06/28/2013 12:52 pm ET Updated Aug 28, 2013

Defense of Marriage Act Defeated, Thank God

The Supreme Court has repealed the Defense of Marriage Act, which would restrict marriage to same-sex couples. Christians, of which I am one, should thank God. Literally, we should all fall on our collective knees and give thanks to God.

We should thank God for the privilege of living in a constitutional democracy and not in a religiously compliant republic or theocracy. We should thank God that the constitution's concern for individual rights has prevailed over the majority desire to inflict its will on everyone. We give thanks that we live at this time and in this place, a free and fair place, which has provided fertile soil for the flourishing of Christianity (and every other religion).

Some Christians have sunk millions of dollars into the legal defense of same-sex marriage. Large sums were donated by wealthy Christians who are otherwise impassioned defenders of freedom (especially freedom from taxation and government regulation of business). But the rights that permit the free expression of religion are the rights that likewise permit one to freely choose one's life partner. Rights and freedoms should not be held captive to the will of the religious majority.

One hopes that Christians can now rejoice in the great good of living in the land of freedom and justice for all, one that protects all. Christians can learn from their own history on this.

I am writing while traveling in Turkey. I have just visited the underground caves in Cappadocia, where early Christians sought refuge from savage persecution by the Romans. Roman law, in subjection to the Cult of Caesar, favored Roman religion and disfavored Christianity. The Christian minority was, by law, hounded and killed. Better if Rome had been more like the US of A.

When majority religions are aligned with power, the minority, often by law, suffers.

When "the Catholic monarchs" Ferdinand and Isabella came to power in the late fifteenth century, they instituted the Inquisition, which, among other uncool things, forced Jews to convert or be expelled from their homes in Spain. Jews who didn't convert or flee fast enough were burned on the pyre.

The Ottoman Turks, on the other hand, offered refuge to the Christian-persecuted Jews. During the Ottoman Empire, Muslim-dominated Turkey was a model of religious liberty and tolerance.

Sultan Beyazit II declared that the Jews of Spain should not be refused entry to Turkey and should be greeted "with warm feelings." Failure to respect the Jews was punishable by death. A contemporary Rabbi called Turkey, "the land where the flag with the crescent brought justice and tolerance."

Christian anti-Semitism was a gift that would keep giving in the rest of Europe from the time of Ferdinand and Isabella to Hitler. Better if Europe had been more like Ottoman Turkey.

While contemporary Turkey is a secular society, which permits the free expression of religion, other Muslim-majority countries are not so generous. In many Muslim-majority countries it is illegal for a Muslim to convert to Christianity; conversion can be punishable by death. Various practices, ones commonly accepted in Western countries, are forbidden by law (and punished severely). Better if Muslim-majority countries were more like the US of A and Turkey.

I'm not arguing that Christians should change their views on the moral legitimacy of homosexuality and gay marriage. I am not arguing that Christianity itself endorses homosexuality or embraces committed same-sex couples. I am arguing that even Christians who think homosexuality is an abomination should give thanks to God that their Supreme Court had the good sense not to accede to the will of the Christian majority and to move decisively to affirm our constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms.

It is those rights and freedoms which should not be breached by the majority (religious or otherwise). The greatness of the US lies not in its being a Christian nation (which it is not). It lies in its determination to protect our God-given rights and freedoms.

That's why Christian everywhere should fall on their knees and thank God for the privilege of living in a country which, by fits and starts, has decisively affirmed freedom and repulsed the tyranny of the majority.