Joint Letter from National Religious Groups
As leaders representing many of the diverse perspectives on religion in our nation, we are writing to urge you to oppose passage of the “Federal Marriage Amendment.” Although we have differing opinions on rights for same-sex couples, we believe the Federal Marriage Amendment reflects a fundamental disregard for individual civil rights and ignores differences among our nation’s many religious traditions. It should be rejected.
Few decisions by religious bodies are more central than who can take part in important religious rituals or services, including marriage. Fortunately, the Constitution bars any court or legislature from requiring any religious institution or person to perform marriage ceremonies for anyone. Indeed, the Constitution protects houses of worship in their freedom to limit marriages on whatever theological grounds they choose. The First Amendment already protects religious organizations from governmental interference in such matters, and constitutional definitions of marriage therefore are unnecessary.
Regardless of judicial and legislative decisions defining the legal rights of gay couples, religious marriage will justly remain the prerogative of individual faith traditions in accordance with their doctrinal beliefs. And this is as it should be. It is not the task of our government and elected representatives to enshrine in our laws the religious point of view of any one faith. Rather, our government should dedicate itself to protecting the rights of all citizens and all faiths.
For over two hundred years, the Constitution has had no provision on marriage, the matter being left to the states and the teachings of various religious groups. Our nation’s founders adopted the First Amendment precisely because they foresaw the dangers posed by allowing government to have control over religious decisions. The religious freedom protected by the First Amendment has allowed religious practice and pluralism to flourish. Respecting the rights of those in the faith community who deem sacred text consistent with the blessing of same-sex relationships protects and ensures that freedom.
We are particularly concerned that this proposal to amend the Constitution would, for the first time, restrict the civil rights of millions of Americans. That concern alone merits rejection of the Federal Marriage Amendment. We strongly believe that Congress must continue to protect the nation’s fundamental religious freedoms and continue to protect our nation’s bedrock principle of respecting religious pluralism. Congress should soundly reject any attempt to enshrine into the Constitution a particular religious viewpoint on a matter of such fundamental religious importance.
Alliance of Baptists
American Friends Service Committee (Quaker)
American Jewish Committee
Association of Humanistic Rabbis
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Christians for Justice Action
Disciples Justice Action Network
Episcopal Church, USA
Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quaker)
Guru Gobind Singh Foundation (Sikh)
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
National Council of Jewish Women
National Sikh Center
Metropolitan Community Churches
Protestant Justice Action
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE)
The Interfaith Alliance
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries
Women of Reform Judaism