Todd Starnes of Fox News has a specialty and it’s demagoguery. If he can find a way to whip up unjustified fear in the coming oppression, especially of Christians, he’ll do it. His column entitled “Churches Fear Lawsuits over Gay Weddings” is a textbook example:
Joe Carr believes a day is fast approaching when pastors will be charged with hate crimes for preaching that homosexuality is a sin and churches will face lawsuits for refusing to host same-sex weddings.
“It’s just a matter of time,” said Carr, the pastor of Waynesville Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia. “What’s happening in Europe – we’re going to see happen here and we’re going to see it happen sooner rather than later I’m afraid.”
And that’s why the congregation will be voting next month to change their church bylaws – to officially ban the usage of their facilities for gay marriages.
“We needed to have a clear statement,” Carr told Fox News. “It’s to protect us from being forced to allow someone to use our facilities who does not believe what we believe the Bible teaches.”
Um. If they think that the government is going to force them to perform same-sex weddings, why do they think that having an official church policy against performing them will protect them from that happening? In fact, wouldn’t it be more likely to trigger such an outcome? We clearly aren’t dealing with Rhodes Scholars here. And is Europe forcing churches to perform same-sex weddings? Not that I’m aware of. But even if they were, what would that have to do with this country? Our laws clearly forbid such a thing.
And Waynesville Missionary Baptist Church isn’t alone in their fears. Hundreds of churches around the nation are considering similar changes to their constitutions and bylaws as a result of the Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act.Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty legal organization, has already provided churches with sample bylaws that define marriage.
“I think we’re in a day where every church needs to have a statement in its bylaws of its doctrinal beliefs on marriage and sexuality,” attorney Erik Stanley told Baptist Press. “This is a proactive approach that churches can take to head off any claims of discrimination in the future, should they occur.”
Greg Erwin, an attorney who represents the Louisiana Baptist Convention, said it’s hard to speculate on what impact the Supreme Court ruling could have.
“It would seem that the law now is that churches do not have to perform marriages that violate its beliefs,” he told The Baptist Message newspaper. “However, if a church rents out its facilities for weddings to anyone but same-sex couples, then a court could find that the church is discriminating in violation of law by only refusing to rent to homosexuals.”
No, no, no. Churches are very explicitly exempted not only from this particular issue but from all anti-discrimination laws. It has been illegal at the federal level for 50 years to discriminate on the basis of religion and race. Has any church ever been forced to hire a Muslim or an atheist? Has any church ever been forced to perform an interracial marriage? The answer is no. Why? Because the First Amendment forbids it, as it should. And because statutory law also forbids it, as it should. And because the judicial doctrine called the ministerial exception forbids it, as it should.
This is empty fear-mongering. For crying out loud, I don’t know of anyone, even the most zealous gay rights advocate, who wants to force churches to perform gay weddings. Not one.