Southern Baptist leader Al Mohler doesn't think sexual freedom and religious freedom can co-exist.
In a recent column
, Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, asserts that we are facing "a direct and unavoidable collision between religious liberty with what is rightly defined as erotic liberty--a liberty claimed on the basis of sexual identity and activity." A liberty Mohler believes isn't a real right, but a creation of the courts that's crushing First Amendment rights. Before long, if erotic liberty isn't stopped, churches that oppose homosexuality will be forced into silence, or even made to hire gay preachers!
No question religious rights and gay rights can collide, and someone's going to lose, but that's hardly anything unique. In the US, rights are always colliding. There's a vast body of First Amendment related cases concerning employee rights to take their holy day off, believers' rights to be exempt from government regulation or the draft, on the rights of segregated religious schools to tax write-offs. Sometimes religion wins. Sometimes it loses. Sometimes there's a compromise as the government tries to strike a balance.
Which is probably how it will work out with "erotic liberty." Mohler's apocalyptic predictions that the gay agenda will repress anti-gay churches just ain't gonna come true. We've had gay marriage in some states for more than a decade and preachers are not being silenced. The state is not forcing churches to marry gay couples. Gays are not using Bull Connor
tactics. The Supreme Court has affirmed the right of anti-gay protesters to protest. Government storm troopers are not going to shut Mohler down just because he compared
gays to cancer.
Another problem with Mohler's argument is his distorted view of gay rights. Some battles, such as the fight against laws banning homosexuality, are arguably about erotic freedom; being able to have sex with the consenting adult of your choice without being arrested for it is certainly liberty. But gay rights also involves such non-erotic issues as child custody, the right to see your partner in the hospital, rights to Social Security and family leave, the right to serve in the military and countless other legal matters. By using "erotic liberty" Mohler seems to be implying the real issues gays' desire to engage in wild sex orgies and to stop Mohler from criticizing them for it. That view is (to put it charitably) inaccurate.
A third problem with Mohler's critique is that erotic liberty is a good thing. There are valid reasons for two (or three, or four) mutually interested, consenting adults not to have sex--their commitments to other partners, their belief God doesn't approve. But people should have the freedom to work that out for themselves, without government telling them what is and isn't acceptable in bed. As Dr. Ruth Westheimer once put it, what two adults do in the privacy of their kitchen floor is nobody else's business.
That's why the Lawrence decision striking down anti-sodomy laws was a good one, even though some conservative Christians still object
to it. Ditto previous decisions striking down laws against interracial marriage, and laws banning birth control (another one many on the religious right dislike). This stuff isn't the government's business. Who we sleep with, who we marry, whether we stay married, whether we want to chance having kids, these are big, important personal
decisions. Not something government should be deciding for us.
Definitely not something Al Mohler or any other theocrat should be deciding either. Mohler has claimed to be the voice of morality, but interfering in other people's loving, warm relationships is as immoral as you can get.