A few months ago, I went through a brief process I'd been contemplating for a long time. I became an ordained member of the Clergy.
The process was brief - about 10 minutes to fill out a form online, from a non-sectarian Monastery located in Washington state, which holds the belief that we're all children of the same planet regardless of our personal belief system (I'm pagan - Asatru to be precise) and should therefore all have the same access to becoming Recognized by the State as valid Spiritual leaders, Officiants for religious ceremony, etc. Then I ordered a copy of my official registration of ordination from them (about $30 for copying and mailing fees) took it to the county offices where I live, and put it on file with the state authorities - for free.
I'm now considered a legal officiant for Weddings, Funerals, Christenings and Wiccanings, etc., recognized as such by the state where I live, with my ordination recorded in the county offices on a particular page in their book of registered wedding officiants.
So you might be asking yourself what my recent ordination has to do with being Contentious.
It all comes down to the debate on Same Gender Marriage.
I was asked by two friends of mine (pagan, but not same gendered) to officiate at their wedding. Ok, so I'm looking at what it will take to be legally compliant to do so in my state, thinking about whether I want to take up the task and if it will be a "one off" or I'll stay current and hire myself out, when my state legislature starts tossing about a bill that would remove the government from having anything to do with weddings (no more licenses, just a certificate of acknowledgement filed after a ceremony by a member of the clergy) so that state officials - court clerks, judges, etc - aren't obligated to violate Their religious beliefs in order to officiate.
You know, that whole no same gender thing that some of the more conservative Christian, all of the Muslim, and a lot of Judaic practitioners consider absolutely against their religion?
It has become a bit of a sticky wicket really. If the government forces them to conduct weddings that are strictly outside their personal religious beliefs - it is in effect interfering with their religious observations. The counter argument, of course, being that Not forcing them to do so effectively forces their religious beliefs on a couple who want to get married.
So who, in the long run, is more protected? The person who can go to a different priest, priestess, member of the clergy et al to have their ceremony? Or the person who is having their religious convictions dismissed as invalid in the name of "fairness" to someone who has more than one option open to them?
We cannot live via the concept of "the Ends justifies the Means" folks. We can't. That way lies oppression and the end of anything even Remotely resembling true Freedom for Anyone.
What does that mean in this instance? It means that no matter how much we might Want to force people to do what We consider "the right thing" - we effectively lose the war for the sake of winning a single battle. It means that we can't force people to violate their honestly held religious convictions for the convenience of someone else, unless those religious convictions are causing Actual Harm.
Actual Harm - not a case of the butthurt, not a sense of wounded pride or indignation, not anger at some faux "aggression" on the part of the religious person - actual, honest ta goodness, visible Harm. Harm like is caused when a religion dictates a woman must be stoned because she was raped (can we say "Islam" which still Practices this, in much of the world? I knew we could.) Harm - like throwing a gay couple off the roof of a multi-story building - which happens in the Islamic countries of the Middle East on a routine and regular basis. That is harm. A business owner telling a gay couple, "I'm not comfortable with making a cake for your wedding - my religious belief is that the two of you getting married is an abomination" is NOT HARM - its butthurt and indgination and inconvenience at having to find a different bakery.