Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Monday, June 29, 2015
By Dave Boyer and Cheryl Wetzstein - The Washington Times - Sunday, June 28, 2015
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right, the battleground is shifting to religious freedom and whether religious people and/or churches can be compelled to sanction behavior contrary to their religious beliefs.
The court’s 5-4 ruling on Friday directs states to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but doesn’t address the actions of churches or other private groups. Conservatives and religious leaders say the decision is certain to embolden liberal activists and accelerate legal clashes between supporters of gay marriage and religious groups who don’t accept same-sex marriage.
“We’re going to see pretty quickly what Pandora’s box is, because Christians are going to be told — are already being told — that they have no legal right to not participate,” said Gary Bauer, president of the nonprofit group American Values. “The early signs are not good.”
As a result of the ruling, some of the dissenting Supreme Court justices said they foresee new legal challenges related to religious liberty in three particular areas: the tax-exempt status of religious organizations, the unwillingness of some churches and individuals to perform same-sex marriages and gay adoption.
Justice Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. said he’s concerned that the ruling “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.”
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote of the looming legal battles: “In our society, marriage is not simply a governmental institution; it is a religious institution as well. It appears all but inevitable that the two will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.”
Others predict legal challenges over issues such as whether a Christian university that provides housing for traditional married couples could be required to provide it for same-sex couples as well.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the ruling a “tragic error” and vowed to continue preaching the church’s doctrine on marriage as the permanent union of a man and a woman to their parishes.
“Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth,” Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement.
Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said the court has changed the legal definition of marriage, not the biblical truth about marriage.
“As we respect a legal ruling with which we do not agree, we ask others to respect our faith and practices even when they disagree with us,” he said.
Within hours of the court’s decision, some religious leaders were vowing they’ll never perform same-sex weddings.
“Those of us who believe that marriage was ordained by God and reserved for one man and one woman, will not abide by this ruling,” said Pastor Rick Scarborough, president of Vision America Action in Nacogdoches, Texas. “We will denounce this practice in our services, we will not teach it in our schools, we will refuse to officiate at this type of wedding, and we will not accept any encroachments on our First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court’s decision to redefine marriage from its biblical origins is offensive to millions.”
Rep. Joseph R. Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican, said the ruling “will lead to grave infringements of religious freedom across the United States.”
“Every American should be free to affirm the truth about marriage without being punished by the government,” Mr. Pitts said. “In the wake of this decision, we must ensure that no governmental entity is ever permitted to discriminate against Americans because they affirm the truth about marriage. No one should be forced to choose between their faith and their livelihood.”
Liberal Catholics praised the decision. Christopher J. Hale, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, called the ruling “a moment of great joy for many Catholics” and said the church should seek forgiveness for discriminating against gays.
Secularists agreed, calling the traditional religious definition of marriage irrelevant.
“Our country is finally moving beyond outdated, religious definitions of marriage,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “This is a victory for all LGBTQ Americans and allies who fought vigorously against discrimination.”
Such anti-religious sentiments worry David Lane of the American Renewal Project, who is training pastors nationwide in how to run for office. He predicted legal attacks on churches and other groups who oppose same-sex marriage.
“They are going to say to churches, ‘If you are going to have a tax-exempt status, you are going to perform homosexual marriage wedding[s], and if you don’t, we are going to remove your tax-deductible status,’” Mr. Lane said. “They are going to say to Christian radio, ‘Homosexual marriage is the law of the land determined by the Supreme Court. If you don’t agree with that, then you are going to lose your FCC licenses.’ This is where it is headed — easily it is. I am convinced of it.”
Members of Congress, led by Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, and Rep. Raul R. Labrador, Idaho Republican, have introduced a First Amendment Defense Act, which would prevent the federal government from discriminating against anyone who believes marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
Congress and state governments should “move immediately” to enact First Amendment Defense Acts, said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.
Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute, said states must also pass laws to require “the genetic parents” be named on “every birth certificate, for every child,” so vital information will not be hidden or falsified from any person.
The nation needs “the strongest possible religious freedom bills” and strong state-based family policy partners, said Tom Minnery, president of chief executive of CitizenLink.com.
Churches should “adopt a clear statement of faith regarding human sexuality and marriage,” clarify that church weddings “are Christian worship services” and adopt a policy restricting use of ministry facilities to the ministry’s religious purposes, said Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association.
“Although the ongoing debate about marriage now enters a new phase, it is far from over,” said Jim Campbell, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom.
Travis Weber, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council, said although the court’s ruling doesn’t “implicate” churches directly, it “will lend support to efforts to sideline and marginalize traditional religious beliefs.”
One pastor, Steve Smothermon of Legacy Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, even said he’d rather go to jail than preside at a same-sex wedding.
“We want to help people, but we are not going to be forced by the government and society or the politically correct to say we are going to believe in it,” he told CNN.com. “If they said, ‘Listen, pastor, we are going to put you in jail if you don’t honor this,’ I am going to say, ‘Then put me in jail.’”
President Obama, who praised the ruling, said supporters of same-sex marriage should recognize that many others don’t accept it.
"I know that Americans of good will continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue,” Mr. Obama said. “Opposition in some cases has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs. All of us who welcome [the ruling] should be mindful of that fact, recognize different viewpoints [and] revere our deep commitment to religious freedom.”
Mr. Bauer said the president’s words amounted to “a great laugh line.”
“His administration has aggressively attacked religious liberty,” Mr. Bauer said. “He’s playing rhetorical games again. There is nothing his administration has done that should give anybody any sense of ease by that statement.”
Some religious leaders took similar heart in Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s words that religious people “may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”
But Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coalition, said those words meant people can “advocate” for traditional marriage but “cannot operate according to those beliefs.” Instead, she said, First Amendment religious freedoms will surely be pitted against the ruling’s newly established “right to dignity.”
The high court’s opinion “gives lip service to the rights of people of faith,” said Maureen Ferguson of The Catholic Association. Already Catholic Charities agencies have been forced out of adoption, and Christians who are bakers, florists or fire chiefs have suffered “merely for respectful expression of their views,” she said.
• Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.
Friday, June 26, 2015
By Cheryl Wetzstein - The Washington Times - Thursday, June 25, 2015
The decades long guessing game of what the Supreme Court will do about gay marriage will end either Friday morning or early next week.
Proponents on both sides of the legalization issue are hoping for a victory, but several other theories abound about what the nine justices might do in this landmark case.
At stake are the marriage laws of 14 states — including Alabama — where lawmakers and voters acted to retain laws that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
Arrayed against them are dozens of court rulings in favor of gay marriage, backed up by hundreds of gay rights plaintiffs, gay marriage campaigns and fresh public opinion polls showing approval of the nuptials.
“It’s never wise to be certain, but we are certainly hopeful,” Mary Bonauto of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders has told supporters.
Mario Diaz, legal counsel at Concerned Women for America, however, says he cannot imagine the high court imposing same-sex marriage on all 50 states.
If Justice Anthony M. Kennedy were to be the deciding vote, “he would be invalidating the vote of millions of Americans who went to the voting booth to affirm the traditional definition of marriage,” Mr. Diaz wrote recently in The Blaze. “Think about that: One judge versus millions of citizens. One judge against history, really.”
America’s gay marriage saga started in earnest in 1990, when three gay couples sought marriage licenses in Hawaii and were denied because they were the same sex. They sued the state for discrimination based on sex.
In the ensuing decades, gay plaintiffs have sought to marry in every state. Citizens in 31 states, seeking to maintain the complementarity of marriage, voted to amend their state constitutions to keep traditional marriage.
The 2013 Windsor v. United States ruling by the Supreme Court that struck down a federal law defining marriage — in part on the basis that states set marriage laws — prompted new gay marriage lawsuits in every state.
The current lawsuit started when gay plaintiffs in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee sued to marry or have their out-of-state marriages recognized. All the plaintiffs won in federal court.
However, in November, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled those cases and upheld the rights of state lawmakers to maintain their marriage laws, which define marriage as only the union of one man and one woman.
Gay plaintiffs in the four states asked the Supreme Court to overturn the 6th Circuit. Oral arguments in their combined case, Obergefell v. Hodges, were held April 28.
The high court’s two questions to address are whether the 14th Amendment — written after the Civil War to guarantee equal treatment and due process to blacks — requires states to license marriages of two people of the same sex and/or recognize same-sex marriages that are legal elsewhere.
The wide expectation among gay rights groups is that the high court will rule — must rule — that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right and must be adopted immediately coast to coast.
“Only those who are willfully blind to the common humanity of gay people today can deny what is clear under the Constitution,” Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom of Marry, told a recent debate on Intelligence Squared.
Already counties in states without gay marriage are preparing their documents to accept gay couples, as early as within an hour of a favorable Supreme Court ruling, Freedom to Marry said.
Mr. Wolfson also told USA Today recently that he will host a massive party in Manhattan on decision day. Hopefully, it will be a celebration, Mr. Wolfson told USA Today, “but if not — a mobilization.”
State officials from the four states have been largely quiet on the lawsuit, although Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has recently enacted a law to permit religiously based adoption agencies, which work with the state to place foster children, to retain their policies based on clear statements of faith.
In April, Michigan’s former solicitor general, John J. Bursch, argued tenaciously that the traditional definition of marriage is a rational state policy; people have the right, through the democratic process, to determine their marriage laws; and the high court should affirm the people’s rights.
Traditional values advocates are pointing to religious liberty battles that will loom should the high court nationalize gay marriage as a constitutional right. Some lawmakers have enacted or proposed laws to preserve people’s rights to opt out of participating in same-sex marriages or say things like only man-woman marriage is God’s divine plan.
Moreover, if the court does declare gay marriage a right, it will open the door for polygamy and polyandry for starters, veteran attorney Gene Schaerr told the Family Research Council earlier this year.
That’s because the 14th Amendment was enacted in the middle of a political battle over polygamy in U.S. territories, Mr. Schaerr said.
The Supreme Court didn’t use it in 1878 to legalize marriages of multiple people, he said. But now, if there is a right to same-sex marriage by virtue of the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection clauses, “that would also have to mean” there is “a right to polygamy,” Mr. Schaerr said.
Other theories being bandied about include:
• The Supreme Court could vote to send the case back to the 6th Circuit to re-examine it under a standard of “heightened” scrutiny instead of the rational basis standard it used. If the justices did that, the 6th Circuit would “almost certainly rule in favor of same-sex marriage eventually” and, given unity with other federal appellate courts, the issue might “never come back to the justices,” New York lawyer Chanakya Sethi wrote for Slate.com.
• The Supreme Court could decide that it “improvidently” granted review of the gay marriage cases and dismiss them without issuing an opinion.
The “whole idea of a Federalist Republic is that the states get to pass and interpret their own laws,” Ambassador Douglas Kmiec, a legal scholar, wrote on Huffington Post in April.
The numerous “religious-freedom wars” already erupting are a warning sign for the court that it is risking “over-extension” of its function in society, Mr. Kmiec wrote. When judges write a view that is either pro-gay or anti-gay, he added, it “provokes resentment from the disfavored side in ways that democratic choice for one side or other does not.”
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
By Emma Koonse
June 16, 2015|3:33 pm| The Christian Post|
Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd told messengers gathered at the opening day of the denomination's annual gathering Tuesday that "now is the time to lead," on issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and racism.
"We are in spiritual warfare, and this is not a time for Southern Baptists to shrink back in timidity or shrink back with uncertainty," said Floyd during his opening address at the SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio. "Crises abound; the need is great hour is late, and now is the time to lead."
The SBC president also highlighted global calamities including the advance of ISIS, human trafficking, Boko Haram, the persecution of Christians as well as crippling problems in the U.S., such as poverty, debt, and race relations.
"We are adrift in denial," said Floyd, quoting Peggy Noonan.
The senior pastor at Cross Church in Springdale, Arkansas, prayed for the next great spiritual awakening, stating "we need a Jesus revolution" in the U.S. before addressing hot-button moral issues under fire in the legal system today like abortion.
"America, we stand believing that abortion is a glaring desecration of the unborn child's purpose and value," said Floyd. "We must be vigilant in this fight for the unborn child. All human life and human dignity — from the womb to the tomb. God has created all of us for His glory, and when we devalue human life, we are robbing God of his intended glory for every person in the world."
Referring to the U.S. Supreme Court's upcoming decision on whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry or whether state bans against same-sex marriage can remain in place, Floyd took a firm stance in his religious conviction that marriage is strictly between one man and one woman.
"We do not need to redefine what God himself has defined already," he said.
Floyd explained to the audience that they will be asked to approve a resolution that affirms Southern Baptist beliefs on marriage. The resolution also reminds Christians to love our neighbors and extend respect to all people, even those who disagree with them.
"While we affirm our love for all people, including those struggling with same-sex attractions, we cannot and will not affirm any behavior that deviates from God's design for marriage," said Floyd. "Our first commitment is to God and nothing else and no one else. I humbly remind everyone today the Supreme Court of the United States is not the final authority, nor is the culture itself, but the Bible is God's final authority about marriage and on this book we stand."
In his final comment on same-sex marriage, Floyd took an oath to never sanctify gay marriage.
"I declare to everyone today as a minister of the Gospel, I will not officiate over any same-sex unions or same-sex marriage ceremonies, I completely refuse," said the pastor.
On the issue of race relations, Floyd asserted: "America, we stand believing that all humanity bearing of God's image is not contingent upon one's skin color, and we also believe all racism and injustice must end. We need to let grace begin uniting our hearts in the bonds of peace. We need to learn to love one another as Christ loved us.
Monday, June 15, 2015
By Samuel Smith
June 12, 2015|1:10 pm| The Christian Post|
More than 70 leaders in the Christian education field signed letters to Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., last week advocating for legislation that will protect Christian institutions from from being punished by the government for upholding biblical views on marriage.
As concern grows regarding whether or not the IRS will be able to strip Christian schools and institutions of their tax-exempt statuses for upholding a traditional view on marriage should the Supreme Court rule in favor of making same-sex marriage a constitutional right, over 30,000 Christian schools could be at extreme financial risk if they don't construct their policies to accommodate for same-sex relationships.
The letter specifically calls on members of Congress to support the Government Non Discrimination Act, a bill soon to be introduced by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, that would prohibit the government from retaliating against institutions that uphold an definition of marriage being a union between only one man and one woman.
"We urge you in the strongest terms to protect the schools we represent, as well as other Americans who live and work in our great country, from such unwarranted and unconstitutional abridgements of the liberty we always have cherished in our nation," the letter reads.
Initiated by the Family Research Council, the letter cites the exchange between the Obama administration's' lead attorney, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, and Justice Samuel Alito when the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges on April 28. Verrilli told Alito that Christian schools being at risk of losing their tax-exempt statuses was "certainly going to be an issue" if same-sex marriage was constitutionalized.
The letter cites the Association of American Universities to explain just how crucial tax exemption is for higher education institutions, as tax-exempt status allows schools to "maximize the benefits that they provide society." Additionally the letter contends that losing tax-exempt statuses would cause "severe financial distress for those institutions and their millions of students."
When questioned by Chief Justice John Roberts as to whether Christian schools would be required to let married same-sex couples live together in married school housing, Verrilli responded by saying that it would depend on how states orchestrate their civil laws and added that there is currently no federal law enacted currently that forces them to do so.
"In other words, should such a federal law be enacted, Christian institutions that offer student or constituent housing could be mandated to provide such to same-sex couples." the letter asserts. "Additionally, even if there is no sexual orientation law, it is difficult to see how educational institutions that recognize marriage in their housing, for instance, will not be required to recognize same-sex marriage benefits as well if the Court redefines marriage."
Although losing tax-exempt statuses would be a major financial blow for Christian institutions, most Christian schools will not be coerced into accepting a new definition of marriage or sexual morality, the letter asserts.
"The majority of these institutions hold to religious traditions that forbid sexual intimacy outside of marriage between one man and one woman, and will not jettison these convictions for any tax benefit," the letter states. "Its loss would be premised on a historic abandonment of the principles of religious liberty that are foundational to our republic and also would have a profoundly adverse financial effect on religious-based primary, secondary, collegiate, and post-graduate institutions."
"If the government could revoke the tax exempt status of such schools, what is to prevent other forms of government discrimination such as revoking grants or contracts or funding for services unrelated to marriage?" the letter continues.
Among the 74 signatories are Russell Moore, president of Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Keith Wiebe, president of the American Association of Christian Schools, Albert R. Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Tony Perkins, FRC president and Louisiana College trustee.
Last Wednesday, Sen. Lee held a press conference in his office in Capitol Hill to announce his plan to reintroduce the Government Non Discrimination Act, which he introduced in 2014 and received over 100 co-sponsors in both houses.
"When the government itself is retaliating against someone based on their religious beliefs, that is a problem and that is what we are trying to protect here," Lee said. "Tax-exempt status for religious institutions has historically been granted because we want to keep the government out of the business of interfering with religion. It really ought not be in the business of disrupting the business of a church or religious institution."
Friday, June 12, 2015
BY MICHAEL GRYBOSKI , CHRISTIAN POST REPORTER
May 29, 2015|10:40 am| The Christian Post |
The Republican governor of North Carolina has vetoed a bill that would have allowed state magistrates to opt out of performing gay marriages if they held a religious objection to homosexuality.
Gov. Pat McCrory announced the veto in a Thursday statement.
"I recognize that for many North Carolinians, including myself, opinions on same-sex marriage come from sincerely held religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman. However, we are a nation and a state of laws," stated McCrory.
"Whether it is the president, governor, mayor, a law enforcement officer, or magistrate, no public official who voluntarily swears to support and defend the Constitution and to discharge all duties of their office should be exempt from upholding that oath; therefore, I will veto Senate Bill 2."
From 1998 to 2012, electoral majorities in over half the states in the nation passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage.
North Carolina was the last of these states when in May 2012 Amendment 1 passed with 61.04 percent of the vote in favor.
Last October, a federal judge struck down Amendment 1 and another judge in the state issued a similar ruling that same month regarding other lawsuits.
In response to the judicial decision, a number of state magistrates resigned from their position rather than perform same-sex weddings.
Introduced in late January, Senate Bill 2 was primarily sponsored by Republican State Senator Phil Berger, who serves as president pro tempore.
"Every magistrate has the right to recuse from performing all lawful marriages under this Chapter based upon any sincerely held religious objection," read SB 2 in part.
"Every assistant register of deeds and deputy register of deeds has the right to recuse from issuing all lawful marriage licenses under this Chapter based upon any sincerely held religious objection."
SB 2 was passed by the Senate in late February and then again by the House on Thursday in a vote on third reading of 67 ayes to 43 nays.
Regarding the Governor's veto, Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore issued a joint statement saying they "respect but disagree with the governor's decision."
"Unfortunately, Senate Bill 2 is necessary because a bureaucracy failed to make reasonable accommodations and instead forced some magistrates to make an impossible choice between their core religious beliefs and their jobs,"continued the joint statement.
"A majority of the people's elected representatives in both chambers agreed that this bill strikes an appropriate balance between the expansion of rights for some and our constitutionally-protected freedom of religion.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
June 11, 2015|7:57 am| The Christian Post|
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Alliance Defending Freedom published legal guidance to help Christian groups prepare for the religious freedom challenges likely to result from sexual orientation and gender identity nondiscrimination ordinances, and the legalization of gay marriage.
According to a press release shared with The Christian Post, the guidebook is "for churches, schools and nonprofit organizations to use for their organizational structure in light of changes in the culture concerning marriage."
The resource, "Protecting Your Ministry From Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Lawsuits," is available for free on the ERLC website.
Though the ERLC represents Southern Baptists, the guidance is broad enough to help any church that has chosen to remain firm on the biblical teachings about gender, marriage and sexuality.
"Without soul freedom we have no other liberties," ERLC President Russell Moore said. "The church cannot outsource its convictions to the state. I am grateful to partner with the Alliance Defending Freedom to produce this resource to help equip churches on how to remain faithful to our mission in a culture that often disagrees with our message."
To best protect themselves from potential legal challenges, the guidebook offers specific suggestions depending upon whether the Christian organization is a church, school or ministry.
All Christian churches, schools and ministries, for instance, should have statements of faith, religious employment criteria and a facility use policy.
Since legal challenges will likely come from "sexual liberty" type laws, such as sexual orientation and gender identity ordinances, the guide recommends that the statement of faith include a statement on marriage, gender and sexuality.
"Issues of marriage and gender now regularly confront religious organizations. Churches are receiving requests to use their facilities for same-sex ceremonies, in direct violation of their beliefs. Christian schools are being asked to employ persons who identify as transgender. And Christian ministries are facing difficult decisions concerning employees in same-sex relationships and employees who are confused about their sex. As a result, it is important that churches, Christian schools, and Christian ministries develop a clear statement on marriage, gender, and sexuality within their statements of faith," the guidebook states.
Examples of all the statement recommendations are contained in an appendix to the guide.
Later this month the U.S. Supreme Court will decide if the U.S. Constitution requires all states to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. While that decision could heighten the religious freedom challenges of faithful churches, the legal guide notes throughout that these challenges are already happening. Plus, sexual orientation and gender identity ordinances that have been, and may continue to be, passed at the state and local level present challenges of their own.
The legal guide also recommends that churches have a formal membership policy and marriage policy. Both schools and ministries should have a religious mission statement, code of Christian conduct and emphasis on their religious character. Schools should clearly delineate their admissions, disciplinary and dimissal procedures; and include the mission statement, statement of faith and code of Christian conduct in a handbook that all parents, students and employees must sign.
Additionally, students at Christian schools should recieve religious instruction, not only because it is good for the students, but because the school could lose its religious freedom protections if it becomes indistinguishable from a secular school.
"Adopting the action steps recommended in the previous pages cannot insulate your church, Christian school, or Christian ministry from all attacks by marriage counterfeits and those advocating for complete sexual license. But acting upon these suggestions will place your organization in a more defensible legal position should it face a lawsuit for discrimination," the guide states.
The book also contains a disclaimer noting that the advice is general and should not "be a substitute for legal analysis, legal advice, or consultation with appropriate legal counsel."
The guide recommends contacting ADF for any additional legal questions.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
June 10, 2015|8:27 am | THE CHRISTIAN POST |
A number of prominent pastors and lay leaders have signed a petition pledging civil disobedience if a U.S. Supreme Court decision redefining marriage to include same-sex couples infringes upon their religious freedom.
"Experience and history have shown us that if the government redefines marriage to grant a legal equivalency to same-sex couples, that same government will then enforce such an action with the police power of the State. This will bring about an inevitable collision with religious freedom and conscience rights. The precedent established will leave no room for any limitation on what can constitute such a redefined notion of marriage or human sexuality. We cannot and will not allow this to occur on our watch. Religious freedom is the first freedom in the American experiment for good reason," the pledge states, in part.
At press time, over 42,000 had signed the "Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage."
Prominent signers include, Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; Dr. James Dobson, founder of Family Talk Radio; Bishop Harry Jackson, founder of High Impact Leadership Coalition; Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America; Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and executive editor of The Christian Post; Jerry Johnson, president and CEO of National Religious Broadcasters; and Rev. Rick Scarborough, president of Vision America Action.
The pledge was drafted by Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel Action, and Deacon Keith Fournier, editor in chief at Catholic Online.
According to a press release, "Those who signed the petition will resist all government efforts to require them to accept gay marriage. They will accept any fine or punishment — including jail time — to protect their religious freedom and the freedom of others."
"I am speaking as a minister to the moral and biblical ramifications of this expected ruling," Scarborough said on the call. "This would be a decision as incorrect and as tragic as Dred Scott [a Supreme Court decision upholding slavery]. Because of the trends and cultural shifts that we have witnessed in culture over the past 40 years, we have all known that this day would likely come and Christians would be put at odds with the culture and the courts.
"I believe we are there. We are approaching a Bonhoeffer moment in America."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who spoke out against the Nazis during World War II and ultimately gave his life for the cause.
Later in the call, Staver agreed with the Bonhoeffer analogy.
Referring to wedding vendors who have been punished for living according to their beliefs, he said, "We either all stand together, or we hang separately. This is indeed a Bonhoeffer moment. They might be able to pick us off individually, but collectively they can't. Whenever someone gets targeted, we must gather around them and say no."
In addition to Bonhoeffer, the pledge cites the example of civil rights movement leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a precedent for civil disobedience.
In "Letter From a Birmingham Jail," King advocated disobedience to unjust laws.
"Though affirmed, fulfilled, and elevated by faith, the truth that marriage can exist only between one man and one woman is not based on religion or revelation alone, but on the Natural Law, written on the human heart and discernible through the exercise of reason. It is part of the natural created order. The Natural Law is what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., referred to as a higher law or a just law in his famous 'Letter from Birmingham Jail,'" the pledge states.
This idea is reiterated in the second to last paragraph, which states, "Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we not respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with higher law. A decision purporting to redefine marriage flies in the face of the Constitution and is contrary to the natural created order. As people of faith we pledge obedience to our Creator when the State directly conflicts with higher law. We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross this line."
The Supreme Court will announce its decision sometime this month on whether the Constitution requires all states to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples.
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
BY NAPP NAZWORTH , CHRISTIAN POST REPORTER
June 9, 2015|8:04 am| The Christian Post|
Is the Obama administration moving to require Christian nonprofits that receive government grants to follow LGBT non-discrimination rules in hiring?
A May 29 blog post by Austin Ruse, president of the Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam), claimed that an "unnamed source within the federal government" informed him that "the White House is quietly moving forward" with an LGBT non-discrimination policy for nonprofit organizations receiving government grants.
Since then, however, a White House official has assured another religious freedom organization that no decisions have been made about federal grantees.
The White House, Ruse wrote, "has recently directed federal agencies to include the 'sexual orientation and gender identity' clause in all grant agreements. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has agreed to make this change and is said to be weeks away from implementation.
"The source added that federal agencies are being pressured to make this change without a subsequent executive order and that the State Department legal office has advised the White House that this is not a legal matter but a matter of policy," he continued.
The potential policy change is similar to one for government contractors that Obama made last year. That executive order required contractors to not discriminate against LGBT individuals in hiring and firing practices. There was no blanket religious exemption but a religious hiring exemption remained in place, which left the actual implications for faith groups a bit murky.
There are not many faith-based government contractors, but there are a large number of faith-based organizations that receive government grants to provide important social services. So a policy affecting grantees would have more far-reaching consequences than a policy affecting contractors.
Stanley Carlson-Thies, founder and senior director of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, reached out to Melissa Rogers, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, to find out if this was true.
In a Friday IRFA blog post, Carlson-Thies wrote that while C-Fam believes a policy for grantees has been made, "there is good reason to doubt that it has been or can be made."
If the Obama administration were "quietly" making this change, he explained, it would show up in grant announcements and application forms. Since IRFA advocates on behalf of faith-based groups, it would likely be one of the first to know about the change.
Second, unlike federal contractors, the hiring rules for grant recipients are set by Congress, not the president. So if Obama attempted to intrude upon congressional authority, there would likely be an executive/legislative power struggle.
Third, Rogers assured Carlson-Thies that "the White House has made no decision to extend the restrictions on contractors to grantees."
Ruse posted another blog post on Friday noting what Carlson-Thies found. He also noted that a World article quoted a National Security Council spokesperson saying that the Obama administration is not extending its LGBT hiring policy for federal contractors to federal grantees.
Carlson-Thies does acknowledge that he cannot verify whether a policy change is being made in secret. And he advises faith-based groups to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.
"Faith-based organizations must take a deep and careful look at their operations and take deliberate action to ensure that there is a strong alignment between their religious beliefs, their operational policies, and their actual practices. Their religious identity ought to be clear to everyone, inside and outside the organization, and the religiously based rationale for their policies and practices ought to be evident to anyone who takes a look," he wrote.
Monday, June 8, 2015
June 5, 2015|8:58 am| The Christian Post|
Aaron and Melissa Klein, former owners of an Oregon bakery that refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple and as a result was fined over $130,000, declared in an exclusive interview with the Daily Signal that the case against them needs to be removed from the bureaucratic governmental agency that oversees discrimination complaints because of possible new evidence of bias.
"I think the case should be pulled out of [the Bureau of Labor and Industries court and put into a civil court because I cannot get due process here," Aaron Klein told The Daily Signal.
Last week the Daily Signal, a news site related to the Heritage Foundation, published evidence of collusion by the Bureau of Labor and Industries and the pro-LGBT group Basic Rights Oregon. Based on this new evidence, which consists largely of emails, texts, and phone conversations between the two parties, prompting lawyers for the Kleins to file another motion to reopen the case. A similar motion to reopen the case was denied in March before the Daily Signal's publication of new evidence.
Brad Avakian is the judge at the bureau who is responsible for issuing a final ruling concerning the $135,000 fine. Sweet Cakes by Melissa has since shut its doors because of backlash and boycotts by those angered over their actions. The Kleins' children were even the targets of death threats.
"I had a gut feeling that he was in cahoots with [Basic Rights Oregon] from the get go," Aaron Klein declared in the interview. "We already knew that he had a premeditated idea about what was going on."
Avakian made a Facebook post about the Kleins' guilt before the agency's ruling and imposing of a fine.
"You can't have an office that has a judge, jury and executioner," Aaron Klein declared. "Judges should be unbiased and they should be elected by the people without the power to legislate, investigate and do everything else."
The Kleins have consistently said serving a gay wedding ceremony is against their Christian beliefs. Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, the lesbian couple, testified at a hearing in March that they suffered emotional distress because they were "humiliated" and "ashamed" that they were not accepted as a soon-to-be married couple.
The Daily Signal's continued reporting about the collusion exacted a response by Basic Rights Oregon on Tuesday:
"The Heritage Foundation has fabricated a conspiracy theory between Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) and Basic Rights Oregon, ignoring the truth and the facts.
"Here's reality: The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) did not consult Basic Rights Oregon on the Sweet Cakes by Melissa discrimination case," declared pro-LGBT rights group Basic Rights Oregon. "To the extent Basic Rights Oregon has been in contact with BOLI staff about this case, it was to stay informed about timeline and process only."
Basic Rights Oregon did not mention in their press release their donations to Avakian's bid to be commissioner of the BOLI nor Avakian's purchases of tickets costing hundreds of dollars to attend Basic Rights Oregon's annual fundraising galas and gay pride parades. They did however mention their endorsement of Avakian through their PAC.
Melissa Klein told the Daily Signal she plans to "fight this all the way we can."
"We're definitely not going to back down," said Melissa Klein. "We take this very seriously … for not just ourselves but for other business owners who this could happen to."