When Gay Rights and Religious Liberty Collide

In a blog posted on Christianity Today’s website, Mollie Ziegler Hemingway discusses the methods being used by gay rights activists to make their point.  She argues that “obnoxious, bigoted mobs that won’t tolerate any disagreement don’t usually win supporters.”  Her article goes on to say that the actions of gay rights activists are turning people away from their movement and helping to unite those who support traditional marriage, including groups that historically have not worked together.

I am not interested in discussing the main theme of her article, but you can read it in its entirety here.

My interest lies in a realted topic that Ms. Hemingway touches on in her blog post.  She writes:

Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown University law professor and gay activist who drafts federal legislation related to sexual orientation, has publicly said that when religious liberty conflicts with gay rights, “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.”

Indeed, religious liberty almost always loses. A lesbian couple in Albuquerque successfully sued a Christian photographer because she declined to shoot their commitment ceremony. When Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, Catholic organizations had no option but to shut down their adoption services.

The California Supreme Court ruled that doctors must provide reproductive services to lesbians despite religious objections. A Methodist camp in New Jersey lost its tax exemption after it told a lesbian couple they could have their commitment ceremony anywhere except in buildings that are used for religious services. The list goes on.

As a pastor, I have thought a great deal about this issue.  If I do not feel that I can perform a wedding ceremony, based on religious convictions, will I / should I be in danger of losing my legal rights to perform weddings?  Will churches be in danger of losing their tax-exempt status if they refuse to allow gay weddings in their facilities?  What rights will Christians and other religious groups have in determining how to address this issue based upon their own convictions?

When religious liberty and gay rights intersect, how do we determine which road to take?

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13 Responses to When Gay Rights and Religious Liberty Collide

  1. sethpickens says:

    I interpret the Bible as saying that we should follow the laws of the land. As it stands now, a pastor can refuse to marry a hetero couple if in the pastor’s opinion, they don’t have the maturity/means to tie the knot. It barely ever happens, but the pastor probably wouldn’t face a lawsuit. It seems that as a pastor, you could refuse to marry any couple who didn’t measure up to your (church’s) standards.

    Still, standards should evolve with the times. There was a time when Methodists only let black people worship in the balcony–now they can sit anywhere. Yes, the message of Christ is timeless, but dogmas, theologies, and rules always change. Once law abiding, loving, tithing gay couples start getting married in city halls and welcoming churches, many other “traditional” churches will jump on the bandwagon in order to stay relevant.

  2. internet elias says:

    Tim, ‘count it all joy’…..whatever direction it takes. We are at a point in the last days like ‘in the days of Noah’ and certainly as in Sodom. Genesis 19th chapter records events not so different to the direction our laws are moving related to homosexuality and gay rights. The two angels of destruction came to gather lot and his family out so God could rain fire and brimstone down on the homosexuals and others reprobates of Sodom. Before that could happen, the homosexual men of the city went to Lot’s house and attempted to rape the two angels. How vile is Satan. How vile are his followers? Yes! Vile! My prayer is that those practicing these things will repent before God turns them over to reprobate minds. But many are already turned over. Don’t worry. Don’t fear. Don’t fight! The following scriptures are my mainstay in these last days.
    Da 4:17 This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.

    GOD RULES! DURING THE TIME OF NEBUCHADNEZZOR AND NOW!

    1sa 17:47 And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.

    THE BATTLE….INDEED…IS THE LORD’S. DAVID WENT BEFORE GOLIATH BECAUSE HE ‘KNEW’ GOD WOULD DESTROY GOLIATH. SO DAVID DIDN’T EVEN CARRY A WEAPON…EXCEPT A SLING. HA! WAY TO GO, DAVID.

    TIM, don’t worry about anything. Do what is right. But understand ‘we ain’t seen nuttin yet.’ God…God…God…not the Republicans. Not the Democrats. No human on the earth is in charge. God…God…God rules in the kingdom of men. He is lining up things needed to conclude the Age of Grace and man’s dispensation during measured time…Beginning to End. The cry by Elias (remains the forerunner of Messiah) began to cry forth, three years ago, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Make his path straight.” I heard Elias in the daytime, audible voice, loudly proclaiming the words just as Isaiah prophesied, and just as John the Baptist cried (John was in the spirit and power of Elias at Christ’s first coming).

    Isa 40:3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

    When I heard Elias, not only did I hear his words, but my heart heart his joy and excitment that the time has finally come to begin preparations for the return of the Bridgroom for the Bride. I know this sounds strange! But it’s very real! Have you ever seen a time as this before? Have you ever seen things of God more mocked? It’s only because God has turned things over for fulfillment. But like Noah and his family. Like Lot and his family….God will deliver….just before His destruction is poured out on the wicked. These are joyous time. In the world but not of the world. We have only a little light left, that of a candle, but God will not let the flicker go completely out before He intervenes. REMEMBER, WE ARE NOT LOSING! WE’RE WINNING! THE WAR IS ALREADY WON! COUNT IT ALL JOY.

    Php 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things

    I am internetelias.wordpress.com

    God’s will be done concerning you and yours!

  3. Ruben Dhoedt says:

    My view is that as a Christian and a devout follower of God’s word, there is only one option to adhere to. That is not to tolerate the act, but to love the sinner. This is a classic WWJD moment. Jesus ate with the “sinners”, but He didn’t participate or tolerate the sins of the “sinners”. I think that we can model the same behavior by accepting the people into our church and explaining to them, through the Bible, that we cannot participate in any sort of sinful activity. If that is not enough for them to understand they can move on.

  4. Tim Farley says:

    sethpickens:

    Thank you for reading and commenting. I too believe the Bible tells us to obey the laws of the land. However, I believe that this is not the case when the law of the land is in direct conflict with the law of God (Acts 5:19, 29). I have not heard of any pastors who have had any issues with this yet, but if photographers and Christian ministries have faced lawsuits, why should I believe that pastors and churches will not follow?

    While it is true that dogmas and theologies sometimes evolve with time, it is not true that they all do. In your example of discrimination against blacks, it was to correct wrong thinking. I am not so sure that the Bible is unclear on the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage. Should churches and pastors be primarily concerned with remaining “relevant”? Or is our primary concern faithfullness to God’s word. I do not believe I can ever change my religious beliefs just because culture changes its views.

  5. Tim Farley says:

    Ruben:

    Good point. We do need to be able to show love and acceptance to “sinners” of every type. That does not mean we have to approve of their sin. I just wonder if we will be forced to approve of their sin by performing weddings and allowing the use of our buildings, etc.

  6. Robynne says:

    This has interesting timing. Today we had someone from school ask if something she wrote about gay marriage could be put in the paper. She was told that we would read it, but it needed to be something that didn’t offend people, because the paper has had many incidents where something was published that angered many people, including an article on gay rights. This led to a discussion about why people reacted the way they did, which was kind of hurtful to me. My teacher, who is very openly liberal, supports gay rights, and isn’t a fan of Christians, essentially called Christians hateful and brainwashed, in a roundabout way. This was at lunch, during the first discussion. During class, we discussed the article itself and what we should do about it. This led to more discussion on the topic of how people react to these things, which led to more of the same kinds of comments. I didn’t say anything the whole time. I knew that there were people in the classroom who strongly support gay rights and see me as hateful and prejudiced, as well as closed-minded, if I said things to contradict them, no matter how I approached it. I didn’t want to start a debate or anything, but the whole thing made me very uncomfortable.

    This doesn’t really directly respond to anything in your post, but there was this: I feel like I will be judged and persecuted as a result of my believes on a much stronger level than I judge those who have contradictory beliefs. It is incredibly frustrating and confusing to be surrounded by people who think that you’re being so incredibly wrong and unfair.

    From the times on these comments, it seems like this was posted right about the time we received the article, and the discussion was going on while ours was. Interesting. 😉

  7. Robynne says:

    …beliefs* I saw that right as I pressed submit. 6 lines up from the bottom.

  8. Ben A says:

    I hope that the Supreme Court will start hearing some of these cases and defending religious liberties. That said, I’m not gay and I am religious.

    Here we have sexual orientation acting like a “race” or an “ethnic group.” Although they exhibit some sort of unified culture, there is a reason to not perform religious work for them. A homosexual is not a group of happenstance, they are a collective of people who ultimately distinguish themselves from others by their abnormal (and some would say immoral, destructive, insulting, or self-destructing) use of their genitalia.

    I think that, if gay marriage was legalized, a judge could not refuse to marry a couple. That would make sense. But to force a religious organization to do specific acts that they consider “of God” for people who do things with their genitalia that are considered “not of God” — well, even that’s not entirely horrible. We’re all sinners. But then to force a religious organization to *do* something that they consider “not of God” — for example, to confuse marriage with lifelong friendship with benefits and then condone it — that is wrong.

    I would do like the Catholics in Massachusetts. If the government wants to kick me so hard that I can’t do my job under my own beliefs, then I’ll have to leave. I won’t allow my government to force me to sin. I’d rather sit in jail.

    As for the photographer, I can understand that a little bit. Taking a picture of something you find vile but has been authorized by the government as a group, is something you have to do. To give a service to a sinner can still be okay.

    We’re not here to hate gays. But we believe that it’s wrong (but absolutely like “it’s what God says,” but also b/c we think that it leads to more pain, destruction, and disarray in the world to mess around like that in sexual ways — just as it can be destructive to have premarital sex or to murder someone or to steal). So we have to stand by our ideals.

    And the wild thing is that most of America thinks it’s wrong, too. Not because we hate gays. But because we see that it’s destrcutive, because we believe the Bible, or because we think it’ll hurt our world.

  9. Tim Farley says:

    Robynne:

    I wonder what your teacher would say about all of the non-Christians who also think that gay marriage is wrong. It is not just a religious issue. To specifically attack Christians while leaving others out seems unfair and biased to me.

    Ben:

    I think this whole debate sheds a great deal of light on what we really think of human rights in our current culture. We are for “rights” as long as they benefit us. We are not really interested in the rights of others. If my rights infringe upon yours, I am Ok with that. As long as your rights do not infringe upon mine.

    I also agree, homosexuality is not equivalent to a race or ethnic group. This issue should not be couched in the same language as women’s rights and/or the rights of African-Americans, etc.

  10. Robynne says:

    Yeah. It wasn’t specifically Christian, necessarily, but it was definitely aimed that way. He’s like that a lot. I try to avoid the topic, because I don’t feel like expressing my opinion will do much good, and I don’t want to encourage him to express his, because I don’t think it’s appropriate. Maybe once I’m not in his class anymore I will have a better discussion about it…

  11. Ben A says:

    Robynne:

    I forget that Christians aren’t the only ones. Everyone I know who is not gay (Christians and others) think that homosexuality is a moral issue. Even two of my gay friends think that it’s a moral issue.

    It’s refreshing to hear that we’re not alone. Especially when media and so forth pound it down our throats that any prop 8 supporter is a bigot and an idiot.

  12. Robynne says:

    I think that is because the main issue that is presented is the sanctity of marriage, as given by God. But there are still many people who are just not okay with gay marriage, and not because it violates a bond that has been sanctioned by God.

  13. Tim Farley says:

    I think that those who are opposed to gay marriage, even though not based upon religious convictions, see that it is unnatural and that its impact on our society will be negative, even if the proponents of gay mariage deny these truths.

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