Southern Religion

Civil marriage debate is owed balance and empirical evidence: Updated

The Charlotte Observer tells us that the Rev. Mark Harris, head of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, says he wants the a “civil” debate over same-sex marriage.

Yet they seem unsure about why he is leading a campaign to pass the proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Although he and the BSCNC made that clear to them back in November. When the BSCNC took its official stand in favor the amendment (.pdf).

The North Carolina Family Policy Council understands that the BSCNC intends to create a church-by-church political machine to get the “preservation of marriage” amendment approved and to promote the decidedly unscientific Southern Baptist view of homosexuality:

The resolution on the Marriage Protection Amendment was introduced at the meeting by Jim Jacumin, president of the BSCNC Board of Directors. It expresses the BSCNC’s official endorsement of the proposed State Constitutional amendment, which would define marriage in North Carolina as only between one man and one woman, and will be on the ballot before voters at the May 8, 2012 primary election. The resolution (.pdf) also encourages “the churches of the Baptist State Convention to vigorously organize a strong effort among their members to support passage of the Marriage Amendment in the first primary election of 2012.” In addition to encouraging its member churches to engage in “loving, redemptive ministry to homosexuals,” it also states that the “North Carolina Baptists commit ourselves to… preach and teach the truth concerning what the Bible says about the creation of and divine nature of the institution of marriage, and against any government action to accept, sanction, approve, protect or promote same-sex marriage or legal recognition of same-sex relationships.”

The CO manages to get through the entire call for “civil” debate, by the leader of one side of that debate, without mentioning the North Carolina Psychological Association. Its position on the matter (.pdf) is a model of civility. The NCPA deals with the empirical evidence, and without the least hint of a raised voice or harsh word, explain that the best empirical evidence offers no support for banning gay marriage or any other such discrimination.

That’s as civil as debate can get, and proponents of it should have found a place in the otherwise thin, lopsided CO story.


The Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families has responded:

We agree with Mark Harris’ assertion that we should keep the Amendment conversation factual – and do it in a civil way. Nevertheless, this type of discourse is something not seen in other states, especially from an industry willing to pit people’s religion – as well as gross misinformation – against families. We must be willing to honor the very real emotions, including pain and fear, that these types of discriminatory measures naturally evoke, especially when North Carolina’s particular Amendment is not only a permanent ban on marriage equality and civil unions – relationship recognitions that a majority of North Carolinians support – but also strips basic benefits and protections from loving couples, women, and children, and causes substantial economic harms to families, business and the perception of the state as a whole. No one of faith – or otherwise – will sit back while families lose their health insurance, domestic violence victims lose their protections, and loving couples lose their ability to see each other in the hospital. We can’t and we won’t let that happen. We will make sure that the families of NC are protected from this harmful, extreme amendment.

-Jeremy Kennedy, Campaign Manager, The Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families.

December 27, 2011 Posted by | Politics, SBC | , | 1 Comment

Richard Land, the culture warriors and DOMA (why they’ve lost)

While Southern Baptist Convention ethics czar Richard Land and others were laboring to organize a Defense of Marriage Act counterattack by the culture warriors, public opinion deserted them. Capping “a long-term shift in attitudes,” same-sex marriage enjoys 53 percent support in this country, the ABC News/Washington Post Poll found. Whereas only “Forty-four percent are opposed.”

The shift in public attitudes which led to this is rapid, unrelenting and across the board:

While younger adults and liberals remain at the forefront of support for gay marriage, the new results underscore its expansion. In an ABC/Post poll five and a half years ago, for example, under-30s were the sole age group to give majority support to gay marriage, at 57 percent. Today it’s 68 percent in that group – but also 65 percent among people in their 30s, up a remarkable 23 points from the 2005 level; and 52 percent among those in their 40s, up 17 points.

Adults 50 and older remain more skeptical, but even that’s seen change. Most notably, 33 percent of seniors now say gay marriage should be legal, up from 18 percent five years ago.

Trends among other groups are equally striking. Compared with five years ago support for gay marriage has grown by 10 points among women, but by 18 points among men; it’s now at parity. Support has grown by 17 points among Democrats, but also by 13 points among independents, to a clear majority, 58 percent, in the crucial political center. And it’s 63 percent among moderates, up 21 points.

As for religious groups for which opposition to same-sex marriage is doctrinaire — wherein one finds Land’s core support group and the choir to which he preaches — the shift in attitudes is equally unrelenting:

Support is up by a striking 23 points among white Catholics, often a swing group and one that’s been ready, in many cases, to disregard church positions on political or social issues. But they have company: Fifty-seven percent of non-evangelical white Protestants now also support gay marriage, up 16 points from its level five years ago. Evangelicals, as noted, remain very broadly opposed. But even in their ranks, support for gay marriage is up by a double-digit margin.

It is inopportune, Richard, to negotiate a truce in the culture war over same-sex marriage. Not however, as you and your allies argue, because a majority of Americans support fallback to the intolerance of a bygone era. They don’t and the trends suggest that you will see the time when a majority of your target audience doesn’t either.

March 18, 2011 Posted by | Politics, Religion, SBC | , , | Comments Off on Richard Land, the culture warriors and DOMA (why they’ve lost)

Young evangelicals lag behind age peers in acceptance of same-sex marriage

Young evangelicals and acceptance of same-sex marriage

Sociologist Darren Sherkat explains his analysis:

While conservative Christian activist scholars have touted the myth that younger sectarians are less homophobic and just like everyone else, actual analyses of data show that the gap between sectarians and other Americans has actually grown across [age] cohorts (even though younger sectarians are less homophobic than older Sectarians).

Mark Silk at Spiritual Politics astutely amplifies:

But it’s still the case that the under-30s are somewhat more liberal on the issue than their evangelical boomer parents–and way more liberal than over-60 evangelicals. So even though they look at this point like over-60 non-evangelicals, the evidence is of a liberalizing generational trend within the evangelical community. What the data show is most segments of American society moving quickly (the younger they are) towards acceptance of SSM, with a few–under the influence of conservative religion–moving more slowly in the same direction.

We’re all in the same parade, but some are dragging their ideological feet.

September 27, 2010 Posted by | Cultural, Religion | , | Comments Off on Young evangelicals lag behind age peers in acceptance of same-sex marriage

The public opinion future belongs to same-sex marriage advocates

The Southern Baptist Convention’s LifeWay Research found in “a wide-ranging August, 2009, survey” that:

Six in 10 American “Millennials” – those born between 1980 and 1991 – see nothing wrong with two people of the same gender getting married.

That’s a slam/bang majority in a nation where for all age groups public opinion analyst Nate Silver has concluded that change toward approval is accelerating and the majority view is currently “too close to call.”

Silver mapped the data into an illustration which suggests, like the year-old SBC Lifeway results, that the future belongs to same-sex marriage advocates:

Same-sex marriage polls

Change in public opinion about same-sex marriage

September 4, 2010 Posted by | Politics, Religion, SBC | , , , | Comments Off on The public opinion future belongs to same-sex marriage advocates

Resurgent acceptance of homosexuality

Homosexuals were not vilified before the 1870s because they had not been identified as “other,” Cody Sanders writes for the Associated Baptist Press. Specifically, he argues:

French historian Michel Foucault reveals that the advent of conceptualizing the “homosexual” as a particular type of person with a specific “lifestyle” didn’t occur until the 1870s in medical discourse (History of Sexuality, Vol. 1). What’s more, one of the earliest known uses of the word “homosexual” in American English showed up in a medical paper in 1892 (the term “heterosexual” made its debut around this same time). Certainly, same-sex sexual acts have been commonplace from time immemorial — but before the end of the 19th century, anyone could conceivably engage in same-sex sexual acts. It was only with the advent of “homosexuality” as a medical descriptor, that a specific type or kind of person was thought to engage in these sexual acts. What is significant about Everett’s anachronism is that, while in 1850 Texas Baptists may not have tolerated men having sex with men, they certainly didn’t deem “the homosexual lifestyle” abnormal or sinful. In 1850, same-sex sex acts may have been deemed “sinful” — but no church held what [Executive Director Randel Everett of the Baptist General Convention of Texas] views as an unwavering “theological position” on homosexuality.

Everett was referring to the case of Royal Lane Baptist Church, which precipitated a standard Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) homosexuality crisis when its diaconate voted to say on its Web site:

Royal Lane Baptist Church is an inclusive, multi-generational congregation joined in Christian community. We are a vibrant mosaic of varied racial identities, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and denominational backgrounds.

Will Wilkinson finds in his analysis of World Values Survey data that attitudes in the industrialized world are going Royal Lane’s way as people come to accept homosexuality as something people are, rather than a sinful decision they make.

Where Wilkinson’s data shows the U.S. shifting back toward treating homosexuality as wrong, the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll comes to an opposite conclusion.

Despite the Catholic/Mormon investment in Proposition 8, a majority of Californians now favor same-sex marriage:

Among all Californians, residents are more likely to favor (50%) than oppose (45%) same-sex marriage for the first time in the PPIC Statewide Surveys. Support among all adults has never surpassed 45 percent since the question was first asked in January 2000. There are clear partisan divisions: majorities of Democrats (64%) and independents (55%) are in favor, and most Republicans (67%) are opposed.

There is much more consensus on the issue of gays and lesbians in the military. In the wake of Obama’s announcement that he would like to repeal the federal “don’t ask, don’t’ tell” policy passed in 1993, 75 percent of Californians say that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military.

Does the data imply a sort of Great Commission Resurgence for churches driven out of the SBC?

March 30, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , , , | 1 Comment

Churchly pain & same-sex marriage in DC (as elsewhere)

Pastors may not have noticed when by a vote of 59-36, the Senate rejected an amendment to the health care reconciliation bill that would have stopped same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia, pending a referendum.

Several pastors whose denominations oppose or are undecided about same-sex marriage may have been wrestling with how to meet the demands of conscience and the yearning for marriage ceremonies by homosexual couples in their flock.

Daniel Burke of the Religion News Service wrote of Methodist Rev. Mary Kay Totty, who plans to risk church discipline by performing same-sex marriages at Dumbarton United Methodist Church (UMC). She told ABC 7 News:

We will celebrate love and loyalty wherever it’s found. And love and loyalty are the same, whether it’s shared between a man and a woman or two men and two women.

The UMC is unequivocal about same-sex unions. Linda Bloom of the United Methodist News Service wrote in November:

The denomination’s top legislative body, the General Conference, first took a stand on the incompatibility of Christianity and homosexual practice in 1972. Since then, Dell said, “the General Conference has moved steadily to more and more explicitly conservative positions.”

The Rev. Dean Snyder, whose Foundry UMC the Clintons attended while in the White House, is one of 19 current and former UMC clergy in DC who support Totty, without taking the final step of agreeing themselves to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest U.S. Lutheran denomination, has no clear policy. What they have, is an open issue:

The ELCA has no policy on the blessing of same-sex unions. In 1993 the Conference of Bishops (65 synodical bishops elected by congregations on their territories) stated that there was no basis in Scripture or tradition for an official ceremony by this church for the blessing of same-sex unions, but that “Nevertheless, we express trust in and will continue dialogue with those pastors and congregations who are in ministry with gay and lesbian persons, and affirm their desire to explore the best ways to provide pastoral care for all to whom they minister.” The Conference of Bishops provides advice and counsel but is not an ELCA legislative body.

As a result, Bishop Richard Graham of the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod says, “This is a live issue for us.” And when ELCA pastors have asked him for permission to marry gay couples, he has granted it, contingent on the approval of their congregations. But that is an interim approach until the Washington synod draws formal guidelines.

The Rev. Amy Butler of Calvary Baptist Church, plans to marry same-sex couples and faces no such denominational obstacles.

They’re Baptist, you see, but not Southern Baptist Convention (where disfellowshipping usually follows policies of gay acceptance). The larger Baptist groups with which they do affiliate [1, 2, 3] are most unlikely to act against them, and the diaconate adopted an unequivocal “statement of equal access affirmation[.pdf].” Among other things, it says:

After prayerful discussion, a smaller group came up with the statement listed above. We felt this statement captures the spirit of our church at this time, that all members of Calvary are welcome to participate in the life of the church as the Spirit moves them, including as members of boards or in other leadership opportunities. In addition, we agreed that all members of our church should have full access to all pastoral services.

Passionate warnings against the “acid” of theological liberalization issue from Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and his peers. Yet public support for same sex marriage, even in California where it was recently rejected at the polls, continues its long shift toward general approval. With church and denominational policies moving, often quite fractiously, with apparent inexorability in the same direction.

March 26, 2010 Posted by | Churches, Law, Politics | , , | 1 Comment

Catholic Church making adjustments to DC Marriage Act [Update: Way cleared to act to take effect]

The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., has declared that it “will be in compliance” with the requirements of the city’s same-sex marriage act [.pdf], which takes effect Wednesday, and that the church will as a result maintain a quarter of a million dollars worth of social services contracts.

Some members of the religious right made a last ditch pitch to Congress, asking passage of legislation requiring a public vote — a strategy already rejected by the DC Board of Elections and Ethics [.pdf]. DC Superior Court refused prevent the act from going into effect.

Reversal on appeal is not expected, and Congress is not expected to act.

What adjustments the Archdiocese of Washington will make is unclear. It has already shut down its adoption and foster-care services, transferring “seven staff members, 43 children and their families, and the 35 foster families” to the National Center for Children and Families (NCCF) for future administration.

Placing children with same-sex couples has been a sticking point elsewhere because it involves a direct collision with matters of Catholic doctrine, but successful adjustment in administration of other services does not seem unlikely.


U.S. Supreme Court Justice John G. Roberts “denied a last-minute request Tuesday afternoon for a stay of the District’s same-sex marriage law, disappointing opponents of the measure, who wanted to bring it before city voters in a referendum,” the Washington Post reported Tuesday afternoon.

Apparently, D.C. can begin accepting applications by gay couples for marriage licenses tomorrow morning.

Read the rest of the story here.

Catholic Charities denies coverage to spouses of all new hires

Catholic Charities adaptation is to deny benefits, thus escaping the possibility of providing coverage to the spouses of gay marrieds.

In a March 1 letter, President and CEO Edward J. Orzechowski informed employees that health benefits will be denied the spouses of all new employees, although coverage for those who are employees as of March 1, will be unaffected.

March 1, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Law, Religion, SBC | , , , | Comments Off on Catholic Church making adjustments to DC Marriage Act [Update: Way cleared to act to take effect]

Manhattan Declaration online petition pitch: Fail

Not quite two months after the Manhattan Declaration was unveiled they have less than half the 1 million signatures they wanted by Dec. 1. Thus having failed, they emailed all of the signers this week, pitching efforts to date as a success. And calling for a push on to the million.

The pitch dwells on rumors of success, and outlines a special effort by four Catholic archbishops:

Just ten days ago, Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia, Archbishop Wuerl of Washington, DC, Archbishop Dolan of New York and Archbishop Kurtz of Louisville reached out to all of their brother Catholic bishops asking them to spread this document throughout their dioceses and encourage their clergy and faithful to study it and join as signatories.

That signature shortfall they’ve failed to confess is unexpected. After all, the signatures are unverified.

If the petition gatherer does not somehow verify that there is one, unique, living human being who has associated himself or herself with each signature (and not the same human being behind more than one signature), the petition is open to padding.

The Manhattan Declaration‘s signature-collection process does filter for robots. But apparently does no other identity verification. Not even a verification email to the address signers give them.

Our testing suggests that it just bumps the counter each time someone fills the form out properly and “signs.”.

Which means people can sign several times under bogus names, and that a suitably unethical person can sign for you. Most anti-spam software sidetracks their email appeals. So you might never know.

Yes. That million-signature petition, assuming they eventually get their million signatures — it’s_a_joke.

January 16, 2010 Posted by | Politics, WWW | , , , , , | Comments Off on Manhattan Declaration online petition pitch: Fail

Clerical support for N.J. same-sex marriage act

Rev. Joseph Harmon, pastor of the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Jersey City, one of the “120 clergy from 19 different faith groups” urging action on the New Jersey same-sex marriage bill, told the New York Times:

It’s not about religion. People who won’t want to do it for religion reasons don’t have to.

Meanwhile under separate cover, the issue goes to court (possibly televised) in California.

January 5, 2010 Posted by | Law, Politics, Religion | | Comments Off on Clerical support for N.J. same-sex marriage act

Mexico City

First in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage.

December 23, 2009 Posted by | Law | , | Comments Off on Mexico City