Illinois Interfaith Coalition Opposes Latest Push to Redefine Marriage, Episcopal Bishop in Favor

(Photo Credit: Daniel Schwen/Creative Commons)The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, is seen in a file photo.

An interfaith coalition called on Illinois lawmakers to support traditional marriage in the wake a new push by the state's lawmakers to define marriage to include any two people while the Episcopal Church Bishop of Chicago urged support for the legislation.

An interfaith coalition of Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Muslims, Anglicans and Mormons told state lawmakers in a letter last week that marriage and religious freedom are "ideals" integral to the state of Illinois which lawmakers should maintain.

"We implore all people of good will to protect marriage and religious freedom," a group of told state lawmakers in a letter last week.

The coalition issued a letter last week after State Sen. Heather Sterns of Chicago pledged to fight to pass legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage when the Senate reconvenes on Jan. 9. A bid to pass legislation during the lame-duck session seems to have stalled.

Meanwhile, the Bishop Jeffrey D. Lee of the Episcopal Church said he supported legislation, telling parishioners that it "imposes no duties on you."

"[E]xtending the benefits of civil marriage to same-sex couples has made it easier for them to order their lives together, to care for on another and to raise children in a stable home," he wrote. "Creating stronger, happier households contributes to the common good, and that is enough reason to support any legislation."

While the Episcopal Church currently defines marriage as being between one man and woman, it recently approved a rite of blessing for same-sex couples committed to lifelong relationships on a three-year provisional basis.

"As a Christian, I believe that our society needs all of the sources and signs of grace that we can get," Bishop Lee added. "As a citizen of the United States, I believe in equal protection under the law. I believe that both ends will be served when marriage equality is the law of the land in Illinois, and I am grateful to be bishop in a church that offers all couples a community of faith, love, support and accountability."

The coalition warned that individuals and religious organizations will be compelled to treat same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage if the institution is redefined in civil law.

"[T]he real peril: if marriage is redefined in civil law, individuals and religious organizations – regardless of deeply held beliefs – will be compelled to treat same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage in their lives, ministries and operations," the coalition wrote. "Compulsion of this nature is a violation of personal conscience and of religious liberty."

The letter from leaders represents about 1,700 congregations and ministries in the state, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Legalizing same-sex marriage would give rise "to a profound interference with the exercise of religious freedom for those persons and religious institutions whose faith and doctrine recognize the spiritual foundation of marriage as an authorized union between a man and a woman."

Coalition signatories include: The Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, His Eminence Francis Cardinal George; the President of the Northern Illinois District of the Lutheran chruch - Missouri Synod; the Rt. Rev. jual Alberto Morales, Bishop of Quincy of the Diocese of Quincy Anglican Church in North America; and Elder Jack Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The coalition also includes individual Baptist, Presbyterian, and Evangelical churches.

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