Editor's note: You can read a news release about the LOGA stance on the Federal Marriage amendment here. You can read the statement signed by LOGA, which is posted on the Americans United web site.
Dear Pastor Larson:
As members of congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we write to express our strong disagreement with the decision of the Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs (LOGA ) to become a signatory to the statement of several religious organizations opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA). We believe it is a serious mistake for LOGA to take this stance, and we ask you to reconsider this unfortunate decision.
First, as you know, the ELCA is in the midst of a churchwide study on homosexuality. During the period of this study, congregations and other groups within the ELCA have been encouraged to defer taking stances related to homosexuality until the study is completed. In several recent synod assemblies, voting members have declined to act upon resolutions that would have formally aligned the synod with one particular viewpoint regarding homosexuality.
LOGA’s decision to oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment, however, places the ELCA in a partisan position within the debate over homosexuality. Why did you at LOGA feel compelled to align the ELCA with one side in this partisan debate at this point in time? (Other old-line Protestants, e.g. the United Methodist Church, apparently decided against signing the statement.) LOGA’s decision in this regard makes it harder for us to believe that the leadership of the ELCA hasn’t already pre-determined the outcome in the ELCA homosexuality study.
Second, we find it disingenuous to argue (as Ms. Karen Vagley of LOGA did in the ELCA press release of June 4) that LOGA’s opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment has to do with civil rights only and has nothing to do with homosexuality or gay marriage. Cloaking LOGA’s opposition to the FMA in the garb of civil rights is a way of short-circuiting the discerning moral conversation that needs to happen in our churches and our culture regarding how we understand homosexuality, marriage and family life. We believe the issue is not civil rights but how our society has defined and will continue to define marriage.
Third, the statement to which LOGA has signed on is deeply flawed. It represents an extremist, minority position in our society’s current debate over homosexuality. We are embarrassed that our national church body has associated itself with a statement that makes so many fallacious arguments. Chief among these is the specious contention that the FMA reflects “a particular religious viewpoint.” Nonsense! People of goodwill—whether or not they have any religious convictions whatsoever—are able to contend (as does the FMA) that “marriage…shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.” Such an understanding of marriage is hardly the preserve of any one religious tradition; it is a position that is held by many persons of no religious affiliation.
This deeply flawed statement also notes that “for over two hundred years, the Constitution has had no provision on marriage, the matter being left to the states and the teachings of various religious groups.” This is a tendentious reading of history and the present situation. In truth, the Founders had no need to define marriage because they experienced nothing like the wholesale deconstruction of marriage currently taking place in American society. Moreover, the need for something akin to the FMA has arisen only because of the rampant judicial activism in our day that posits the existence of rights that aren’t clearly spelled out in the text of the Constitution. Such judicial activism—not any action by the state legislature—has forced same-sex “marriage” upon the citizens of the state of Massachusetts. Clearly, the federal Defense of Marriage Act is toothless in the face of such judicial activism. Only an amendment to the U.S. Constitution will prevent activist judges from forcing same-sex “marriage” upon the citizens of this land.
Finally the statement erroneously conveys the impression that passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment would express disrespect for “the rights of those in the faith community who deem sacred text consistent with the blessing of same-sex relationships.” Again, nothing could be farther from the truth. The FMA deals with how units of government—not religious groups—deal with issues of marriage law in the civil sphere. Nothing in the FMA would restrict the rights of individual religious groups to continue defining marriage according to their own lights.
We strongly urge you to reconsider LOGA’s support of this unfortunate statement opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment. If LOGA cannot see its way to supporting the FMA (a stance that could readily be justified by Lutheran teaching on social ethics and pertinent statements of predecessor church bodies), it would be better if LOGA remained neutral during this time of discerning moral conversation regarding homosexuality in the ELCA.
Thank you for considering our concerns.