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ELCA Office Joins Opposition To Federal Marriage Amendment

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs (LOGA), Washington D.C., the federal public policy office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), joined 25 other religious organizations June 3 to urge members of the U.S. Congress to reject the proposed "Federal Marriage Amendment."  The religious organizations said the proposal threatens individual civil rights and religious freedom.
     The amendment, proposed in February by President George W. Bush, states that "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.  Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."
     The religious organizations released a copy of a letter addressed to members of Congress at a congressional briefing in Washington.
     Karen Vagley, LOGA director, said the letter was not a statement about homosexuality or gay marriage but reflected the church's concern for civil rights.
     "All of our positions and statements are based on policy statements that have been approved by the church body," she said. "This is a civil rights issue, and our social statement is very clear on civil rights."  Vagley was quoted by Religion News Service, Washington.
     In the letter the religious organizations stated they are particularly concerned that the proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution "would, for the first time, restrict the civil rights of millions of Americans." 
     "That concern alone merits rejection of the Federal Marriage Amendment," the letter said.
     "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," the letter said.
     The religious organizations noted that the U.S. Constitution bars any court or legislature from requiring any religious institution or person to perform marriage ceremonies for anyone, and they said 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 are therefore unnecessary," the letter said.
     "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," the letter said. "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."
     The religious organizations pointed out that for more than 200 years the Constitution has had no provision on marriage.  The nation's founders adopted the First Amendment because "they foresaw the dangers posed by allowing government to have control over religious decisions," the letter said.  The First Amendment has allowed religious "practice and pluralism" to flourish, it said.
     "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," the religious organizations said.
     The letter ended with a call to Congress to "soundly reject any attempt to enshrine into the Constitution a particular religious viewpoint on a matter of such fundamental religious importance."
     A sampling of other religious denominations and organizations that signed the letter include the Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee (Quaker), American Jewish Committee, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Episcopal Church, Guru Gobind Singh Foundation (Sikh), National Conference of Community and Justice, Metropolitan Community Churches, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Washington office, The Interfaith Alliance, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, and United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or news@elca.org



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