Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Marco Rubio: Mainstream Christianity will soon be 'hate speech'

Sen. Marco Rubio, in an interview with Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcast News:

"If you think about it, we are at the water's edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech. Because today we've reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage you are labeled a homophobe and a hater."

"So what's the next step after that? After they are done going after individuals, the next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church, is hate speech. And that's a real and present danger."

Please. Spare us the pandering, melodramatic persecution complex.

In a country in which 70 percent of the people identify as Christian and 56 percent say religion plays a very important role in their lives, there is no "real and present danger" that mainstream Christian theology will be labeled hate speech and somehow banned, as Rubio implies. It's not going to become against the law to oppose or disagree with gay marriage. That is the rhetoric of a demagogue trying to terrify people into voting for him.

Now, will people criticize you for taking a stance opposed to gay marriage? Yes, they will -- welcome to the rough and tumble of democracy. If you express an opinion on a controversial political subject, criticism usually follows, and claiming that your opinion is drawn from your religious belief does not make you immune to that criticism. Ask the folks in the early days of the gay-rights movement about how it feels to be the target of public intolerance.

These days, when Pat Robertson complains that gay lobbyists are going to force people to say that they like anal sex and oral sex, when he later equates gay marriage to someone marrying a dog, when he says that Facebook ought to install a "vomit" button so he can respond properly to pictures of gay couples, then yes, I suspect that somebody somewhere probably did accuse him of hate speech and homophobia. They would be right to do so.

Unlike Rubio, however, I do not believe that those of Robertson's ilk represent "mainstream Christianity." Nor do I believe that the teachings of the Catholic Church in any way require that you discriminate against gay Americans or gay married couples, any more than they require you to discriminate against divorced Americans or those who use contraception. And while that's merely the opinion of this secular journalist, it seems to be shared by some much more informed on the topic.

"If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?" Pope Francis, the leader of Rubio's church, said recently. "The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalized because of this (orientation) but that they must be integrated into society."

Imagine. The catechism of the Catholic Church says that gay people should not be marginalized, they should be integrated into society. And Francis makes that statement even as he continues to state that gay sex is a sin and that gay marriage is wrong in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Somehow, he doesn't have trouble negotiating that space between defending his own religious beliefs while treating others with respect and even love.

Look, if your faith teaches you that gay marriage is wrong, nobody is going to force your pastor to conduct gay weddings in violation of that faith.  Nobody is going to force your church, synagogue or mosque to open its facilities to gay couples seeking to get married.  Nobody is going to force you to attend your gay cousin's wedding. Most of all, nobody is going to outlaw your belief or prevent you from stating and defending that belief. The First Amendment is a stalwart shield for you, as it ought to be.

On the other hand, if you believe that your faith requires you to discriminate against gay Americans by refusing to employ them or to accept them as customers, then yes, I suspect that you're going to have a conflict that can't be resolved by citing your religious faith. If you are a business owner and you believe that your faith requires you to deny marital benefits to a legally married gay employee and his spouse, then yes, you're probably going to face a conflict at some point in the future.

Because the days of officially tolerated and even officially encouraged discrimination against gay Americans is coming to an end.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.