NEW YORK— A few days before the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the rights of states to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, more than 30 religious leaders representing tens of millions of US citizens from diverse faith communities throughout the United States have reaffirmed their shared commitment to marriage and religious freedom. An open letter entitled “The Defense of Marriage and the Right of Religious Freedom: Reaffirming a Shared Witness” was issued to all in positions of public service on April 23.
Archbishop Demetrios of America, Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA, signed the open letter on behalf of the Holy Eparchial Synod. He was joined by other religious leaders, including Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB); Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; and Metropolitan Tikhon (OCA).
“The Orthodox Church firmly believes that marriage is a sacred institution between one man and one woman and that the protection of religious freedom helps advance a stable and free society. It is our hope and prayer that this letter will inspire others, especially those in public service, to embrace these principles,” said Archbishop Demetrios. “Unfortunately, while not all circumstances make it possible for children to be raised by both a loving mother and father, we uphold that marriage as the union of one man and one woman offers the optimal environment for the birth and raising of children. For this reason, we strongly feel that both Church and society ought to labor together to strengthen the unique bond between husband and wife.”
The religious leaders stressed the need for civility and mutual respect, writing, “Government should protect the rights of those with differing views of marriage to express their beliefs and convictions without fear of intimidation, marginalization or unwarranted charges that their values imply hostility, animosity, or hatred of others.”
The leaders close with a statement of their duty and love towards all: “In this and in all that we do, we are motivated by our duty to love God and neighbor. This love extends to all those who disagree with us on this issue. The well-being of men, women, and the children they conceive compels us to stand for marriage as between one man and one woman.”
The letter is available at: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/ecumenical/marriage-and-religious-freedom. Other official Orthodox Christian statements on marriage and sexuality can be found at: http://assemblyofbishops.org/about/documents/2013-assembly-statement-on-marriage-and-sexuality and http://www.assemblyofbishops.org/news/scoba/2003-08-13-moral-crisis.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Archimandrite Nathanael Symeonides; Ecumenical Officer, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America— Tel.: 212-774-0226 – [email protected]