Kansas Bishops Issue Statement on Brownback Executive Order

We are grateful that Governor Brownback has acted so swiftly to address some of the threats to religious freedom that have taken on new urgency since the United States Supreme Court’s misguided decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

When five individuals on the Supreme Court redefined the institution of marriage for the entire country, the Kansas marriage amendment approved by 70% of the voters in 2005 was struck down. Since, however, no court can change the true nature of marriage, many Kansans continue to recognize that marriage can only be the union of a man and a woman. Those Kansans, and the religious institutions they belong to, should not be punished by the government for believing what almost all people everywhere believed until just a relatively short time ago.

No priest or minister should be forced by the state to perform a ceremony contrary to that priest or minister’s faith tradition. Yet religious freedom means much more than this. In America, religious freedom has not just meant the right to hold a religious ceremony in a private setting, confined to the four walls of a church. In this country, religious freedom has meant the right to live one’s faith in one’s daily life, at home and at work, in private and in public.

Given the far reaching effects that redefining marriage will have on the law, and the fact that this incredibly consequential change in national social policy was effected by judicial fiat rather than the democratic process, there is tremendous uncertainty as to what the Obergefell decision will mean for everyday people just trying live their faith as they always have.

Over the last several years, Catholic Charities in Boston, Washington DC, and Illinois have been forced to close their adoption ministries because they will only place children in homes with a mother and father. Just last week, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry fined the Christian owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa $135,000 for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony. Now that a constitutional right to same-sex marriage has been created, these kinds of cases, already on the rise, will undoubtedly proliferate.

Kansans who believe that every child deserves a mother and a father should not be punished by the government for that belief. We urge Governor Brownback and members of the Legislature to make the protection of religious freedom for all Kansans a top priority in the coming months. Generations of Americans have taken freedom of conscience for granted. We, sadly, do not have that luxury anymore.

Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann
Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas

Most Reverend John B. Brungardt
Bishop of Dodge City

Most Reverend Edward J. Weisenburger
Bishop of Salina

Most Reverend Carl A. Kemme
Bishop of Wichita