The first morning panel, "Gay Marriage, Religious Liberty, and the Church," revolved around the question of whether the church should involve itself in the political debate over homosexual marriage.
Barry Bussy, the panel chair, opened with a summary of the potential threats the homosexual movement poses to the religious liberty of those who condemn homosexual activity on religious grounds. His remarks were largely based on his experiences advocating for the Adventist Church in Canada. These concerns were based on trends in Canadian legal journals towards limiting the ability of religions to teach their members and educate their children not to celebrate and embrace homosexuality.
Gerald Chippeur shared a summary of homosexuality and religious liberty cases in Canada where homosexual marriage was recently adopted. One Christian university in Alberta was sued for firing a professor who advocated against their doctrinal position on homosexuality. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the university had the right to employ only those who uphold their religious norms. In another case, the Adventist church joined in advocating for a Christian university that was denied education program accreditation in British Columbia because of their beliefs on homosexuality. That denial of accreditation was also overturned. In Saskatchewan, there is a case before the courts attempting to remove marriage licenses from minsters who refuse to perform same sex marriages.
Alan Reinach opened by stating that it is impossible to overestimate the risks for religious liberty in homosexual marriage. He thinks that Adventists are not by nature partisans in the culture wars but believes that our ability to operate our institutions and live according to our consciences is under threat because homosexual activists are no longer willing to live and let live. He held up California as a legal bellwether, and claimed that the California Supreme Court has in the last 15 years consistently upheld homosexual rights and waffled on free exercise of religion. Reinach believes the fundamental problem is the belief that equality trumps liberty.
Bill Knott addressed the question of whether Adventists should be in politics directly, arguing that religions by default become involved in politics, unless they are purely cultic and awaiting immediate translation. His thesis is that early Adventists became involved in selected issues, such as abolition and prohibition, that they believed had special moral significance. He pointed to the early Review as a place where abolitionist invective against the American government was much stronger than what we would tolerate today (think Jeremiah Wright), and shared his discovery that Ellen and James White lived 500 yards from Fredrick Douglass, whose magazine, The North Star, had editorials strikingly similar to those of the Review. He also pointed to the church's later failures to act on the issues such as the 60s civil rights movement and the internment of Japanese Americans as undermining our religious liberty position at that time.
Disclaimer: I have summarized the views of the presenters to the best of my ability, however my summary should not be conflated with their actual views. For this reason, any attempt to debate the presenters views in the comments section will be deleted. Comments that seek clarification are welcome.
Blogging the Homosexuality Conference (other posts)