Homosexuality Is A Religious Sin, Not An Ethical One

Fighting gay sex--or even homosexual unions--only distracts from making straight marriage better

The United States Supreme Court's decision on Thursday to strike down a Texas ban on gay sex, ruling that the law was an unconstitutional violation of privacy, was necessary and correct. To be sure, I have devoted much of my career to upholding the institution of heterosexual marriage, and strengthening the religious commitment of American society. But I know that religion is sacred precisely because it involves freedom of choice. This is not Iran. We don't want a society where police can barge into a couple's bedroom to determine whether they're practicing sodomy or not and whisk them off to jail.

Senator Rick Santorum, a man I admire and respect, said in a recent interview with the Associated Press that if the justices overturned the Texas law, "then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery, you have the right to anything." The Senator is wrong. We don't prosecute people in America for adultery. No court would throw a man in jail for cheating on his wife, even if he deserved it. There has got to be a difference between moral and ethical sin and religious sin.

Homosexuality and sodomy are not ethical sins. No one is being hurt, no one is being cheated, nobody's rights are being infringed upon. Homosexuality is a religious sin, analogous to other Biblical prohibitions, like not eating the carcass of a dead animal, or not sleeping with a woman during her menstrual cycle. In many ways, adultery is even worse, because it does transgress ethics. It involves deception and lying. But we don't prosecute people for adultery.


I don't mean to minimize these prohibitions. I am an observant Jew who takes the Bible seriously. But a man who eats shellfish--which the Bible calls an abomination (Leviticus 11:12: "Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you") is not immoral so much as irreligious. Likewise, a man or a woman who works on the Sabbath is not unethical. They haven't stolen from anyone. But they have contravened a Biblical injunction.

Senator Santorum and Justice Scalia are simply wrong. Saying you won't throw homosexual men into jail for practicing gay sex is not condoning homosexuality, just as saying that we won't throw a cheating husband into the electric chair is not condoning adultery. We don't have Kalashnikov-armed mullahs beating our women for walking in the streets without having their breasts hidden. We believe in the power of G-d's laws to be argued rationally and logically and to win arguments in the marketplace of ideas, rather than blowing people away for being infidels.

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Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
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