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The Clash of Orthodoxies and Human Sexuality

Robert George, a leading Catholic intellectual, has long recognized that the West is experiencing a clash of orthodoxies. This clash, George notes, is between the Judeo-Christian worldview which has formed Western civilization and the “isms” that seek to displace and supersede the foundations of Western culture. These “isms” typically pertain to “sexuality, the transmitting and taking of human life, and the place of religion and religiously informed moral judgment in public life.” He identifies these “isms” as “contemporary American life-feminism, multiculturalism, gay liberationism, [and] lifestyle liberalism” which he names “the secularist orthodoxy.”

This clash of orthodoxies is apparent in numerous contexts, most especially during this legislative session. This year there has been a marked increase of legislative bills that would seek to redefine the government’s conception of human sexuality, expand access to contraception, in vitro fertilization, and abortion, and undermine the moral and religious beliefs of people of faith.

As I type these words, the legislature is debating a legislative bill—LB627—that embodies this clash of orthodoxies.

LB627 provides special legal protections to the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual or Allied) community by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender” identity into two general areas of law. First, LB627 allows cities and villages to adopt ordinances and policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the context of public accommodations, housing, and employment. Second, LB627 amends Nebraska’s employment law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Supporters of this legislation arduously claim that nobody should be fired or discriminated against because of who they are or who they love—and that Nebraska is morally backwards, hateful, bigoted, and a bad place for business if we do not adopt this policy.

As Catholics, we undoubtedly must be cognizant of and attentive to the fact that each person is created in the image and likeness of God, full of dignity that can neither be given nor taken away by government. This is as true for those in the LGBTQIA+ community as it is for anybody else. For example, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, those with same-sex attraction “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (paragraph 2358).

If LB627 were limited to advancing the dignity of all people it would be one thing. However, LB627 forces employers, small business owners, religious organizations, among others, to affirm problematic and immoral views about marriage and human sexuality. And, if they refuse to abide by this government-view of marriage and human sexuality, they would be punished, placing their livelihood at risk.

The legal consequences of these policies have been on full display in the stories of people like Jack Phillips (the Colorado cake artist who was recently vindicated by the United State Supreme Court against a law like LB627) and Barronelle Stutzman (the Washington florist)—visit to learn about these stories and others.

What becomes clear, then, with legislation like LB627, is that the issue of discrimination is secondary. What is primary is ensuring that the state adheres to and enforces a particular worldview about human sexuality and marriage—a worldview which undermines reality, the fact that marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman and that our sex as male or female is biologically given to us by the Creator. This is the clash of orthodoxies contained in LB627—a match between two diametrically opposed worldviews.

And though this legislation will once again, as it has for nearly 20 years, fail to gain traction and the support needed to pass through the legislature, there is no doubt that this “clash of orthodoxies” will live to see another day. It will rear its head in other policies and it will return in the years to come.

In the meanwhile, it is incumbent upon Catholics to affirm the God-given human dignity of each person, to embody the love of Jesus Christ. This means not engaging in unjust discrimination of any person, but also recognizing that God has created and structured reality—marriage and sexuality—in a particular way.

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