The relationship between the church and government with respect to marriage equality has come to the forefront in Washington, DC, where local leaders have sought a compromise with the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington over the officiation of same-sex marriages.

Although the current proposal would not compel churches to perform same-sex weddings, the archdiocese has asked the DC Council to take a further step and exempt the church–which holds contracts with the city–from providing employee benefits to same-sex partners. According to the Associated Press, “D.C. Council members are asking the church to explore the positions taken by the Catholic Church in San Francisco and by Georgetown University”, which offers employee benefits to any “‘legally domiciled adult’,” regardless of sex or sexuality. Georgetown University is the nation’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit University.

The crux of the issue is whether any government—municipal, regional, national, or otherwise—should compel religious contractors to provide such benefits. One looming threat is a potential impingement on religious freedom; however, as one commenter pointed out in an article in Washington’s The Examiner, “If the church didn’t want to recognize interracial or interfaith marriage, would the DC Council ‘compromise’? I think not.”

The comment forces us to weigh the importance of different civil rights causes, to compare resistance to heterosexist practises with resistance to anti-miscegenation and religious discrimination. If a civil freedom approaches its limit where it interferes with another such freedom, we must wonder whether the Catholic Archdiocese is unjustly manipulating the local DC government into making exceptions regarding civil rights in relation to the church.

Ultimately, the question is whether churches have the freedom to deny employee benefits to same-sex partners when it is working in conjunction with a civic entity requiring the granting of such benefits; The Universal Life Church Monastery asks, whether the religious freedom to cherry-pick civil rights applies in contexts where the state carries equal authority with the Catholic Church.

Source: Washington Examiner

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