Gary Stein: Religion, intolerance make lousy bedfellows

I want to put religious leaders on a higher plane than politicians. I really do.

But I'm having trouble this week.

We expect intolerance from public officials, particularly those trying to appeal to their base, particularly when the base is the tea party.

So I wasn't surprised when Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who wants to get back in the good graces of his tea party buddies, was critical of the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.

Marriage is best defined as "the union between one man and one woman," Rubio said.

This is the same Rubio who said recently he would walk away from the immigration reform bill if a provision covering same-sex couples is added.

"If this bill has in it something that gives gay couples immigration rights and so forth, it kills the bill," Rubio was quoted.

While I expect stuff like that — and much worse — from conservatives when talking about same sex marriage, I would hope for more tolerance from religious leaders.

I would hope, but I would be wrong. Here's just a sampling of the comments I saw from religious leaders after the Court ruling actually had the nerve to give gays equality and dignity and the same rights as everyone else. How could the Court do something so horrible and un-American?

"Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation. . . .The future of marriage and the well-being of our our society hang in the balance." That fear mongering is from the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops.

There is more from religious leaders.

"... will open a Pandora's box of unforeseen and, to be sure, unintended consequences .. ."

"What about the bi-sexual who wants both a male and female spouse?"

"Florida must be a firewall for defending marriage. It is a bellwether. . . . This is going to galvanize the conservative Christian community . .."

There is much more. But it made me wonder if religion is going to become increasingly irrelevant if it can't keep up with the times.

No less an expert on everything than Bill O'Reilly — who has a tiresome habit of making bogus claims that there is a War on Christmas — recently cited a poll showing 77 percent of people feel religion is losing its influence on American life.

Considering that politicians are quickly losing influence— another poll puts the current approval rating of Congress at 10 percent, which is even lower than Paula Deen's ratings — religion may be heading in the same direction.

Fact is, a majority of people now support same-sex marriage. It's a matter of fairness, equality, dignity, human rights, liberty and all that good stuff that conservative politicians and religious types always say they believe in, but apparently don't.

Also, considering the scandals — sexual and otherwise — that have involved politicians and religious leaders, you can't blame people for questioning their moral authority.

And the arguments against same-sex marriage? Please.

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