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A Separation of Church and State

Father Patrick Reardon, pastor of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church [1] in Chicago, has just released the following statement:

Because the State of Illinois, through its legislature and governor’s office, have now re-defined marriage, marriage licenses issued by agencies of the State of Illinois will no longer be required (or signed) for weddings here at All Saints in Chicago.

Those seeking marriage in this parish will be counseled on the point.

Father Pat

No longer be required or signed. No recognition of the state’s authority over marriage. One is reminded of Alasdair Macintyre’s famous remark [2] about the decline of the Western Roman Empire:

A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium.

I could be wrong, but it sounds like the pastor of All Saints parish has concluded that the continuation of civility and moral community no longer has anything to do with shoring up the American civil order, and in fact depends on repudiating it in the matter of marriage.

A Benedict Option has been embraced by an Orthodox parish in Chicago. Who’s next?

166 Comments (Open | Close)

166 Comments To "A Separation of Church and State"

#1 Comment By Rusty On April 15, 2015 @ 2:52 pm

I think the important thing here is that couples who secure both a holy and a civil marriage will still have a way to feel superior to those with only a mere civil marriage.

#2 Comment By grendel On April 15, 2015 @ 2:59 pm

Civil marriage is a contact:

Minn. Stat. 517.01: A civil marriage, so far as its validity at law is concerned, is a civil contract between two persons, to which the consent of the parties, capable in law of contracting, is essential.

Calf. Code 300-310: Marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between two persons, to which the consent of the parties capable of making that contract is necessary.

NY Code Art. 3 Sec. 10: Marriage, so far as its validity in law is concerned, continues to be a civil contract, to which the consent of parties capable in law of making a contract is essential.

#3 Comment By jasper On April 15, 2015 @ 3:07 pm

FL Transplant wrote:

“Make Dec 25 a strictly religious holiday, much as Easter is today. Shift all the secular aspects–all non-religious decorations, decorated evergreen trees, all non-religious songs, gift-giving, parties, snowmen/S. Claus/all outdoor decorations except manger scenes, etc–into the first week of February when winter’s grown long and tedious and such a holiday would be welcomed…”

I have long proposed this idea, but would reverse the switch. Since there is no mention in the New Testament as to when Christ was born, leave “secular Christmas” (shopping, decorations, etc.) as it is on December 25, and move the religious observance of Christ’s birth to February. This would be easier to accomplish than the switch proposed by FL Transplant.


#4 Comment By Bar Bill On April 15, 2015 @ 3:52 pm

@ cermak_rd:”The problem with lobbying for common law marriage is many couples in de facto unions are not married because they don’t want to be married”

Good point. Texas handles that by requiring common-law marriages to be publicly declared, e.g. on a tax return. If you don’t want to be married common-law, then act like you are single: file income taxes as a single filer, don’t post “married” Facebook status, don’t tell everyone at a party you are married, etc.

#5 Comment By Leslie Fain On April 15, 2015 @ 4:11 pm

I really don’t see the point of this. Having to have two ceremonies will be a pain when we can’t even get young people to the altar in the first place. What’s to be gained from this?

#6 Comment By EngineerScotty On April 15, 2015 @ 4:45 pm

How long until SCOTUS legalizes these [bigamy, incest], too?

A long time, I suspect. For one thing, there seems to be little political agitation for legalizing either, except in the minds of fundies engaging in ridiculous slippery-slope arguments. (And the small amount of political support for legalized polygamy isn’t coming from lefty threesomes, but from ultra-religious dirty old men who want to keep harems as God commands).

What I predict will happen if this goes through is a lot of whining on the part of people who a) don’t get a civil license, b) DO get married in a church, and then c) complain that they’re not considered married under law.

Common-law marriage can cure that “problem”, assuming the claimed marriage is legal in the first place. (No state will recognize a common-law marriage if one party is still married to another, for instance; until recently, Utah even went further and would prosecute anyone who cohabitated and claimed marriage with one person while still lawfully married to someone else, for bigamy).

Keep in mind–the reason for common-law marriage was, in the old days at least, to cure cases of fornication. If two people lived together as husband and wife (and presumably slept together, or even had children together), it was considered more humane to simply consider them married for legal purposes, then to prosecute them. Obviously, that no longer applies today.

#7 Comment By kijunshi On April 15, 2015 @ 5:08 pm

This is just piling on by now, but yes, good, this is just fine by me (liberal “side”). I think it is appropriate that the sacred and the secular functions of marriage should be separated in this way. Not sure why some of the other liberal commentators are being snippy about it? I ended an SSM argument peaceably with a religious friend with this suggestion as far back as college.

#8 Comment By grumpy realist On April 15, 2015 @ 6:12 pm

Grendel–marriage is more than an ordinary contract. The only reason “contract” shows up in the statutory definition is because it’s between two people and it’s voluntary and that was probably the best word they could think of. There are a lot of other privileges (intestate rights to property, confidentiality of communications, can’t be forced to testify against spouse, marital property rights, etc. etc. and so forth.)

Marriage under a state’s legal code is a thing totally by itself and isn’t considered something that falls under contract law.

#9 Comment By Anne On April 15, 2015 @ 8:41 pm

This kind of radical distinction between civil and so-called sacred or churchy marriage actually conflicts with traditional Catholic theology. The Catholic Church has long maintained that there is only one reality called marriage, which is essentially a contract between two people that becomes an indissoluble bond once consummated. Christian marriages are sacramental because the parties are Christian, not because the wedding took place in a church before a priest. The Council of Trent set up rules for Catholic marriage validity (requiring, e.g., the presence of a priest), but the Church continued to recognize all others, purely civil and otherwise, as fully marriages, sacramental or otherwise. Those between Christians, even if the ceremony takes place in City Hall, are sacramental. Those between non-Christians or between one Christian and one non-Christian are not sacramental, yet full marriages nevertheless. All are indissoluble in principle.

Still, Archbp. Chaput is being a bit disengenuous when he implies SSM is bound to compromise Catholic consciences, as if civil divorce and remarriage haven’t long posed similar challenges without in themselves compromising Catholic consciences. Of course, many Catholics have come to accept divorce and remarriage, but that’s another matter, something Catholics can question themselves about, but not something imposed on them simply because such legal institutions are allowed to exist. I understand trad fears that modern Christians are becoming oblivious to the evil of sins tolerated in secular society, but in a pluralistic democracy there’s really no alternative to finding ways to live in peace with fellow citizens who don’t share the Christian point of view.

#10 Comment By ADL On April 15, 2015 @ 9:30 pm

@ Stuart Koehl: About time. I advocated this five years ago:

> Just read your piece. It does a very good job explaining what I was trying to say. Many thanks.

#11 Comment By VikingLS On April 15, 2015 @ 10:17 pm

“Not sure why some of the other liberal commentators are being snippy about it? I ended an SSM argument peaceably with a religious friend with this suggestion as far back as college.”

Some of the liberal commentors here have no interest in a peaceable end to the argument. They want a victory, not a draw.

#12 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 15, 2015 @ 10:47 pm

Marriage is, among other things, a contract. Every contract is not a marriage.

#13 Comment By MikeCA On April 15, 2015 @ 11:24 pm

Grendel made an excellent point about how marriage equality came to be in Ontario- not in spite of religion but because a particular religion did endorse the right of two gay men to marry. There are churches and synagogues in the U.S. who happily marry same gender couples – as it stands their practice of religion is disadvantaged in the remaining 13 states that refuse to licence same gender couples. As I remarked in a prior thread,there are too many state recognized rights & benefits for the vast majority of couples to decline state recognition of their marriage. For people who are marginally religious it will provide even more incentive to skip any religious service and opt strictly for the civil ceremony. I have no problems with separating the two, though many might just due to sheer laziness.

#14 Comment By grumpy realist On April 16, 2015 @ 7:07 pm

Engineer Scotty–If enough people do the religious-ceremony-but-not-the-civil-license I can see states accepting something showing the existence of the religious ceremony as good-enough-proof to assume marriage. But they’re probably going to require something along the lines of a) names of the individuals b) where and when c) who officiated, d) evidence that the wedding really, really happened and the guests weren’t treated to a Runaway Bride scenario, and e) consent.

Which means when you get down to it you might as well go and apply for the license anyway.

Most states got rid of common-law marriages because it was a pain in the ass to prove. I think also the drive to get rid of syphilis (getting married used to require a syphilis test in a lot of places) helped put the kibosh on CLM.

#15 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 16, 2015 @ 9:49 pm

I have read the above comments. And I have no idea how this solves anything relating to a christian whose business operates in a manner of his or her conscience providing services that celebrate a behavior or ideology that they find objectionable.

Seems to be a complicated solve that does not adress the issue.

#16 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 17, 2015 @ 11:59 am

I have no idea how this solves anything relating to a christian whose business operates in a manner of his or her conscience providing services that celebrate a behavior or ideology that they find objectionable.

Yes, there’s a lot of repeating what someone thinks is important even though it doesn’t answer this question.

Any solution must have a broad, viewpoint-neutral, secular basis. It is well settled law that one’s own religious beliefs do NOT provide a constitutional exemption from a law of general application.

Thus, vague appeals to “religious liberty” and calls for “exemption” generate precisely the kind of confusion you observe.

What is well established in constitutional jurisprudence is that the state may not compel speech, and that includes a wide range of expression, not merely words coming out of one’s mouth.

I think in the long run, the briefs written by the attorneys for Elane Photography will be vindicated, precisely because they are well grounded in well established constitutional precedent. The Supreme Court of New Mexico evaded them by noting that these precedents have never been applied to any commercial context. But, there is no reason they should not be, PROVIDED the individual commercial proprietor (or possibly even employee) is being asked to engage in celebration or communication of a concept or principle that they find abhorrent.

I think we all agree that a grocery store can’t turn away a customer because “you’re gay,” and a photographer can’t refuse to include someone in a photograph because “you’re gay.”