Monday, June 1, 2015

Mark Silk Responds to Ross Douthat on Polygamy and Same-Sex Marriage: What Were You Saying Again About Religious Freedom, Mr. Douthat?

Mark Silk responds to Ross Douthat on same-sex marriage and polygamy (see my earlier posting about this) at Mark's "Spiritual Politics" blog — "The Polygamists Are Coming!" As he notes, the argument that same-sex marriage will open the door to polygamy is a longstanding slippery-slope argument of religious conservatives, so it seems . . . odd . . . that Douthat wants to reprise that argument now (obviously, in light of what has just taken place in Ireland and in anticipation of a soon-to-come Supreme Court ruling in the U.S.). 

Mark notes that only a few months back, Douthat was arguing for wide latitude for "religious subcultures" that want to hold onto or promote ideals and practices running against the mainstream norm, in the name of religious freedom. And so Mark concludes,

I’d have thought the principled position for Douthat would be to support a right to polygamy, along the religious freedom lines that he thinks are necessary to enable traditionalist believers to maintain their codes of conduct. Indeed, it would be interesting to know how many of those new supporters of polygamy are frequent churchgoers and how many not, or how many are Republicans and how many Democrats. Crosstabs, Gallup? 
What’s certain is that the federal judge who threw out a hunk of Utah’s anti-polygamy law is a born-and-bred Mormon whose decision turned on the constitutional right of free exercise. If polygamy is to achieve legal recognition in 21st-century America, it won’t be because of what Douthat calls "the now-ascendant model of marriage as a gender-neutral and easily-dissolved romantic contract." It will be because of the increasingly robust view of religious liberty now being embraced by him and his kind.

In short, the very religious liberty arguments being pushed so hard and heavy by the religious right (including the U.S. Catholic bishops) and its supporters (including Douthat) of late move much more strongly and directly in the direction of opening the door to polygamy than same-sex marriage does. But you won't find people like Douthat or his water-carrying enablers at the Catholic centrist blog sites who want to drop turds in the punchbowl as their fellow Catholics who are gay celebrate the Irish referendum results admitting this.

(Have I said it before? I truly don't get the many heterosexual Catholic liberals who can't find it in their hearts to include those who are gay, or to celebrate any victory for gay rights — while they have long taken for granted and celebrated their own right to ignore magisterial teaching in the area of contraception. I suppose what I'm saying is that I don't quite grasp a way of thinking that results in such supercilious moral obtusenss, which refuses to examine rights and privileges I take for granted for myself, while resisting the extension of those same rights and privileges to minority groups long kept outside the social mainstream.

I just don't get this, as a moral theologian. And yet it's not merely a marginal response to gay people and gay rights in many U.S. Catholic institutions including Catholic universities. It's a dominant response.)

(I'm grateful to Jack Rakosky for pointing to Mark Silk's piece in the Commonweal thread I linked in my previous posting about Douthat's article.)

I find the graphic about polygamy at many blog sites online, including this posting from the right-wing Catholic site CatholicVote predicting that approval of same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy, with no clear indication of its original source.

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