Religious Freedom versus Sexual Expression: A Guide


Claimed rights to sexual expression unlinked to the creation of children, are among the strongest challenges facing the free exercise of religion in the United States today. Such rights gained importance by means of a series of Supreme Court opinions associating consensual sexual expression unlinked to children with human dignity and even personal identity. These were accompanied by legal and cultural movements, led by more privileged Americans, diminishing children’s rights in favor of adults’, in the context of sex, marriage and parenting. Laws and regulations protecting and promoting sexual expression detached from children are powerfully affecting religious institutions that operate health care, educational, and social services available to all Americans; the Catholic Church is a particularly prominent supplier of all of these services. Respecting the Catholic Church, it is possible but quite difficult to maintain respect for its free exercise of religion in the current environment, potentially by highlighting its measurable contributions to the common good. It might also be useful to show the close link between Catholic teachings on sex and marriage and the entire Catholic cosmology, such that coercing Catholics to behave otherwise is tantamount to coercing them to practice a different faith.