Wednesday, November 19, 2014


The Daily Caller reports:
Prominent Protestant Pastors Vow To No Longer Perform Government Marriages

Two Protestant pastors, concerned about rapidly-changing government definitions of marriage, have started a movement encouraging priests and ministers to refuse to perform civil marriages.

Christopher Seitz and Ephraim Radner, Episcopal and Anglican pastors respectively, launched "The Marriage Pledge" at the conservative religious journal First Things on Tuesday....
Here's part of what Seitz and Radner write:
In many jurisdictions, including many of the United States, civil authorities have adopted a definition of marriage that explicitly rejects the age-old requirement of male-female pairing. In a few short years or even months, it is very likely that this new definition will become the law of the land, and in all jurisdictions the rights, privileges, and duties of marriage will be granted to men in partnership with men, and women with women.

As Christian ministers we must bear clear witness. This is a perilous time. Divorce and co-­habitation have weakened marriage. We have been too complacent in our responses to these trends....

To continue with church practices that intertwine government marriage with Christian marriage will implicate the Church in a false definition of marriage....
So here's their pledge, which they're inviting other members of the clergy to sign:
We will no longer serve as agents of the state in marriage. We will no longer sign government-provided marriage certificates. We will ask couples to seek civil marriage separately from their church-related vows and blessings. We will preside only at those weddings that seek to establish a Christian marriage in accord with the principles ­articulated and lived out from the beginning of the Church's life.
I was struck by the phrase "government marriage," which Seitz and Radner use, and which also appears in the Caller headline. On the right, could this phrase actually catch on? Could wingers decide that marriage is evil and awful if it's linked to the (yecch!) government?

I'm not sure. I've seen the phrase "government marriage" just one other place: in a post at Reason's Hit & Run blog titled "The Problems with Government Marriage." (According to the post, the problem with "government marriage" include state bans on same-sex marriage, which, of course, Seitz and Radner favor.)

In 2011, while running for president, Rick Santorum tried to make state-run education seem sinister, using similar wording:
... Santorum took a swipe at public schools. "Just call them what they are. Public schools? That's a nice way of putting it. These are government-run schools," he said.
The phrasing never quite caught on. However, the idea that government-run schools are evil is quite common on the right.

Could that happen with marriage? Could it become a point of pride for right-wingers to refuse to register their nuptials with the state, and for ministers to refuse to legitimize marriage in the eyes of the state?

I could see there being a small refusenik niche among young heterosexual right-wingers in love -- some might choose to marry at churches that reject a state marriage system open to those filthy sodomites. But I think even most right-wingers want the marriage benefits, not to mention the big ceremonies, and they won't want to be forced to schedule a religious(-right) ceremony and a civil ceremony in order to have both. Besides, having the latter ceremony would defeat the purpose of the former, wouldn't it?

And besides, even in states that have legalized same-sex marriage, no church has been forced to alter its rules about which couples it considers eligible for marriage. To me, that's as it should be: we don't complain about the fact that divorced Catholics are prevented from remarrying in the church, even though divorce is legal under secular law. If some churches won't marry gay couples, I think that's the same thing. It's their choice.

I suppose if the law changes we'll see an increase in rejection of state-sanctioned marriage by conservatives. But if that never happens, this seems like an idea that's too radical even for the radical right.


Victor said...

Hey, if the idiot's who run these churches don't want the money from couples - even hetorsexual ones - who don't want their marriage "blessed" by intolerant zealots, I say, "Your loss, bigots!"

Aunt Snow said...

Marriage is a civil contract. The state issues marriage licenses, churches don't.

Couples don't ask an unsympathetic person to preside over their happiest occasion anyway - why would these bigots imagine any gay couple would WANT them to marry them?

A M said...

I'm perfectly okay with this. In fact, if they're going to stick to their principles, a la the Catholic church, they shouldn't allow divorced people to get religious-married in their soi-disant Christian churches. Maybe that's the next step.