Will the Church Be Protected from the Legal Ramifications of Same-Sex “Marriage”?
In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this year forcing all states to recognize same-sex unions as legitimate “marriages,” measures to protect churches must be taken. We’ve already seen the legal prosecution of individuals for their refusal to participate in and support same-sex weddings. Common sense protections for churches and religious institutions and organizations simply makes sense.
The Southern Baptist state convention in Illinois has drafted a resolution affirming the right of churches and religious organizations to live and do business according to their faith. The resolution was adopted by the “Illinois Baptist State Association meeting in Marion, Illinois on November 11-12, 2015” in order to “reaffirm their churches unwavering commitment to their doctrinal and public beliefs concerning marriage.”
The resolution begins by laying the biblical framework for marriage. And while I will be the first to admit that Christians have done a poor job in adhering to the biblical structure God designed for marriage (i.e. adultery and divorce are issues needing addressed); that doesn’t change the biblical truth God established. The resolution is therefore correct in pointing out:
“WHEREAS, God in His divine wisdom and revealed Word created marriage as the covenanted, conjugal union of one man and one woman (Genesis 2:18– 24; Matthew 19:4–6; Hebrews 13:4);” and “The Baptist Faith & Message (2000), a consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by elected messengers to the 2000 Southern Baptist Convention recognizes the biblical definition of marriage as ‘the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime…’”
From there the proposed resolution cites both Constitutional law and local, Illinois law supporting the right of churches and religious organizations to refuse to support or affirm same-sex unions:
“The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America states that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus guaranteeing the free and public practice of religious faith; and First Amendment — Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses also protects churches in their ability to profess that they disagree with same-sex marriage in the pulpit, through their usage policy, and through their marriage performance policies. And Current Illinois law provides that a church, religious denomination, or clergy member is free to decide which marriages to solemnize, and marriage need not be solemnized by a clergy member in order to be legally valid. And, Article 1, section 3 of the Constitution of the State of Illinois reads: The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination, shall forever be guaranteed, and no person shall be denied any civil or political right, privilege or capacity, on account of his religious opinions.”
(The resolution specifically cites the following Illinois law: (750 ILCS 75/15) Sec. 15. Religious freedom. Nothing in this Act shall interfere with or regulate the religious practice of any religious body. Any religious body, Indian Nation or Tribe or Native Group is free to choose whether or not to solemnize or officiate a civil union. (Source: P.A. 96-1513, eff. 6-1-11.))
It’s clear from the plain understanding of these laws that anyone, not just a church, has the right to live and do business according to their sincerely held religious beliefs. The idea that the Supreme Court or any governing body can force a person to support anything that violates their conscience or religious convictions is completely foreign to the American Constitution. (This includes the taxpayer funding of abortion.) Our Founders specifically sought to create a place where people would not be forced to violate their convictions.
The proposed resolution goes on to cite cases from around the country where Christians have been prosecuted for their refusal to support same-sex “marriage.” These examples include a photographer in New Mexico, baker in Colorado, florist in Washington, and others that have seen their business and personal lives thrown into turmoil by an overzealous government and complicit media that are chomping at the bit to make examples of anyone that refuse to bow to their agenda.
The resolution goes on to propose the following law designed to protect churches and the people that work for them, as well as religious organizations and their employees and Christian-owned businesses:
“…that such aforementioned legislation should provide that no minister or clergyman, and no religious organization or individual employed by such a religious organization, should be required to solemnize any marriage, provide any services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for the purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of any marriage, nor to treat any marriage as valid for any purpose if the action would cause the organization or individual to violate a sincerely held religious belief. This legislation should further provide protection against any civil or criminal legal action, stating that a refusal to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods or privileges in such situations would not be the basis for a civil or criminal cause of action or any other action by this state or a political subdivision of this state in order to penalize or withhold benefits or privileges, including tax exemptions or governmental contracts, grants, or licenses, from any protected organization or individual.”
What is being proposed here is nothing less than what the Constitution already guarantees: that no person will be made to violate his or her religious convictions and those convictions will not be the base for any legal or civil action or penalty. Sadly the state of our legal landscape necessitates a resolution that clarifies the Constitution for those that seem to have lost its meaning.
But the call to add further protections for the church is not new. Alliance Defending Freedom has been urging churches to add additional statements to their Constitution and By-Laws for years now. I can remember sitting in meetings with their lawyers in 2009-10 where they strongly encouraged churches to adopt certain language that would protect the church from a growing legal threat. I would say the need for such language to be added is more critical today than ever. Churches should consider the “7 Things All Churches Should Have in Their By-Laws” and take measures to protect themselves now.
It would be wise for other denominations and associations to add the language of this resolution to their governing documents.