Did Justice Kennedy Create Protection for Christians Against Homosexual Attacks?
After the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex “marriage” in all 50 states, the concern for many is how the ruling will affect churches and pastors. One can almost cut the tension with a knife as we await the first headline that a church and/or pastor has refused to perform a same-sex wedding.
Some say the Supreme Court made it clear that pastors, churches, and all people bound by religious convictions cannot be forced into violating their religious convictions. Justice Kennedy said in his remarks:
“Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.”
However, I’m not sure anyone really believes these remarks or the ruling by the Supreme Court will be enough to keep pastors and churches from being targeted. In fact, it was after the Supreme Court ruling that we learned a Christian couple in Oregon has been ordered to pay $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding in accordance with their religious convictions.
This case in Oregon began long before the Supreme Court decision, so perhaps the words of Justice Kennedy will make a difference and the couple will be exonerated. Time will tell.
In light of Kennedy’s words one has to wonder if the judgments against the photographer in New Mexico, the baker in Colorado, the florist in Washington, and the many others that have seen their lives ruined for adhering to their religious convictions will be reversed. After all, Justice Kennedy did say that “those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”
If his words are true then all those mentioned above should have the judgments against them dropped and reversed.
Still, it’s hard to believe that suddenly the effort to force Christians to accept homosexuality will somehow disappear after Justice Kennedy’s words. And the biggest target of them all is pastors and churches.
At least one state has taken measures to ensure pastors and churches are protected from anyone who would seek to force them to violate their convictions.
Texas recently passed the Pastor Protection Bill. The bill is partly a response to an incident last year when Houston mayor Annise Parker tried to subpoena pastors and their sermons for what she perceived was anti-homosexual speech. The national outcry was massive and Parker dropped her subpoena request. But Texas state lawmakers decided to make sure nothing of the sort every happened again.
Texas Values Action, a driving force behind the Pastor Protection Bill, issued this statement about the passage of the bill:
“Texas made an important decision today to specifically protect the religious freedom of our pastors and churches that follow their beliefs on marriage. Government at any level should not be allowed to punish our clergy and churches for following their faith on marriage. We are thankful for the pastors, churches and church leaders from all across the state that have led in this effort and have demonstrated the very real threats to religious freedom from those seeking to redefine marriage. We also thank Rep. Scott Sanford and Sen. Craig Estes and leaders in the House and Senate for their hard work in getting this bill passed. Passing the Pastor Protection Bill sends a clear message that Texas respects the religious freedom of those whose foundation is their faith. We look forward to Gov. Abbott signing the bill into law.”
Governor Greg Abbott has already voiced his support for the bill and his intention to sign it. This makes Texas the only state with a solid protection for pastors and churches against attacks from those who would seek to make them violate their convictions. It’s sad that such a protection is even needed – especially considering the First Amendment – and yet here we are.
What happens next remains to be seen. Will convictions be reversed? Will fines be removed? Will attacks against Christians be stopped? It’s hard to imagine that Justice Kennedy’s words alone will make all that happen. More probable is that we will see an increase in pressure on churches and pastors (and Christians in general) to perform same-sex weddings and accept homosexuals into their congregations.
But now is not the time to shrink back in despair. Now is the time to stand boldly and humbly for the sake of the Gospel. How we as Christians respond has the potential to change hearts and minds and see the message of the Gospel advance. Our response, rather than the circumstances around us should be our primary focus right now. It is of eternal value.