The “Religious Liberty” quiz on Huffington Post, and why I wrote it.

Dear friends,

Over the past few days my blog has seen an increase in traffic driven by my latest post on Huffington Post’s religion section. (Found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-emily-c-heath/how-to-determine-if-your-religious-liberty-is-being-threatened-in-10-questions_b_1845413.html ) That post made the leap from the religion page to the front page, has been shared nearly 5,000 times on Facebook (edited: now about 12,000 times), and has been picked up by other sites. Thank you all for the shares and for your blog visits, emails, tweets, and words of encouragement. I’m humbled.

I wrote the piece on my iPhone last week while sitting watching the Republican National Convention with my partner. That is not to say that this is an anti-Republican post. Not at all. (I know some wonderfully inclusive Republicans and some of the rhetoric at the DNC on this frustrated me just as much.) It’s just to say that was the occasion for its writing.

You see, my partner and I are marrying one another this November at her UCC church in Boston. We are blessed by the fact that our marriage will be recognized legally in both our state of residence and the state in which it is performed. More importantly, it will be recognized by our church. It will not, however, be recognized by the federal government. The question of whether it will be soon, and whether it will be in more states, is causing an increase in calls of “religious oppression” from anti-gay religious folks.

Getting married two weeks after the presidential election, in a year when debate over equal marriage is more divisive than ever, adds a whole other layer to the stress of wedding planning. It means that every quip about equal marriage feels like a referendum on your own upcoming marriage. (And really, between the catering and the invitations, I already have more than enough to think about.)

That’s why watching the RNC, every slight about “real marriages” and “real families” cut us to the quick. And every reference to “religious liberty” used to deny my partner and I the rights we deserve just offended me. My partner and I are religious people who love God. We love the church. And we love Christ, who taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves. But the fact that our neighbors, and our Christian brothers and sisters, were claiming that they were the oppressed ones here, was not just offensive; it was ludicrous.

My partner and I want basic rights. And our basic rights do not intrude on anyone’s religious liberty. How that has become so convoluted, I don’t know. But those who would use religion to claim they are being victimized by the rights of others, are being intellectually, and religiously, dishonest. No one is forcing churches to marry gay couples. Any clergy member will tell you that they are legally free to deny marriage to any couple for any reason with impunity. They know that, but they spread false fear to their communities in an effort to deny the rights of others. Meanwhile, our own church, which blesses our marriage, is being denied equal legitimacy under the law by the actions of these religious groups who attempt to withhold legal recognition from the marriages other religious groups bless.

So here we were, sitting in our living room, watching politicians say that the marriage of a minister and a seminarian would destroy religious liberty in America. And it’s so offensive, so painful, and just so, so false. This is the stuff that used to make me want to drink. Now it just makes me want to fight harder for my rights, and the rights of my partner, and the rights of all of us…because, gay or straight, this is about all of us.

That’s how the quiz was born. Because it’s important for the ones who have oppressed others for so long to understand that they, in fact, are not being oppressed. I know what oppression feels like. I grew up gay in the Bible belt. I was bullied in the name of religion. That’s not what “religious liberty” is about. THAT is oppression. And I’m thankful that, finally, my own religious liberty is being taken seriously by more and more of my fellow citizens. I hope the quiz helps more to be able to realize what “religious liberty” really means.

God bless you all.

Rev. Emily C. Heath

6 thoughts on “The “Religious Liberty” quiz on Huffington Post, and why I wrote it.

  1. I loved the Huffington Post piece, which inspired me to look you up. Thanks for it, and congratulations and best wishes to you on your upcoming marriage!

  2. The Huffington post piece was what was needed when all the nonsense about “religious liberty” was on display on c-span. It should be required reading for all politicians of both parties.
    Best wishes on your upcoming marriage-who would have thought that we would ever live to see the day….

  3. I read through your entire article on this because a friend of mine on Facebook shared it and it sounded interesting. I must say that I am truly proud to be a part of the UCC denomination, even more so now that I know someone with your insight is helping to lead. The church that my partner and I go to isn’t listed on the “Open and Accepting” list, but they follow it with their deeds. We have been accepted from day one, as have many of our friends who now attend, and that is something to always be thankful for. In closing, your words were poignant, insightful, and cut right through a lot of the rhetoric and hyperbole that so many of the modern day politicians say. Keep up the good work, and good luck with your wedding. 🙂

  4. First of all, congratulations to you and your partner. I hope you have many many happy years together.

    I don’t get why conservative Christians feel they are being oppressed. It seems to me like they are using the same tired arguments against gay people that they once used against granting black people equal rights. I am happily married, and whether or not other people get married, don’t get married, or whatever they do has NO effect on the content of my marriage. What does affect it is how my husband and I behave towards one another, and how open we are to differences that may arise between us. For us, marriage is an opportunity to grow as individuals and as a couple. I pray that you and your partner will have this opportunity fully as we have, and that your growing together will bring forth beauty and truth.

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