant now will continue to be.

As modern supporters of traditional marriage can tell them, social values aren't set in amber. There's no telling whose beliefs will carry the day down the line.

NEXT: Congress' Libertarianish Members Might Sink the GOP Obamacare Replacement

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  1. Marriage is between a man and a woman, time immemorial.

    Who cares though, the government should be out of the wedding business and let any person form legal domestic partnerships with any number of other persons. it should be a formality filing these domestic partnerships with the state, if one cares to. If you don’t want to file it with the state, then keep the contracts in a safe place.

    1. Actually, time immemorial was marriage between one man and as many women as he could afford. Monogamy is a new idea, in the timeframe of man. And one confined to a few religions.
      Full disclosure, I am a monogamous, heterosexual, Christian; but history is history.

      1. Only in a frew culture. Most cultures was still just one man and one woman. I few let a woman have more than one man. And some cultures let two men get married as long as one of them was the “woman”.

        1. The culture we’re talking about, of course, is supposedly based on the Bible, which cites numerous cases of men with more than one wife. Many of them, like Solomon, were favored of God. In some cases plural marriage was required, as in marrying the wife of a brother who died childless. And sometimes you had to marry all the older sisters to get the wife you really want.

      2. No, all that says is that you can be part of more than 1 marriage at a time. Each relationship you have w an individual spouse is a marriage. The whole gemish of all the people in it together is hardly ever conceived as a single marriage.

      3. Bullshit.

        In OUR culture — the culture, religions and societies that spawned the country/culture of the United States — marriage has been between one man and one woman for thousands of years.

        Whether the Aztecs or Zulus were monogamous is about as historically relevant to our modern debates about marriage as whether the Aztecs or Zulus had a right to bear arms is relevant for interpreting the 2A. (It is irrelevant.)

    2. Not anymore.

    3. Marriage is a cultural practice coming from cultural perspectives. It is different and can change depending on cultural practices and perspectives.

    4. just another business the gummint should be out of…

  2. That’s a silly headline. Arguments over what constitutes marriage and whom can marry whom go back to the dawn of mankind and predate Christianity. Also, Mormons are Christians. So, basically the author is confused and/or is just using convenient labels to make points that aren’t really accurate.

    1. Also, Mormons are Christians. So, basically the author is confused and/or is just using convenient labels to make points that aren’t really accurate.

      Agreed, I haven’t read the whole article but the portrayal of Mormons and early Mormonism as some manner of simple people who just wanted to do business peacefully is a bit flawed as well. It’s not *precisely* as bad or exactly the same, but a bit like acting like ISIS should be able to do as they please in a neighboring state.

    2. “the author is confused and/or is just using convenient labels to make points that aren’t really accurate.”

      I’m pretty sure that is somewhere in the Reason mission statement.

    3. Also, Mormons are Christians. So, basically the author is confused and/or is just using convenient labels to make points that aren’t really accurate.

      I haven’t finished the article, but that jumped out at me and to a larger degree as well. Acting like the Mormons were a religion of peace who just wanted to do business with and among other Americans is a bit of a artistic portrayal as well. The Mormons weren’t as bad as the Indian Tribes that had previously occupied the territory, but they were known for making dissenters and non-believers disappear and treating immigrants exceedingly roughly by pretty much any historical standard of ‘exceedingly roughly’.

      1. Yeah, but they deserved to be opposed because of their violence and intolerance, not their marriage practices. A lot of the hostility to Mormons was because of their beliefs and practices.

        Not that it excuses their behavior, but Mormons were treated rather poorly throughout their early existence because of their beliefs and religious practices. So their hostility to outsiders is at least understandable.

    4. Headlines are often silly. The article is very good, I thought. It’s about the history in the US, not the entire history of debates about marriage since the beginning of time.

      I agree on Mormons being a type of Christian (they believe in divine Jesus, so there you go). But a lot of more mainline Christians disagree about that. There are some pretty major theological differences.

      1. The article is very good, and I hope they publish more in the same vein. Thorough, thoughtful, and comprehensive is a good way to go.

        On the Mormons being Christians, it does entirely depend on perspective. They self-identify as Christians, but the largest Christian groups refuse to recognize them as such. Proper classification depends on how one weights theological differences with respect to classifying a belief system as a separate religion or merely a separate denomination within another religion. After all, the differences between Judaism and Islam are of similar scale as those between mainline Christianity and Mormonism (in both situations the differences come primarily from the latter having an extra few prophets over the former), but in the first case both sides clearly self-identify as being separate.

        1. Yes, Ms. Slade does good work.

    5. Mormons are Christian? WTH? Next you’ll be saying Catholics are Christian! Or Missouri Synod Lutherans!!

      1. Not really the same thing as splitting hairs over minor points of theology.

        I’ve nothing against Mormons. I think that they are fine people on average. I wish them well.

        But Mormon theology departs from traditional Christian theology severely. Mormons believe essentially that Jesus and Satan are siblings and that everyone can become a deity him or herself.

    6. No, actually arguments about that are fairly recent, because of the stakes that are on the table now.

      1. Until the Mormons, it was only in question for royalty.

  3. I’m conflicted – religion is just so much BS from start to finish, yet the government shouldn’t be able to compel you to do business with anyone.

    Where would the government stand on someone refusing to make a wedding cake for someone “because the bride is a complete bitch”….?

    1. the government shouldn’t be able to compel you to do business with anyone

      Agreed but unfortunately you would have to walk balk half a century of “civil rights” decisions in order to arrive there.

      1. The problem is that the Constitution guarantees both free association and the free exercise of religion. Libertarians constantly want to read religious freedom out of the Constitution and just swallow it up in one giant free association clause. That might be a good outcome but it is not what the document says. The document draws the distinction between religious freedom and association. Religious freedom, therefore, is something above and beyond the more general freedom of association.

        Like it or not, the freedom of association clause isn’t unlimited. If it were, there would be no way for even the smallest regulation of economic activity. Libertarians love that idea but that is not what the Framers intended the document to mean and not how any court in the history of the country has ever read it.

        So freedom of association has become a way for Libertarians to cop out on defending religious freedom. Cato’s amicus briefs on these sorts of cases have been really dishonest. Cato makes a Quixotic argument about a general right of association that they know no court is going to buy. This allows them to avoid having to overtly defend religious freedom but still be able to claim they are the right side of these disputes. They also get the added bonus of knowing their brief will have effect on the court and that there is no danger of harming the cause of the preferred gays.

        1. Actually, John, as I understand it, both freedom of association and freedom of religion are subsets of a much larger freedom – freedom of conscience. That you ought to have the power and the ability to associate with whomever you please, believe whatever you wish, conduct your daily affairs however you like, according to the dictates of your own conscience.

          1. Not to disagree but, are those the actual words of the 1A or the ones that only your followers can see?

            1. And by ‘not to disagree’ I mean I share your sentiment or the spirit of your interpretation but prefer the words as written. ‘according to the dictates of your own conscience’ leaves lots of room for lots of really evil shit. Not that the 1A precludes it but, IMO, your wording more explicitly defends it.

            2. That is how I think the 1A ought to be construed in order to permit a more expansive view of liberty.

              1. Your conscience must/must not preclude expansive views of liberty the way mine does.

                And, again, they way you think it ought to be construed is nice, but that’s the recurring failure that you rather obviously haven’t resolved. Your ‘according to the dictates of your own conscience’ is their ‘endowed by our creator’, ‘and among the several states’, and ‘shall not be infringed’ and ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ before that.

                Given this, I’ll stick with the one written that “we” (tacitly) agree on.

          2. You are just restating the libertarian argument. And the point is that whatever its merits, the 1st Amendment doesn’t say that. It says you have a freedom of association and the freedom of religion. They are two separate things. One doesn’t swallow the other.

            You are just describing Libertopia. That is nice but the Constitution didn’t create libertopia.

            1. Well, John, seeing as how this is a libertarian place, I’m going to advocate from a libertarian perspective on what I view as a valid way of viewing the First Amendment that is a more expansive view of liberty, that doesn’t result in people who believe in God having a privileged place in society while atheists are told to STFU.

              I mean, it does seem a bit odd that the Founding Fathers’ intent would be along the lines of:

              “You can say whatever you want! You can associate with whomever you please! You can print whatever you like! But you God-hating atheists, you’re just screwed!”

              That is nice but the Constitution didn’t create libertopia.

              I’m reminded of that daily.

              1. Whenever you talk about “original intent”, you have to remember that the original Constitution and Bill of Rights didn’t apply to states.

                So while the Constitution did have that “no religious test” clause? Many states explicitly called for a religious test. And the Flinders were, as expressed in the document they signed, accepting of that.

                So yeah, early America did not include atheists under the umbrella of “religious freedom”. Pretending it did is revisionism.

            2. They just wanted to make sure there’d be no gotchas like you can assemble peaceably in the street but not in a church, or in a church but not on the street. The sermon’s already covered by the freedom of speech & press. The churches of the day weren’t doing stuff that made “exercise” of any interest beyond that, except for a few things that didn’t happen to be controversial w.r.t. laws then, like circumcision or baptism.

              The non-establishment part said Congress couldn’t establish or favor a particular church, nor interfere with laws the states had on the subject.

        2. Religious freedom, therefore, is something above and beyond the more general freedom of association.

          If both are mentioned side by side in the same amendment, how is religious freedom “above and beyond”?

          1. Just saying they weren’t thought to be redundant, even if they largely overlapped.

        3. The document draws the distinction between religious freedom and association. Religious freedom, therefore, is something above and beyond the more general freedom of association.

          I don’t think that is necessarily the way to interpret it. Mentioning both doesn’t mean that they are necessarily distinct. It could also just be to clarify that religious stuff is included in the general freedom of association and speech.

          And I have no idea how you get to “above and beyond”. Religion is mentioned along side the other things. I’d say that means they are of equal importance.

          What I have a big problem with is the idea that religious freedom means making exceptions to laws for religious people. The text says “congress shall make no law”, not “congress shall provide exceptions for certain approved classes of people to laws that violate religious freedom”. If a law violates anyone’s religious freedom, it is invalid and can’t apply to anyone. I do think that exceptions are better than nothing. But it’s not how you really respect religious freedom.

          1. It is something above and beyond because religious freedom and free exercise is necessarily a form of free association and free expression. This is why a generalized free association and free expression clause would necessarily cover freedom of religion. The Libertarians are right in that the Amendment could have been written to guarantee freedom of association and religion and as long as those were read broadly, freedom of religion would be protected.

            The problem is it wasn’t written that way. It was written to protect association, expression, and religion. You can’t just read a word out of a document as redundant. It means something. So, what does it mean? Since religion would be covered by a really broad protection of association and expression, the fact that it is mentioned by name here means that those clauses are not that broad, otherwise the protection of religion would be redundant. So, it must mean that freedom of religion is something above and beyond the freedoms protected under the association and expression clauses. If it didn’t mean that, there would have been no reason to explicitly protect religion.

            1. Nine Amendments were boiled down from hundreds of submissions and suggestions by Madison and then submitted to further changes by Congress. .17 Amendments came out of the House. 12 were submitted to the states. Some places they tried to shoehorn too many things into one Amendment. Some places the language wasn’t all that clear, especially as common usage definitions have changed over the years or some phrases altogether dropped from the common lexicon.

              Anyone who wants to get a better sense of what they thought about the Constitution and the Amendments then should check out what was actually said at the time and what the compacted Amendments as submitted for ratification started out as.

          2. If you don’t read it that way, you make protection of religion redundant. And that is not how statutes are interpreted. Every word is given meaning where possible.

            Moreover, if you read the other two clauses as broadly as Libertarians want them to read, there is virtually no room for any economic regulation. Every economic regulation from tariffs to the minimum wage is an infringement on one’s freedom of association and expression. Libertarians would love that. But the Founders didn’t and there is no way you can say they intended those clauses to mean that.

            Beyond that, no court has ever read it that way. And it is unlikely that any court ever will. So making the argument in court does nothing to protect freedom of religion. it just becomes a way to avoid protecting it by making an argument that is doomed to lose.

            Libertarians are generally hostile to religion and hate the fact that the Constitution didn’t guarantee a general right of association and leaves them with the task of defending people they hate and beliefs they hate as having special protection under the constitution. Well, sometimes life is like that.

            1. Gee, I wasn’t aware that Libertarians were supposed to be knee-jerk defenders of the Constitution. That is more like what conservatives are supposed to be.

              Where the Constitution doesn’t go far enough in protecting liberty, then the Constitution is wrong and should be changed.

              But at least your arguments have improved. Way better than your usual “I’m a Christian and I get special rights unlike you faggoty atheist Libertarians, nyah nyah”

            2. I’ve thought about this a bit more, and I will agree that mentioning religion isn’t completely redundant. The protection of free exercise is beyond (though not necessarily above) what free association and expression covers. Exercising religion can and often does involve more than who you hang out with or what you say. It should (in my reading of it) protect any religious practice as long as it doesn’t violate anyone else’s rights or freedom.

              1. True, it’s not required to associate with anyone in order to practice a religion.

              2. The peyote thing is kind of an outlier in that most “religious liberty” questions aren’t about a “behind closed doors” issue.

                Consider a Native American tribes claim of a religious burial site. Their claim that the area should be free of further development *does* affect other people. But strip mining a holy mountain infringed on their ability to practice their religion as well.

                Seventh Day Adventist (IIRC) have a whole thing about medical treatment and blood transfusions, extending to their minor children. Respecting that belief has led to deaths. But if you force treatment on them has eternal life implications for them too.

                Many segregationists? cited the Bible in their defense, evangelicals used to freak about Social Security numbers, and the Amish still complain about having to put reflective stuff on their carriages.

                “Muslim prisoner wants to grow a beard”, “native Americans want peyote” and “wear a head scarf or yarmaluk at work” cases are much rarer, and much less controversial.

                1. Seventh Day Adventist (IIRC) have a whole thing about medical treatment and blood transfusions, extending to their minor children. Respecting that belief has led to deaths. But if you force treatment on them has eternal life implications for them too.

                  I don’t know about Seventh Day Adventists, but Jehova’s Witnesses do believe this.

                  1. Sounds about right. I know there’s *some* Christian sect with that belief anyway, even if I can’t reliably identify which one.

                  2. I don’t get the issue? If it is their belief you respect you. You can’t force anything on them.

    2. religion is just so much BS from start to finish

      You understand the notion is probably more indicative of the mind attempting to grasp it than an actual statement or fact about any/all religions and minds it (could) apply to, right?

      Where would the government stand on someone refusing to make a wedding cake for someone “because the bride is a complete bitch”….?

      Do you have a belief system founded around her being a complete bitch with a large number of followers or is this a whimsical one off thing that the government explicitly should not have a standard policy on?

      1. Atheist Libertarians are forever butthurt that religion got special treatment under the Constitution.

        1. Please don’t associate all atheist libertarians with anti-religion dickheads. Thanks.

          1. I am religious but i agree with you zeb. I don’t think religion and atheist is any different and i don’t get john on this. It lacks basic reason.

        2. I have always thought of Atheism as its own religion; freedom to practice and express applies, as well as restriction on government establishment of atheism as the official religion.

        3. I have always thought of Atheism as its own religion; freedom to practice and express applies, as well as restriction on government establishment of atheism as the official religion.

          1. Squirrels, however should enjoy no constitutional protection.

            Seriously, Reason, I have had two posts eaten, and then this one shows up as a duplicate. Can’t you convert some that evil earth-raping Kochtopus money into a webpage that doesn’t greedily suck sweaty donkey balls?

          2. Some atheists certainly behave that way. But I think it’s weird to call atheism a religion. It’s really not a positive belief for many people any more than not believing in the Easter Bunny is for most adults. It’s not a religious claim to say that all of the things that don’t exist are not real things. And that’s basically all an atheist is claiming about divinity. It’s no more religious than my claim that there is not currently an elephant in my office.

            1. I would say that atheism is not a religion, but it is a religious belief. Therefore it may be “freely exercised” under the First Amendment.

              1. This! A belief vs a religious belief makes no difference. It is all the same.

      2. Right. I am irritated by the active hostility toward religion as displayed by a (subset) of libertarians.

        Why did PlaystoomuchHALO add “religion is just so much BS from start to finish” to his post? It had nothing to do with the point he was making. It was just virtue signalling in my opinion.

        And he didn’t even add “I think/believe” to the statement. That kind of arrogance really annoys me.

        1. Right. I am irritated by the active hostility toward religion as displayed by a (subset) of libertarians.

          I’m irritated by the active hostility toward atheism as displayed by a (subset) of libertarians. I just don’t let it bother me in the grand scheme of things.

        2. Obviously he (she? don’t know) thought it, otherwise why would he say it? FFS it is quite obvious that it is his belief.

      3. Well to be fair, since most religions are exclusive with each other, even if *one* is right, the rest are BS.

        1. As I understand it, by some standards or conceptualizations this is considered a consensus and is itself a divinity.

    3. The article actually led me to a new conclusion:

      If there’s an alternative supplier of a service, I see no reason why anyone, government included, should force or be allowed to force any service supplier to supply their service to anyone!

      “We have the right to refuse service to anyone (and it’s OUR decision)” should be the hallmark for all businesses.

      Including wedding cakes, and marriage certificates. The government AND the Church should be barred from having a monopoly on THOSE “services,” too!

      imnsho.

  4. The government should have no business recognizing any marriage. People should be honor their contracts and do business with those they choose to. Let the market prove objectively the correctness of their choices. I like this issue, both sides complain that their opponents do not do, what they themselves cannot. When something like this happened, my parents would say If you are incapable of getting along, neither of you can you are play with the toy, because we were damaging the enjoyment of life by a non-guilty third party (my parents). Personally I believe by not learning how to deal with half the population growing up is unwise, so I would not deprive my child of the ability to learn about the opposite sex. That means I will not gay-marry. Not that no one else should. The courage of one’s convictions should let life choices one makes stand on their own merit. Those who believe otherwise, don’t believe their convictions to be just. The discussions are dominated by the kids who never learned how to share.

    1. Then what happens when they wind up in court, & at issue is whether someone is married? It might be an insurance case, whatever. Are courts part of gov’t? What could it mean to decide such a case other than recognizing a marriage or lack of one?

    2. Marriage as marriage in the religious sense is no business of the government. However there has grown up around it a recognized set of rights and responsibilities. Joint property. Default rights to act when the other is impaired. Not being forced to testify against each other. Responsibilities towards children. Then those have been broadened in private market assumptions based on the government assumptions as well.

    3. Marriage, as in the religious sense, is no business of government. However a large set of default rights and responsibilities has grown up around it. Joint property and financial responsibility. Inheritance. Default right to act when another is incapacitated. Responsibility towards children. Not being forced to testify against the other(s). None of these is inherently dependant on the sex or the number of the people involved.

      Then there’s a whole secondary web of private assumptions based on the government ones. It’s all one massive tangle of assumptions that would take a fine toothed comb and a lot of time and effort to even begin to unwind.

  5. What violates the first amendment is government regulation of a religious institution, marriage.
    If you really feel that there is a compelling government interest in protecting “the children”, there is still no reason to regulate the relationship(s) of those who caused the child to exist.
    Just because a bunch of lazy legislators used Christian marriage as a crutch for a whole lot of laws (taxes, inheritance, housing etc) does not make it constitutional.
    Marriage should be whatever your religion says it is, and basically irrelevant to any government function.
    This is almost off topic, but addresses the source of the issue, government meddling in religion.

    The rest is due to government meddling in commerce. My personal belief is forcing a merchant to provide services that offend his beliefs, including a decision not to believe, is wrong. See use of force. It is not an exact parallel, but once blue laws were repealed, some chose to sell on the newly permitted day, some did not. But blue laws did enforce the Sabbath of a religious subset, while permitting sales on the Sabbath of other religious subsets.

    1. 1. Marriage requires no religion.
      2. Marriage requires no children.
      3. While I agree that accommodations protections are antiquated and unnecessary in this day of instant mass communication, since those that have chosen to follow religion receive such protections, they deserve no exemption from the law.

    2. Regulation of marriage leads to difficulties that could’ve been avoided. Recognition of marriage by law is inescapable.

  6. But while the norms have clearly changed, the desire to punish anyone who refuses to comply with those norms appears to be forever.

    Kaboom. You just got sladed.

  7. I seem to recall an Iron Law which covers this…

  8. And this site repeatedly scoffs at intelligent concerns voiced continuously over yet another goddamn earth-wide religion (Islam) inserting its individualism-despising mores into the already stupefied sociopolitical mix here in the states liberty-focused intellectuals register as incompetent-to-resist and apathetic-to-understand in the glaring face of ever-marching dictatorial governance.

    The modern young Christian has little historical knowledge of the anti-liberty and pro-altruistic tendencies of their evangelical fathers who worked decade after decade to mire American creativity and freedom of expression within quags of severe limitation and legislated dominion over individual rights.

    Religion is a personal business most adherents wish to promulgate like healthy statists through the same constrictive system of legalized oppression marketed as ‘freedom’.

    I have zero problem with faith held deeply, sensibly, and personally when the faithful have zero problem existing within a society unburdened with unnecessary and illegitimate laws designed to limit that which they find ‘disagreeable or offensive’ a severe and crippling handicap eating alive the modern philosophy movements as well.

    1. “most adherents”? Nice collectivist condemnation there.

  9. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State

    Quite an ironic name for your organization, eh Mr Lynn?

    1. “It’s the right to use theology to control the private behavior of others, to impose their religion on the unwilling and to employ narrow dogma as an instrument of discrimination.”

      Not baking a cake for someone means all that?

      1. Of course, because since the bakery of their choice decorates cakes only for opposite-sex marriages, these people are forced to marry someone of the opposite sex. And it’s so hard to find such fiancees, they’ll probably all be skanks!

  10. This is a stupid article. The freedom of religion isn’t unlimited. By Slade’s logic, Christians preheated the oven the day they decided human sacrifice wasn’t protected by the free exercise clause. Unless you want to make religion an exception that swallows the entire body of law, something that everyone knows wasn’t the intent of the clause and is impractical anyway, the government is always going to be in the business of what is acceptable free exercise. It is just a slippery slope that cannot be avoided.

    1. This is a stupid article.

      I admire your tenacity, John. Many others have moved on to greener pastures rather than be forced to put up with such a constant barrage of “stupid articles”. I can tell that the rest of the commentariat, those of us left anyway, are absolutely thrilled to be subjected to your all-knowing point of view with such frequency and fervor.

      1. I haven’t moved on. What about it? If I am supposed to move on because they don’t like the articles, perhaps you should stop bitching about how you don’t like my comments? The logic applies equally in both cases. So as long as you keep bitching about my comments, I will keep bitching about the articles.

        1. If I am supposed to move on because they don’t like the articles

          Where did I say you’re supposed to move on? You clearly enjoy reading “stupid articles” as much as you enjoy providing stupid comments. Who am I to judge?

          1. Since you enjoy providing stupid comments even more than I do and in fact are better at it than I am, no you can’t judge.

            1. Indeed, but complaining about other people’s stupid comments is not equal to complaining about the “stupid articles” provided by the site owner. Also, why are you complaining about me complaining about you complaining? Seems like you have no leg to stand on yourself.

              1. Because both of us like to complain. Gotta complain about something.

    2. OK, so why is banning polygamy OK, but forcing people to bake cakes not OK?

      This seems like an odd comment from you, who is always making the point that religious practice gets extra special protection in the constitution.

      There is an obvious line to draw separating legally acceptable religious practice from unprotected practices. Does it endanger or harm anyone without their informed consent?

      1. That is the debate. As I explain below, we told the Mormons to get bent. Is that the same as telling Christians they must participate in gay weddings? I don’t think so. Polygamy has effects on society that go far beyond Christians not participating in gay weddings.

        If you don’t agree with that, where is the line then? There are two extremes here. One is an unlimited freedom of religion that allows anyone to opt out of any law up to and including murder as long as they claim violating the law is required by their religion. Murder laws are an infringement on the free exercise of religions that require human sacrifice just as much as polygamy laws are on Mormons. The other extreme is that freedom of religion means you can object to a law just so long as the government decides it’s okay. That, of course, swallows the entire freedom. So what “freedom of religion” means is going to be somewhere in between those two extremes.

        The entire debate is about where the line should be between those extremes. Saying “but we stopped Mormons from polygamy therefore we can make Christians bake cakes” just begs the question.

        1. Fucking fuck. I had a nice response, but it is gone. So more briefly:

          I clearly stated where the line is. Seems pretty damn obvious.

          A lot of people see great social value in making people be nice to gays and make them cakes, just like a lot of people saw great social value in stopping Mormon polygamy. If we are defending religious freedom, you can’t just leave those things up to popular opinion. There has to be a clear line, and whether or not an activity harms unwilling people is pretty clear and rational.

          1. Sadly, it is not that simple. Gays would say being unable to frequent the business of their choice harms unwilling people. And to some degree they are right. Certainly, the larger societal effects of widespread polygamy absolutely harm unwilling people, though in an indirect way.

            There is no one answer to this question. We can debate it forever. We should however, ask ourselves why the framers created a right to freedom of religion. And the reason they did was because they had seen the religious wars in Europe and knew the wages of the government fucking with people’s religious beliefs. When the government starts establishing a religion, be that through a state religion or restricting what religious practices are permitted, the stakes of political fights go way up and eventually people start killing one another. Now, the government will always infringe on religion to some degree. But the lesson is that doing so is a very serious proposition and you better have one hell of a good reason to do it.

            Maybe polygamy wasn’t a good enough reason to do it. Whether it is or not is is a down and dirty factual and circumstantial debate not one of abstract principles. So the question we should be asking on these gay wedding cake cases is whether the forced public accommodation of gays an interest worthy enough to justify infringing on people’s religious views.

            1. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect the general public to accept my way of seeing it. But I do think it’s a more consistent reading of the 1st amendment than what the courts and legislators have given us.

              1. It’s hardly surprising that one person’s stance on this topic is more internally consistent than one that is enforced by hundreds of different courts across the country over many decades. It’s impossible to write a rule that has no ambiguities or alternative interpretations. How do you define “harm”? Is it more harmful not to have a cake at your wedding, or to force a baker to make a cake for a ‘sinful’ ceremony? (BTW I am not sure where the Bible says anything about being an accomplice to homosexuality…)

              2. It’s hardly surprising that one person’s stance on this topic is more internally consistent than one that is enforced by hundreds of different courts across the country over many decades. It’s impossible to write a rule that has no ambiguities or alternative interpretations. How do you define “harm”? Is it more harmful not to have a cake at your wedding, or to force a baker to make a cake for a ‘sinful’ ceremony? (BTW I am not sure where the Bible says anything about being an accomplice to homosexuality…)

    3. Freedom of religion is unlimited to the same extent any other freedom (otherwise known as natural rights) is – as long as you aren’t harming or defrauding another or their property, you can think, believe, and do as you like.

  11. Did it seem to anyone else like she was defining “Christian” to mean “anyone in the 19th century who wasn’t Mormon”?

    1. She was. And she is also implying that the only objections to polygamy are religious based. The freedom of religion is necessarily limited in some way. Otherwise, it would swallow the entire rule of law as everyone could except themselves by claiming their religion requires breaking the law. So the question is what is the limit.

      The US decided in the 19th Century that polygamy was beyond the limit. Slade acts like Christian religious objections were the only reason for doing that. That, of course, is bunk. There are lots of very good reasons why a society would object to polygamy that have nothing to do with religion. We can debate whether those are compelling enough reasons to tell the Mormons to get bent, but we shouldn’t pretend they don’t exist. Moreover, the objections to polygamy, whatever their validity, are of an entirely different order of magnitude than the objections to Christians being able to opt out of gay weddings. So the fact that we told the Mormons to give up polygamy is in no way a justification or a good precedent for telling Christians today they must embrace gay marriage.

      1. What are these “very good” reasons for objecting to polygamy?

        1. I think it’s quite clear from the quotes in the article that at the time, the objections were religious. The Supreme Court judgment explicitly refers to “holy matrimony” and morals. But there are indeed non-religious objections. Marriage confers a whole bunch of advantages (tax status, can’t be compelled to testify at trial) that don’t work if there’s no limit on the number of people involved.

    2. The prase I actually use in the piece is “Christian traditionalist,” to differentiate between non-Mormon Christians and Mormon Christians, the latter of whom held non-traditionalist views about marriage at the time.

      1. I think some people didn’t read the actual article.

        Good article, keep up the good work.

  12. Wow, a bunch of Christian special pleading in the comments, whoda thunk?

  13. If the Founders had only thought to constitutionally prohibit regulation of commerce the way they rightfully prohibited the “establishment” of a state religion, we wouldn’t be having this debate.

    1. Isn’t that the truth. For all the evils of slavery, the Confederate Constitution caught up some of the things that, in retrospect, should have been in the original.

      It explicitly banned their federal government from favoring any branch of industry in any way via duties or taxes on imports.

      It required a 2/3 vote for approval of federal appropriations outside of a limited list of purposes as well as for taxes or duties on exports.

      It required appropriations to have specific line item amounts for specific purposes and banned any additional payments to anyone after the initial contract had been made or services rendered.

      It gave the President a line item veto on expenditures.

      It most forcefully banned Congress from appropriating any money for the facilitation of commerce aside from a very few specific cases involving water transportations such as buoys, lighthouses and dredging, and, even in those, duties were to be laid on the navigation that got those improvements until they were paid for.

      It made the Post Office pay for itself after the first two years.

      One of my favorites was getting rid of general omnibus bills: “Every law, or resolution having the force of law, shall relate to but one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title.”

  14. Sodomy laws, censorship in the mail, “the lavender menace”, laws to ban is from civil service, teaching, the military. Bans on adoption, marriage, and courts disregarding our wills…

    And since non-discrimination laws seem to be such a sticking point, non-discrimination laws protecting religions that literally call for our deaths.

    Why do people *ever* think gay people “started” anything? The worst thing we’ve done, non-discrimination laws, was something done to is decades ago.

  15. Okay, John.

    In your view, does the 1A’s freedom of religion clause protect only established churches? Or does it protect all members of any faith? Does it protect even nonsense faiths that are simply made up in order to obtain privileged status under the Constitution? Is it then the government’s job to determine which is a ‘legitimate’ religion and which is not? How can the government do that in any sort of effective way without itself interfering in the freedom of religion? And if the government cannot, lest it burden someone’s free exercise of religion by making them prove adherence to some religious dogma, then the way you have interpreted the freedom of religion clause makes it essentially meaningless. I can declare myself a member of the Church of Libertopia and voila, I’m now equivalent to any Christian/Jew/Muslim/etc. in the eyes of the First Amendment.

    Furthermore, is it your view that the 1A explicitly creates a two-tier system, one in which members of a faith get special privileges, and one in which atheists don’t get those special privileges? For instance, if an employer requires its employees to work on Sundays, does the 1A in your view prevent the employer from firing religious employees who refuse to work on Sundays, which essentially means the atheists have to pick up the workload on Sundays? So the religious faithful essentially get a government-sanctioned day of rest but atheists don’t. Is this your view?

    1. The courts have answered that question. A religious view must be sincerely held to be protected under the amendment. There is nothing about it being an established church. The courts only require that it be sincerely held and not just a subterfuge to get around the law.

      That, of course, can be a difficult question of fact. Determining difficult questions of fact is what courts do. Since there is such a thing as freedom of religion and you don’t just get a general “this is my conscience” out from laws, courts must necessarily determine what is and is not a sincerely held religious belief and what sorts of beliefs are so out of bounds that they are not protected by the clause.

      The Constitution is not a libertarian document. It is an 18th-century liberal document. It doesn’t protect a general right of conscience or association and doesn’t prohibit all forms of regulation of association and commerce. it just doesn’t. It does, however, affirmatively protect religion, where it does not affirmatively protect other forms of conscientious objection. There is no “freedom or morality” clause in the BOR.. That means religious objections are treated differently and more favorably than other objections. If you don’t like it, go amend the Constitution. I don’t know what else to tell you.

      1. A religious view must be sincerely held to be protected under the amendment.

        That’s where it all goes wrong, if you ask me. How the hell is someone going to prove that they are sincere? And where in the constitution does it say that religious beliefs must be sincere to count?

        I will accept that this is some kind of wacky libertarian/anarchist view, but I think that the religious free exercise clause accidentally makes the Constitution a libertarian document. Properly interpreted it should effectively invalidate any law that restricts any behavior that doesn’t violate the NAP because any such behavior is the sort of thing that could be a protected religious practice.

        1. How the hell is someone going to prove that they are sincere?

          Google the SC rulings on Conscientious Objection. its a pretty well-established idea

          this (have not read it all) seems to be all about it

          courts historically have demonstrated that they are able to ferret out insincere religious claims. There is a long tradition of courts competently scrutinizing asserted religious beliefs for sincerity without delving into their validity or verity. The difference is this: Suppose someone claims a religious objection to eating broccoli, but that same person knowingly eats broccoli each week. A court, without asking whether there is any moral truth behind a religious objection to broccoli consumption, may nonetheless ask whether the claimant actually holds that religious belief. The former, spiritual question is one no court should ever ask. The latter, factual inquiry into fraud is something courts are well equipped to do by examining objective criteria….

          1. I might check that out. But I doubt it will change my mind.

            If the standard is that it has to be proven that a belief is not sincere or that the claim is fraudulent, that’s less bad. But I don’t get the impression that that’s how it works.

        2. Think of it this way Zeb, courts make factual findings that we trust well enough to send people to prison for life. Why can’t the be trusted to determine if someone really holds a belief and are not just making it up to get around the law?

          Courts are always going to have to make this determination. If there really was a general right of conscience, there would be no rule of law, since everyone could claim exemption to a law by just saying their conscience dictated violating it.

          1. courts make factual findings that we trust well enough to send people to prison for life. Why can’t the be trusted to determine if someone really holds a belief and are not just making it up to get around the law?

            I’m not entirely sure they should be trusted for any of those things.

            But this also comes back to my other main point. If a law violates someone’s religious freedom, it shouldn’t apply to anyone. As long as someone sincerely holds a belief, any law that violates their religious freedom should be invalidated by courts, not modified to make special exceptions. I find it absurd that a law can be constitutional or not depending on who it is being used against.

            1. Then answer this Zeb, if establishing what is a sincerely held belief is something courts shouldn’t do, then how is the Freedom of Religion clause not an exception to the entire body of law? If there is no requirement for a belief to be sincere and no limit on what a belief can be, then what is to stop anyone charged with breaking any law from asserting that their religious beliefs required them to break the law?

              If the court can’t make an inquiry into the sincerity of that belief and also set limits on what such beliefs can be, then how would the law ever be applied to anyone? Hey, my religious beliefs said I must rape that woman. My religious beliefs compel me to steal money from the nonbelievers. Under your system those would be valid defenses just like a Quacker objecting to the draft law is a valid defense today

              1. You are right, that would be the logical outcome.

                But as a libertarian and/or philosophical anarchist, the only justifiable role of government I see is protecting people from each other or punishing those who harm others, so it’s great if that’s what the constitution turns out to mean. Government can perform it’s essential function and people can be free within the parameters of respecting others’ essential rights to life, liberty and property, religiously and otherwise.

                Yes, this is fantasy land. But I really don’t think it’s a completely unreasonable reading.

            2. “I’m not entirely sure they should be trusted for any of those things.”
              I’m curious how you feel a crowd court *should* work.

        3. “Properly interpreted”

          what’s funny is that 95% of the time people say this, what they actually mean is, “.. if you just throw away hundreds of years of jurisprudence, and apply a superficial modern-day layman’s-reading….”

          it seems to stem from some misconception that law is written in ‘modern, plain english’, rather than in excruciatingly-contrived terms of art built up over many lifetimes.

          1. It’s a fair cop. I do in fact mean “the way I would like it to be interpreted”.

        4. Sincerity is at issue in many legal proceedings, and is assumed as a general requirement. Does the US Constitution have to say “sincere advice & consent”? Can the president some time after signing a bill say, ha-ha, gotcha, I was totally sarcastic when I signed this thing, doesn’t count?

      2. The courts only require that it be sincerely held and not just a subterfuge to get around the law.

        How can the courts do this without itself violating the 1A? Isn’t demanding that my belief be “sincerely held” a violation of the free exercise of my religion? Why should I have to prove to anyone whether my beliefs are “sincerely held” or not?

        Furthermore, do you think the 1A explicitly creates a two-caste system, between the religious and the irreligious, in which the former get special Constitutional protections but the latter do not?

        1. How can the courts do this without itself violating the 1A? I

          Because they are not saying you can’t hold and express the view. They are saying you can’t act on the view contrary to the law. You are free to hold the view that human sacrifice is required for a just society. You just can’t act on that view and then claim murder laws violate your right to free exercise.

        2. How can the courts do this without itself violating the 1A? Isn’t demanding that my belief be “sincerely held” a violation of the free exercise of my religion?

          The argument that defining what constitutes religious belief or practice is itself a violation of the establishment clause is an appealing one to me. How is a court of legislature telling you what is or is not a sincere religious belief not a law respecting establishment of religion? Perhaps that’s pushing it. The establishment clause was meant primarily as a prohibition on official state religion.

          1. And we’ve been trying to prevent the Christians from making one ever since.

          2. Okay Zeb, I am a Muslim of the ISIS variety. My religion says it is my right to enslave non Muslims. I go out and kidnap some woman and turn her into a sex slave. This is a sincerely held religious belief and one held by a lot of people. So, if the court can’t determine that some religious beliefs are out of bounds, how can I be charged with kidnapping and rape here?

            1. I didn’t say that a court can’t determine that something is not protected religious practice. Only that they shouldn’t be determining if anyone’s professed belief is sincere or not.

              1. Are they allowed to determine whether anything else is sincere?

          3. Yes and no. In the original writing and the expanded and then contracted writings of the Amendments that came to be known as the Bill of Rights, freedom of conscience is referred to in multiple places, but religion only once.

  16. Was this piece written a long time ago, and is finally making to the print-edition now? I feel like i saw this almost a year ago. I could be having deja vu

  17. So the late Mr. Scalia in one of his principled applications of arbitrary preference (Jesus good, drugs bad!), is inadvertently responsible for some of the parade of horribles he correctly predicted in light of Obergefell. How fun. Of course in Obergefell he had the audacity to couch his argument in a paean to democracy, an argument notably absent from Heller (2nd amendment good, 14th amendment bad!).

  18. I wonder how many of the same people who object to people being forced to provide services for same-sex weddings also object to people being forced to provide services for interracial marriages, based on religious beliefs. For that matter, would they also object to people being forced to service customers who are a race that the business owner just plain doesn’t like? (I know people on here do–that’s not who I’m talking about.)

    I’m not saying they deserve to get what’s coming to them. I’m simply wondering how many of them are hypocritcal or how many selectively jumped on to the movement of allowing business owners to run their business how they please only because they are now directly implicated.

    1. Slade misses the boat here because she went back to the wrong set of laws. The foundation for this wasn’t laid over polygamy. It was laid when they passed the CRA. The reality is that the CRA was an infringement on a small group of people’s free exercise of religion. Very few people actually believed that their religion prohibited them from interacting or marrying other races, but a few people of both races did and still do believe that.

      The CRA effectively made it illegal to practice any form of religion that prohibited the interaction or intermarriage of the races. No one gave a shit about that because segregation was a big problem and very few people really believed that. Well now, the government is using the principles of forced public accommodation used in the CRA to try and make it illegal to practice a religion that prohibits homosexuality.

      This is nothing but an example of how everything with government gets out of control. If in 1964, you had told people “if you guys set the precedent that white hotel owners in Georgia must serve black patrons, in 2016 Christians will be forced to participate in perverse wedding ceremonies involving two homosexuals”, you probably would have been locked up in a state mental institution. Yet, here we are.

      1. Agreed.

      2. The CRA effectively made it illegal to practice any form of religion that prohibited the interaction or intermarriage of the races.

        Huh? The only way the CRA deals with religion is to ban discrimination against people because of their religious beliefs.

        No law, and certainly not the CRA, bans any religious belief that denounces homosexuality.

        1. Tony, if it is against my religion to interact with other races, then running a restaurant that serves the other race or working for an employer who hires both races is against my religion. Forcing me to serve people of the other race is forcing me to violate my religious views. And making doing so a prerequisite for engaging in commerce is a violation of my freedom of religion.

          The CRA violates the freedom of religion of someone who is a member of the Nation of Islam. They can’t start a business or do commerce without violating their religious principles. The right of free association is bound up with the right to free exercise.

          1. There is no right of free association as you define it. It’s certainly not to be found in the constitution (though lots of people think it can be).

            I’m not sure what point you think your silly hypothetical is serving. As far as I know the free exercise of religions that held core racist beliefs was not the main controversy at the time leading to the passage of the CRA.

            Religion already gets a bag of goodies from constitutional case law. Congregations can discriminate all day long. The CRA itself prevents a shop owner or employer from turning away a person because of his or her religion, a protection that to this day sexual orientation doesn’t enjoy at the federal level.

            1. No Tony there isn’t. But there is a right to free exercise of religion and that necessarily includes freedom of association to be meaningful. That is really what this is about. Restricting the right to free exercise of religion to such a degree, it no longer matters.

  19. Also, every argument for legalizing gay marriage can be used for polygamy and incest, both of which are far more common in history and other cultures today (and nature) than gay marriage. I try to argue this with my progressive friends and they say I’m a bigot for pointing out the obvious logic.

    1. Maybe you’re right, but why should gay people have to make the argument for polygamists and incest proponents for them before gay people are permitted equal rights? Let them take their own cases to court.

      1. I think the point is supposed to be, if you support same-sex marriage then why not support polygamy and incest? I do, though I would need to know more about the issue of incest; maybe there are legitimate reasons to make it illegal.

        Do you support the legalization of marriages involving polygamy and incest, Tony?

        1. I haven’t given it much thought. But there are obvious social and governmental interests in banning them that don’t exist in the case of gay marriage (though Chief Justice Roberts argued otherwise in Obergefell).

        2. Once you take procreation out of the picture, there is no logical opposition to incest. Why can’t two brothers marry each other? Also, if birth defects are the reason for anti-incest laws, why don’t we ban people with debilitating genetic diseases from marrying and having children? You are right with the point I was trying to make. The logical inconsistency from progressives on this is more infuriating than what I see in opponents to gay marriage.

          1. Maybe progressives didn’t want to ruin their chance of securing gay marriage equality by mucking up the argument by talking about incest and polygamy, which have nothing to do with it. If it’s a slippery slope it goes all the way up: how can you favor man-woman marriage and not favor dog-on-man!?

            By putting the starting point of the slippery slope at gay marriage you are arguing that straight marriage is the default form and that gay marriage is somehow a lesser form. Again, let the polygamists have their day in court. I have no problem with that, but I don’t have to defend them either.

          2. One thing I think we can all agree on here is that the proliferation of pornographic videos with titles like “Having some fun with sis” or “Horny mom surprises me in my room” is very disturbing.

          3. And alcohol drinkers need to defend criminalizing pot, pot heads need to defend criminalizing heroine, smokers need to justify clean air laws, adulteress should have argued for sodomy laws, and married couples should argue for adultery laws.

            That said? They *did* try the ” but the homos might use this” defense in Loving v Virginia.

            It was as stupid then as “but the polygamists might use this” is now.

            If polygamy and incest are legalized in this country, it won’t be because of gay marriage (though it will be cited). It will be because they made persuasive arguments to large numbers of people and changed the culture.

    2. Also, you misspelled “obvious logical fallacy.” (As in: the slippery slope.)

    3. If you restrict “gay marriage” to legally recognised marriage, then sure, you’re right that incest and polygamy are more historically common.

      If you step away from that tautology though, you see that gay people have been finding ways to get “as close as we can” throughout history.

      That said, you’re still full of shit. The arguments *against* gay marriage feel broadly into “tradition/religion”, “harm”, and “children”. The courts pretty much rejected the first and third, but the harms from marriage bans, and the lack of harm from gay marriage, were argued on the merits.

      And those merit-based arguments aren’t transferable, because the harms (real and alleged) are different.

  20. Sometimes I wonder if we’d be better off if our system of laws allowed for statutes & ordinances saying, Mormons/Scientologists/Jews are icky, poo on them, here’s how. And even if we had bills of attainder or their equivalents singling out individuals for favor or disfavor. Then we wouldn’t have to go thru all this hypocritic rigmarole about precedents & disingenuous arguments, and could just lay out the bigotry or persecution or favoritism without guilt, except in our own minds.

    1. In other words, if FYTW were the whole of the law. An anti-Crowleyan constitution.

    2. Our laws do allow that.

      Multiple states have explicitly chosen to keep their unconditional sodomy laws just to express moral disapproval of gay people. States routinely pass unconstitutional anti-abortion laws to make a statement. Plenty of other examples too?.

      The problem is that they don’t stop at making “statement legislation”, they want to punish folks too, and try to find ways to do so legally.

      1. The sodomy laws are funny to me. Was there a sex cop spying on people suspected of but sex back in the day?

        1. Yes, hilarious. The punchline is “chemical castration” (see Alan Turing)

  21. You know what’s gay? Continuing to play into the hands of the distraction architects with the idiotic discussions about people’s entirely contrived feelings of discrimination.
    Everyone in America has equal rights and there is no more injustice. Just excuses and crybaby envious losers. The only injustice in America that matters is the massive government and theft of liberty.

    And speaking of losers, have you seen the loser who wants to marry his car?

    That f*cking wanker is almost as stupid as Tony and Palin But Pluge.

  22. This is not the same as polygamy. Banning polygamy was restricting the scope of religious belief. Mormons couldn’t practice polygamy in public or private. These cases are about restricting the scope of religious exercise. Christians are still free to object homosexuality and exercise that belief in public. A Christian is free to kick a gay out of his home or not let him into his church for example. What a Christian cannot do under these laws is participate in the public sphere without agreeing to set aside his religious views. These cases are not about restricting what you can and cannot believe as part of your religions. These cases are about whether your religious views can be exercised in public and commerce without permission from the government. And the CRA is what set that precedent not the ban on polygamy.

    1. Banning polygamy was restricting the scope of religious belief.

      That sounds much worse than restricting certain aspects of religious practice in public (which I also don’t approve of). The ban on polygamy isn’t like the “ban” on gay marriage. It actually criminalizes perfectly innocent behavior and restricts who you may associate with and how you can associate with them in your own home.

      1. You need to reread some of the marriage bans. Some included criminal penalties even for marriage that didn’t seek state recognition.

    2. without permission from the government

      And that wraps the whole thing up in a nutshell. That you should have to ask the government for permission before you can do something that doesn’t harm anyone else is at the roots of the whole issue. Why should anyone have to ask anyone for permission about who they want to marry or buy from or sell to, or work for or hire, pal around with or join your bridge club or …

  23. Stephanie’s prose is one of the best Reason articles ever. It is a pity it was not published before a really dumb plank was inserted in the 1990 LP platform. In South America, importer of prohibition laws made in These States, teenagers not quite 18 are in demand as drug-runners, hitmen and prostitutes. Many freelance directly as pickpockets, working girls, dealers and muggers, and the law can do nothing but send them to reform school to learn the organizational skills of organized crime. Once trained they are turned over to probation officers to farm out as interns to proper criminals. In a heavily mixed economy, “proper” criminals are the ones who pay bribes and protection money to politicians and cops.

  24. It’s a Christian sacrament. Yup, it’s all Christian’s fault that they don’t want to change their sacrament.

    1. Seeing as marriage has, at no point in history, been restricted to Christians, I think that’s a bit of a stretch.

  25. There is no “marketplace” exception to the 1st Amendment.

  26. Those who fought against polygamy back then were wrong-headed. They should have left them alone. Truth be told, nowhere in the bible is polygamy condemned as an abomination or always wrong. In the NT, one of the qualifications for an elder or deacon is that he is the husband of only one wife. Beyond that, silence…. leaving them alone to let their ways eventually help implode them would have been best.

    Further, NOWHERE in the Constitituion do FedGov have ANY authority to regulate or define marriage. That is a state matter. Utah could have been left alone to allow polygamy, every other state prohibit it, and it all would have been fine.

    The difference between polygamy and sodomite couplings is that in EVERY case, sodomy is defined as an abomination. That act flies in the face of God’s plan for the two sexes.

    1. but what is happening now is that even FedGov, mostly through their corrupt courts, are mandating that we who hold to biblic al moral standards be FORCED to bow down and worship the idol of sodomy by forcing us to participate in those ceremonies. I don’t care HOW many times a sodomite pair come to my restaurant and take their meals at MY tables. What they do to each other after they leave is THEIR burden, not mine, and in no way affects ME. But when they come round, KNOWING my moral standards, and DEMAND I come and support their coupling by catering their affair, this I cannot nor will I do. If they want to come to my place and pick up the food to take and serve at their affair, fine. I provide the food, what they do with it is THEIR business. Once it leaves my place, I am no longer contributing.

      I would not cater a wedding with a couple that have been married and divorced for cause other than adultery… and in fact have declined to help in this manner for friends who were professing christians.. even after I showed them the clear mandate in scripture they insisted on going ahead… which they did without my help. No lawsuit, though… thankfully.

  27. Who ever it was that forced the other through civil lawsuits started the fight. If someone doesn’t want your business, go elsewhere. If you are a libertarian it is anathema to force others to deal with you.They should be free to say no until the contract is made.

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