What Lies Ahead?
July 5, 2001
churches turn is coming.
Last year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that
New Jersey couldnt force the Boy Scouts to accept homosexual
scoutmasters. The Court held that the Scouts were entitled to set their own
standards for members and leaders. Still, the American Civil Liberties Union and
other like-minded groups persist in trying to force the Scouts to accept
homosexuals, in the name of civil rights.
A few weeks ago the Court ruled that the
Professional Golfers Association must allow competitors to use golf carts.
The majority held that walking around a golf course is not an essential part of
competitive golf. Many great golfers (and the PGA itself) disagreed, but the Court
decided that it could claim the authority to define golf.
This ruling was directly at odds with the
Courts position on the Boy Scouts. It raises an interesting question.
Suppose a feminist group sues the Catholic
Church for the right of women to be ordained as priests. The case goes to the
Supreme Court. If the Court follows its logic in the Boy Scout precedent, it throws
the suit out. But if it follows the logic of its PGA ruling, it orders the Catholic
Church to ordain women.
For, the Court might argue, a male clergy
isnt essential to Catholicism. Nothing in the Apostles
Creed or the other great creeds requires it. Many modern theologians agree that the
male clergy is no more than a historically and culturally conditioned tradition,
now outmoded. This cant justify discrimination against
The Church may argue that its religious
freedom is being infringed; but the Court may reply that this is a civil
rights issue, not a religious one. Catholics are free to retain their beliefs
and to practice their religion, provided they recognize the equal rights of women.
After all, even religion is bound by secular law; human sacrifice wouldnt be
tolerated if it were practiced as part of a religious ceremony. Its the same
with civil rights.
By the same token,
and using similar logic, the Court could order churches not to discriminate against
Unthinkable? No it isnt. I just thought
it. So many formerly unthinkable things have come to pass already, and we can
expect many more. Who, in 1960, would have predicted that the Court would strike
down the abortion laws of all 50 states? Who, even when that had come to pass,
imagined that the federal government would subsidize the killing of human
embryos for medical research? More recently, who supposed that homosexuals
would demand the right to be scoutmasters?
Do you hear groups like the ACLU pledging that
they will never try to force churches to act against their own moral principles?
No, no more than you heard them pledging never to try to force the Scouts to
accept homosexuals before they actually did it.
Does any aggressor tell you, at any step, that
this is the last time he will seize his neighbors territory? Of course not.
He always wants you to assume that this time is the last time, while he hatches
his plans for the next time. But aggression follows its own unappeasable logic.
Every gain mandates further gains. Dont bother asking him where he will
stop; he may not know himself. But when opportunity arises, so will temptation.
Religion is the last stronghold of freedom.
When the state forces the church to surrender, its victory will be complete. Of
course it will insist that it respects the separation of church and
state as defined by the state, of course. We will be nominally and
verbally free to worship within state guidelines. We will still be able to
call ourselves Catholics, Baptists, Jews as long as our clergy meet state
I dont mean that our enemies are
already planning and plotting their future assaults (though I dont rule it
out). But their record, their logic, and their fanaticism require us to assume that
these assaults will inevitably come. Why not? There is no restraining principle
that will prevent them when the time is ripe.
If the state can define golf and Scouting, why
should it leave defining Catholicism and Judaism to priests and rabbis? This
isnt a prophecy. Its a simple extrapolation from experience, and
well have no right to be surprised when it comes to pass.