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December 26, 2013

DAVE BANGERT: Faith, marriage and the state constitution

22 clergy members offer legislators religious cover.

Here’s a guess that there are some interesting conversations — or at least sidelong whispers during opening prayers — in the pews, after 22 Greater Lafayette clergy members took a published stand against a proposed constitutional amendment that would further sanctify Indiana’s definition of marriage.

And if not in the greeting line after services — “Nice sermon, Reverend. About that same-sex marriage thing, though ...” — there will be chatter somewhere else after last week’s guest column in the Journal & Courier.

“We would hope for not much blowback, and most of our parishioners know who we are personally,” said the Rev. Clarinda Crawford, pastor of Congress Street Church in Lafayette. “But, my parents live in the J&C readership area and will have a field day with me next Wednesday at dinner, I’m sure.

“I am originally from the Lafayette area, and I understand well the varied attitudes and understandings that exist on the subject of [the marriage amendment].”

That’s a nice way to couch it — “varied attitudes and understandings” — when it comes to same-sex marriage, particularly in the faith community. Questions of morality, sin and respect have colored, if not driven, the issue when it came to what constitutes equal rights for gays and lesbians. Which Scripture do you care to use? Leviticus 18:22’s fodder for the opposition? Or Mark 12:31’s command to love your neighbor as yourself?

Crawford’s contingent last week landed on the second part, concluding: “As Greater Lafayette area clergy, we believe [House Joint Resolution 6] — the proposed amendment regarding marriage — is a fearful stumble backward instead of a faithful step forward in the work of transformation. We are united in our belief that this amendment would dignify discrimination and threaten religious liberty.”

The proposed marriage amendment has produced a cottage industry for endorsements, with the anti-HJR-6 coalition Freedom Indiana collecting high-profile signatures from mayors (including Lafayette’s Tony Roswarski and West Lafayette’s John Dennis), universities (Purdue’s University Senate has signed on) and some of Indiana’s largest businesses. More than 300 clergy and faith leaders of the Interfaith Coalition on Non-Discrimination, including several from Greater Lafayette, signed a letter to General Assembly members in November, asking them to reject HJR-6 before it is sent to voters in November 2014.

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