In my previous entry, I referenced to the Coeur d'Alene, ID, law requiring the owners of a small wedding chapel to perform same-sex marriages or face jail time and fines.
On Monday, October 20, the Washington Times reported, quoting from the Daily Signal, "The Knapps [owners of the Hitching Post wedding chapel] face a 180-day jail term and a $1,000 fine for each day they decline to celebrate the same-sex wedding."
Since that time, the Huffington Post reported that city officials in Coeur d'Alene have stated that the Knapps are not in any danger of jail time or fines, nor has any civil complaint be filed against them. On the other side of the country, Houston city officials and pastors were making headlines where subpoenas were issued to get sermon notes from pastors. The city wanted to know if pastors were using to the pulpit to organize anything in a political manner. But at the heart of the issue was discrimination in public places of those those in the LGBT community. And who can tell this story without also mentioning that the mayor of Houston is the first openly lesbian mayor of the city. This story too seems to been resolved and the subpoenas dropped. As a result, some in social media and even the public media want the story to go away. But how can it? The issues these stories raise must be dealt with in the face of increased threats of legal action for living out one's faith.
The Idaho story stands out because it's the first time ordained pastors have received public attention for refusal to perform a same-sex marriage. The Houston story stands out because a legal attempt was made to pull sermons into court. Stories such as these will become more frequent in the near the future.
So what happens when religious liberty collides with civil liberty and gay rights?
Political correctness, politics, and a growing segment of society led by celebrities and certain public news outlets, are demanding of me to be accepting and accommodating of minority groups or of those with varying faith positions or alternate lifestyles. A Baptist pastor in Georgia had his YouTube channel canceled because of his remarks about Islam and ISIS (though YouTube has since reinstated the channel). A man is forced to make wedding cakes in Colorado for homosexual couples, and his employees were compelled to take non-discrimination sensitivity training. And the list continues to grow as the stories pile up.
Former Arkansas Governor and US Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee said on his Facebook page [Oct 21]: "Remember when same-sex marriage activists used to claim that it would never infringe on other people's religious beliefs? Well, that was a lie..."
Here's my point and position: Everyone wants rights. Those in the LGBT community want civil rights. They want to get married. But I want my rights too! I want the freedom to say, "No, I don't agree and not have to worry about a lawsuit. Saying no doesn't make me a bigot as some have suggested. It simply means I have different values. I don't agree with the LGBT lifestyles. But I don't have to. Ultimately that is between the individual and God. So if someone wants to get married, then do so. But as a minister and person of faith, I can't and won't perform same-sex marriages. My choice isn't rooted in hatred but in faith. I would hope that my friends who might want a same-sex wedding would respect me enough not to ask. And if you are in the community, why would you come to me, knowing I don't agree--unless you are trying to force an agenda? But isn't that more akin to bullying?
My saying no doesn't trample anyone's civil rights in this matter because it's not just about same-sex marriage. It's about liberty. "Liberty and justice for all." There are people who agree with same-sex marriage--pastors and justices of the peace. There are people advocating for it. Why not go to one of them for your wedding? Because when you take me to court for saying no, you are violating my rights--the very rights you insist on having. You are trampling my liberty. Nicolle Martin, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom is on to something when she says, "They are turning people of faith into religious refugees."
In my last post I agreed that we should be loving and forgiving, but I also took a stand. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive. Jesus demonstrated love, acceptance, and forgiveness, at the same time He held a standard. It's interesting that people often want to ask what Jesus would do. But as someone else wisely points out, sometimes Jesus kneels in the sand and says, "Where are those who condemned you? Neither do I condemn you... Go and sin no more." And sometimes He drives people out of the temple for turning it "into a den of thieves." He toed the line and upheld a standard.
In his blog, Christian author and film producer Phil Cooke responded to the Supreme Court decision involving Hobby Lobby from June of this year. There he asks a question every Christian should answer: "When it comes to engaging the culture, will we ever need to draw a line?" He then says this:
"Sure, let's be humble and gracious. Absolutely, let's engage in a spirit of love and respect. But is there a point where we say enough is enough? At some point, the early church decided further cultural accommodation wasn't possible.... Obviously, the Church in America hasn't faced that challenge, and in spite of flare-ups our level of religious freedom is still remarkable. But if history is any teacher, we one day may be forced to decide that Biblical principles can no longer be compromised." (Phil Cooke, posted 6/30/2014.)
He is absolutely right. But what does that look like? I'll tackle that question in a future blog.
NOTE: The comments posted below were posted on the original blog before I moved it to this current location...
Well said, again, Ben. Will continue following your blog. Thank you for reasoning through the complicated intersection of love and law.
Outstanding . . . well thought out . . . touches many key points at the heart of this whole issue. Thanks, Ben, for taking the time to think this through and then share those thoughts.