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Same-sex Marriage and Adventist Religious Liberty

What’s happening to Seventh-day Adventist religious liberty?
On February 14, Alan Reinach, head of the Pacific Union Conference’s Church State Council and NARLA-West interviewed Erik Stanley,Esq., Senior Legal Counsel, Alliance Defense Fund. They discussed gay marriage.
It should be noted that with a budget in the tens of millions, the Alliance Defense Fund was created by the Religious Right, with major funding by the late interracial marriage prohibiting Jerry Falwell and the corrupt Pat Robertson.
Just as a reminder of the overtly partisan nature of the ADF, they recently called on pastors to break the law and publicly endorse John McCain from their pulpits on September 28, 2008.
Furthermore, ADF has been the chief legal support for displays for the Ten Commandments on public property for years. Just as they framed that issue as the Christian tradition vs. “secular society” one hears the same rhetoric in the podcast as Reinach and Stanley take a couple of anecdotes and extrapolate out an argument that the same-gender marriage rights movement is anti-religion. Someone should tell that to the 1302 folks who took a stand with Adventists Against Prop 8.
Given the focus of late, apparently the organizational front line in our defense of freedom in relationship to our religious minority status now sides consistently with the Christian majoritarian ideologues who attack the traditional Adventist position on the separation of church and state. Along with the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition, the ADF is a part of the larger Dominionist theological movement to make American a Christian nation.
This move from separating church and state to separating Christian and secular is a radical shift in Adventist religious liberty thinking. The last I checked, sheep and goats is God’s department and nowhere do I read about the homosexual agenda in The Great Controvery or the book of Revelation. I do read about Christians and governments uniting and Adventists losing their worship rights as a result – which used to be what NARLA focused on.
In the past, groups like the ACLU who fought the Bush administration over the Patriot Act and their torture policies worked with us to protect liberty of conscience, but now, at least the west wing of Adventist freedom sounds out jeremiads against the human rights left.
Where lies the direct threat to Seventh-day Adventism? Why is our chief legal advocate so focused on gay marriage?
All this despite the fact that on January 26, a California appellate court sided with a Lutheran high school which expelled two “lesbian” students. Significantly, in the Fall, the Church State Council included this case in their Prop 8 advocacy as an example of institutions losing rights, although that never happened.
A simple test in what our religious liberty priorities should be:
When’s the last time a GLBT individual sued the Adventist church over civil rights vs. how many Adventists lose their jobs over Saturday-Sabbath issues?
Yet, over and over, the Church/State Council and NARLA-West focuses its public voice on homosexuality. A week ago, on Feb. 7, the topic of the Freedom’s Ring podcasts was “Proposition 8 [Gay Marriage] Postmortem.”
They also buy into one of the weirdest frames going, that there is a major organized war against Christmas, marriage, and faith. Just to be clear, the people making these claims are the offspring of the Southern conservative Christians who also framed federal mandated racial desegregation as a war on Christianity.
In light of that history, it’s interesting to hear Reinach and Stanley label the non-violent but aggressive protest actions of the “same-gender marriage” crowd as an example of their intolerance and hypocrisy. The racist segregationists of the 60s and 70s often used the same rhetorical tactics, noting African-American aggressive action as proof that the “two groups couldn’t get along” and that the “blacks” who want tolerance are intolerant.
The point here is not that ADF or Alan Reinach is racist, but the fact that they employ the same framing and similar reactionary rhetoric embedded in dominionist zero-sum game logic: if definitions of America or marriage change to include more people, it is a bad thing.
It should also be noted that the next generation of evangelicals are by-and-large rejecting this fearful aspect of their past. In a recent survey 46% of young evangelicals expressed support for gay marriage with it rising to 60% with a religious liberty assurance. And each year the number increases.
As a young Seventh-day Adventist and former proud supporter of NARLA, I’m sad to see our public voice for liberty choosing to side with the fear-based exclusionary politics of the ugly past.
Given the impressive numbers of young Adventists, many on the margins, who wrote Adventists Against Prop 8 excited to see so many in their church standing up on this social justice issue, it’s sad to see a tithe-supported leader siding with the Alliance Defense Fund against them.
Given the priority interests of the next generation of young Adventists as reported in Roger Dudley’s survey, this Religious Right rhetoric and gay-focus is out of step with the future of the church. There are more important religious liberty issues for our tithe-supported advocates to be talking about.

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