Conservative Religious Leaders Condemn Same-Sex Marriage Rulings

We talk to religious conservatives about their response to Wednesday's Supreme Court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8.

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JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: This is John Burnett.

America's religious communities reacted swiftly and strongly to the landmark Supreme Court decisions. There aren't a lot of clergy on the fence. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called today a tragic day for marriage and our nation. The Mormon Church said in a statement it remains committed to strengthening traditional marriage between a man and a woman, which for thousands of years has proven to be the best environment for nurturing children.

The Traditional Values Coalition said that civilization eroded today. And former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, now a Fox News personality, declared that Jesus wept.

Christians should not respond to cultural change with anger but see it as a teaching moment, says Russell Moore. He's president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptists.

RUSSELL MOORE: Southern Baptist congregations and other evangelical congregations will have to see that, increasingly, our views of marriage are going to seem freakish in this culture. That does not lead me to despair. So it gives us the opportunity to talk about the difference between a Christian understanding of marriage and whatever the reigning attitude of sexual liberation is.

BURNETT: On the flip side of the religious divide, Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, wrote on its website: I welcome today's decision, noting the unmistakable movement toward civil marriage equality in the states.

The United Methodist Church officially refuses to ordain gay clergy or conduct same-sex ceremonies, but individual pastors can speak out. Reverend Jim Bankston, who holds the pulpit at St. Paul's Methodist in Houston, did just that.

REVEREND JIM BANKSTON: We happen to live in a time where we now understand that sexual orientation is not a matter of choice. It is a given in life. And therefore, it's not a moral issue and that people deserve the same rights as everyone else.

BURNETT: Constitutional scholar Michael McConnell told Christianity Today the Supreme Court news is a reminder that Christians should not place their faith in the government to uphold Christian standards. If a church has a strong belief on the issue, then it should advocate for its opinion.

John Burnett, NPR News.

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