Marriage; The Authority of State, Not Church
If the definition of marriage is left to churches, societal chaos will result
by Allen Quist
Some have criticized Minnesota’s proposed marriage amendment by claiming that marriage should be regulated by the Church, not the government. They are referring to the proposed amendment to Minnesota’s Constitution, to be on the ballot in the fall of 2012 that seeks to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Having the church govern marriage is a bad idea. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin recognized that marriage was a civil estate that was under the authority of the state, not the church. Numerous governmental concerns are deeply affected by the legal definition of marriage. Such concerns include laws governing inheritances, laws dealing with dependent children, laws regulating adoptions and foster care, laws governing insurance and laws dealing with public assistance, to name just a few.
If the definition of marriage is left to churches, societal chaos will result—some churches will recognize gay marriage while others will not. Some churches will allow bigamy while others will not. Still others may refuse to recognize divorce. Others might allow most anything—from group marriage to concubines to common law marriage and even harems. Do we want some of our churches to have the right to decide what legal options and rights members of harems shall have?
Individuals will shop for a church, or form a church, which recognizes whatever type of marriage someone wants on a particular day. Will that lead to the kind of good order that government is obligated to maintain? Not likely.
What about the “unchurched”? Who will define marriage for them?
Some in our country want a grand divorce between marriage and government. A better position is recognizing that marriage is the most fundamental level of government.
We know that marriage is under assault in our nation. Some of this assault comes from government itself—as exemplified by Obama Care’s financial discrimination against married people. For the government to default on marriage—refuse to meet its obligations—is no answer to the challenges.
Allen Quist is a former state representative representing St. Peter, Minnesota.