A minister in South Carolina wants Gov. Nikki Haley to sign an executive order allowing him to prohibit gay people from joining his church. Two problems with this: First, he can already do that. Second, if there were some kind of legal challenge to that right, a state executive order would be useless to stop it.
Darren Squires, pastor of the Socastee Original Freewill Baptist Church, said he currently welcomes LGBT people but makes clear that he does not support them, reported WMBF-TV.
But he sent a letter several weeks ago to Gov. Nikki Haley asking her to sign an executive order that would offer legal protection to pastors who wish to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
“It doesn’t matter if a man goes with a man, that’s his choice,” Squires said. “My problem is they’re going to try and make us, who do not believe in that, have to bow down and accept them.”
Squires, whose Facebook page shows several photos of the pastor wearing Confederate flag attire, said the executive order would allow him to act on his religious beliefs without facing legal or social consequences.
“We’re trying to protect the church from being sued for standing what we believe,” he said.
You are already completely free to do that and that right is protected on multiple levels. Churches are already completely exempted from non-discrimination laws and the courts have long adopted the ministerial exception, or ecclesiastical abstention doctrine, to prevent the government from interfering with the right of churches to follow their own theology except in the most extreme cases (child abuse, for example).
But even if this executive order were signed, it would do nothing to protect you from a lawsuit. The suit could still be filed and it would then be dismissed, not because of that executive order but because of the First Amendment, the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine and a century of legal precedents, all adopted at the federal level.