A coalition of conservative Illinois religious leaders has written a letter to state lawmakers opposing marriage equality. Driven by the Catholic Conference of Illinois, the small coalition also includes the Mormon Church, the Lutheran Church Missoui Synod, the Anglican Church, and The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago. In addition to describing same-sex marriage as “full of serious danger,” the letter claims that “religious freedom” should include the right to discriminate against same-sex couples in any aspect of society:
Some claim that as long as religious ministers are not forced to preside over same-sex “marriages” the principle of religious freedom, as secured in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment is protected. However, the notion that the exercise of religious freedom is confined to the interior of churches, synagogues, temples or mosques or what one does on Holy Days is wrong and dangerous. The freedom of religion also extends to the ministries of religious organizations and to the individual conscience. Thus, the real peril: if marriage is redefined in civil law, individuals and religious organizations – regardless of deeply held beliefs – will be compelled to treat same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage in their lives, ministries and operations. Compulsion of this nature is a violation of personal conscience and of religious liberty.
The gall of this claim is not to be understated. These groups are demanding the “freedom” to treat gays and lesbian as second-class citizens in society, whether that means employers denying spousal benefits to married gay employees, or businesses denying services that might involve acknowledging that a same-sex couple is married. This is not ” religious freedom”; it is a blatant will to discriminate.
The National Organization for Marriage posted this letter disingenuously claiming it represented “1,700 faith communities” in Illinois. In reality, it bears only 12 names — six of whom are Catholic bishops — and claims to represent only 27 other churches. Last month, over 250 Illinois faith leaders signed a letter supporting marriage equality.