Wednesday, June 17, 2015
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
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
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."
According to the pledge website, www.defendmarriage.org, the idea for the pledge originated during a Vision America teleconference with pastors led by Dobson, Scarborough and Staver.
"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
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."
Friday, June 5, 2015
June 4, 2015|2:25 pm| The Christian Post|
A man who identifies as ex-transgender has expressed "caution" regarding former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner's decision to change his gender identity to become "Caitlyn."
Walt Heyer, author and blogger with The Federalist, stated in an interview Tuesday with CNN that while Caitlyn Jenner may feel great at present "this doesn't always last."
"The surgeons can make it look like you changed genders but the fact of the matter is it's all cosmetic surgery. There's really no actual gender change," Heyer asserted during an interview with CNN's Carol Costello.
"I felt like I had been duped, tricked, and it wasn't really real. I wasn't really a woman. I looked like one."
In an interview with The Christian Post, Heyer emphasized that he "never declared Jenner was wrong to change his gender."
"I did suggest caution because I have received hundreds of emails from transgenders over the years who regret making the transition. The long-term outcomes are not always the best and suicide is always a risk," Heyer emphasized.
Heyer was born a man and underwent gender reassignment surgery to become a woman only to eventually become a man once more.
An author of multiple books, Heyer has become a critic of gender reassignment surgery and believes that transgendered identity carries with it emotional wounds.
"Transgenders undergo hormone injections and irreversible surgeries in a desperate effort to feel better, yet they attempt and commit suicide at an alarming rate, even after treatment," reads the description of one of his books.
According to a 2003 study conducted in Sweden, transsexuals who change their gender through body mutilation or hormone therapy have a higher suicide rate than the general population.
The study, which followed 191 male-to-female gender reassignments and 133 female-to-male gender reassignments from 1973-2003, found that suicide attempts and in-patient psychiatric treatment actually increased in Sweden among those who had a sex change.
Heyer's comments come as the July issue of Vanity Fair magazine has Caitlyn Jenner on its front cover.
Jenner has received much support and admiration from social media, major media outlets, and fellow high profile celebrities and public figures.
"Bruce always had to tell a lie, he was always living that lie. Every day he always had a secret. From morning until night. Caitlyn doesn't have any secrets. As soon as the Vanity Fair cover comes out, I'm free," Jenner said in a promo video for the magazine.
Many social conservatives have taken issue with the gender identity change and assumption that Jenner has improved by now being Caitlyn, including the Rev. Franklin Graham.
"I have news for them — changing the outside doesn't change the inside. No man-made modification can fix what's wrong with the heart," posted Rev. Graham on Facebook.
"Only God can fix the human heart. If we ask for His forgiveness and accept by faith His Son, Jesus Christ, He will wipe the slate clean."
When asked by CP about Americans' acceptance of transgender identity, Heyer said he believed "it is important to have compassion for anyone struggling with their gender identity."
"After living eight years in a different gender, I do not think the long-term solution to resolving gender confusion is hormones, surgery and a change of clothing. It is a deeper issue," Heyer explained.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
BY SAMUEL SMITH
, CP REPORTER|June 3, 2015|3:38 pm| The Christian Post|
WASHINGTON — Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, addressed concerns that faith-based schools and institutions would be at risk of losing their tax-exempt status for upholding their biblical belief of traditional marriage if the U.S. Supreme Court delivers a pro-gay marriage ruling this month.
At a Wednesday press conference held in the senator's Capitol Hill office, Lee, along with prominent members of the evangelical higher education community, voiced concern over comments made in the Supreme Court's oral argument in April by the Obama administration's lead attorney, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.
Lee explained that Verrilli, who testified as a friend of the court on April 28 in favor of making same-sex marriage a national right, was asked by Justice Samuel Alito whether or not making same-sex marriage a constitutional right would allow for the IRS to revoke the tax-exempt statuses of faith-based schools and universities that choose not to recognize same-sex marriage because of their biblical convictions.
"The response uttered by Solicitor General Verrilli was troubling to say the very least. He responded by saying 'I don't deny that. I don't deny that, Justice Alito. It is going to be an issue,'" Lee explained. "He reiterated this response basically four times that this is going to be an issue that he doesn't deny that this is a very real possibility, if not a probability."
"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," the senator continued. "It really ought not be in the business of disrupting the business of a church or religious institution."
Lee told reporters that he plans to introduce a bill called the Government Nondiscrimination Act, which would essentially prevent the federal government from taking action against an institution based on the institution's belief that marriage should only be a union of one man and one woman.
Lee did not indicate when he plans to introduce the legislation, but he could introduce the bill after the Supreme Court reaches a decision on constitutional same-sex marriage sometime in June.
"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. " We expect that in part because the Obama administration's chief advocate, before the Supreme Court, acknowledged that it is going to be an issue, that is that you are going to have some religious institutions losing certain status, perhaps tax-exempt status, perhaps some other type of status and that's why we feel like we need this law. We need something in the United States code that protects Americans against that type of discrimination by government."
Also speaking at the press conference was Dr. Keith Wiebe, president of the American Association of Christian Schools, who said that if same-sex marriage became constitutional and religiously-affiliated universities began losing their tax-exempt statuses, it would cause them great financial ramifications and even cause those institutions to close down.
"Absolutely, [some religious schools] would have to close down [if they lost their tax-exempt statuses]. The financial ramifications are pretty significant, in terms of them being able to operate if everything they are doing becomes taxable," Wiebe asserted. "They are receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in tuition. Our schools, they are private schools, they are Christian schools, they receive money for tuition, that suddenly becomes taxable."
Wiebe also said that the accreditation of religious institutions and the certification of their teachers would likely be rejected should gay marriage become constitutional and Lee's legislation is not enacted to protect them.
Dr. Samuel Oliver, president of the evangelical Union University in Tennessee, added that there are over 29,000 faith-based preschools, elementary schools and high schools along with 1,700 faith-based colleges in the United States. He explained that if some of those schools lost their tax-exempt statuses, it would create a "great burden on the taxpayers" and would be "catastrophic for the common good."
"If say even 100 institutions the size of Union [University] closed, that would be 400,000 students that would be put in the system," Oliver said. "The state of Tennessee, where we are, funds higher education and putting those students into those systems would cause great burden on the taxpayers, not to mention the loss of the common good that comes from the institutions themselves."
"If faith-based education ceases to exist, the state educational system will not be able to accommodate the number of students who are dumped into the pool," he added. "To force students, by default, to attend secular schools is a form of mind control."
Expanding the issue outside of the realm of educational institutions, Dr. Jerry Johnson, president of National Religious Broadcasters, wondered whether tax-exempt ministries would be at risk of losing their status. He also pondered whether the Federal Communications Commission would choose to not license or revoke licenses of broadcasters who uphold a biblical belief of traditional marriage.
"For radio stations, my interest, the [FCC], those broadcast licenses, are they going to be at risk if they don't honor that new constitutional right?" Johnson asked. "The solicitor general, as the senator pointed out, cleared up any confusion about that in the mind of the administration. I want to quote even more precisely, he said it is 'certainly' going to be an issue. He used the word 'certainly.' This is not maybe. 'Certainly' for this administration, this is an issue.
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
June 2, 2015|12:18 pm| The Christian Post|
Illinois may soon become the latest state to pass legislation banning the practice of sexual orientation change efforts therapy for LGBT youth.
Last week the state legislature passed House Bill 217, sending it to the desk of Governor Bruce Rauner, who has not indicated whether or not he will sign it into law.
Samantha Ames of the National Center for Lesbian Rights said in a statement last Friday that she and her organization were proud of the legislature's action.
"We couldn't be prouder to add Illinois to the list of legislatures that have acted to protect LGBT youth, and we applaud the dedication of Equality Illinois and the tireless coalition on the ground," stated Ames.
"We hope Governor Bruce Rauner will join fellow Republicans like Chris Christie, who signed New Jersey's conversion therapy ban in 2013."
Introduced by Rep. Kelly M. Cassidy, HB 217 sought to ban SOCE therapy for minors and to label commercial ads declaring homosexuality a mental illness as fraud.
"No person or entity may, in the conduct of any trade or commerce, use or employ any deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation, or the concealment, suppression, or omission of any material fact in advertising or otherwise offering conversion therapy services in a manner that represents homosexuality as a mental disease, disorder, or illness, with intent that others rely upon the concealment, suppression, or omission of such material fact," read HB 217.
"Any sexual orientation change efforts attempted on a person under the age of 18 by a mental health provider may be considered unprofessional conduct. Mental health providers found to have engaged in a sexual orientation change effort on a patient under the age of 18 may be subject to discipline by the licensing entity or disciplinary review board with competent jurisdiction."
HB 217 was similar to a piece of legislation that Rep. Cassidy had introduced in a previous legislative session which was voted down.
First read in January, HB 217 passed the House in May with a vote of 68 to 43 and last Friday passed the Senate in a vote of 34 to 19, with 1 abstention.
In a statement released Saturday, the conservative group Illinois Family Institute denounced the passage of the bill as a political ploy with little actual regard for protecting minors. The group also complained that the bill makes no distinction between therapies freely chosen by youth and more coercive therapies.
"HB 217 makes no distinction between coercive aversion therapy and 'talk therapies' that would allow minors a measure of autonomy in constructing an identity that does not affirm unchosen, unwanted same-sex attraction," stated IFI.
"This bill is not a reasoned attempt to protect children. It's a political maneuver that serves the strategic interests and profoundly selfish desires of adults committed to perverse activity and delusional thoughts."
At present, California, New Jersey, Oregon, and the District of Columbia have passed similar bills into law. Several states are presently considering similar legislation and many have voted them down.