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Public Discourse, Law, Feelings, and Religion at the Bar in Iowa, by Matthew J. Franck

Thoughts on the Supreme Court decision from Matthew Franck:

Justice Cady seems not to notice that, by ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, he and his fellow judges, by his own reasoning, have placed the state in the position of endorsing those religious views that approve of same-sex marriage. But that observation only scratches the surface of an argument that is—well, come to think of it—all surface. For the unanimous Iowa court appears incapable of entertaining the most elementary distinction between matters of theology, faith, and worship, on the one hand, and matters of moral reasoning springing from religious conviction on the other. What the opinion calls “religious opposition to same-sex marriage” would more accurately be described as “moral opposition to same-sex marriage springing from religious sources.” It would not go too far to say that religion is the true wellspring of moral thought and action in our civilization. Our own Declaration of Independence—source of what Lincoln called “our ancient faith”—calls upon the Creator as the giver of all our fundamental rights.

Because of the diversity of religious commitments in our society—and because it violates our constitutional morality, and no little part of our dominant religious morality, for anyone to be coerced in matters of faith and practice—we must express our moral opinions to one another in a shared language of reasons and arguments. This does not and cannot mean that the connection of our moral arguments to our religious sentiments is severed when we meet in the public square. But when all the arguments have been aired out, the moral view that prevails at the ballot box and in the legislative halls is entitled to have its way in public policy, barring any explicit constitutional obstacles to its enactment. The “separation of church and state” is not one of those obstacles. If it were, no law with any moral purpose that happened to coincide with the view of any religious community could ever be upheld.


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