RELIGIOUS FREEDOM by Patrick J. ByrneNews Weekly
Same-sex 'marriage' being forced upon U.S. ministers of religion
, November 8, 2014
They said that if same-sex “marriage” were legalised, it would not be forced upon churches and ministers of religion. Well, now it is happening in the United States of America, the home of the free.
Recently, a U.S. federal judge ruled that the state of Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
Idaho was one of a number of states where either legislation or constitutional referenda had rejected same-sex marriage, only to have activist state judges overturn the democratic process.
Recently, this prompted a number of groups to ask the U.S. federal Supreme Court to uphold the democratic decision of these states to reject same-sex marriage.
However, America’s highest court refused to intervene against the contrary rulings by state courts.
The consequences are now being played out in the Idaho city of Coeur d’Alene, which also has an ordinance preventing discrimination based on sexual preference.
Just two days after same-sex marriage was declared to be legal, two ministers are already facing jail and fines for declining to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony.
Donald and Evelyn Knapp, who run a wedding chapel in Coeur d’Alene, are facing a 180-day jail term and a $1,000 fine for each day they decline to celebrate the same-sex wedding.
Attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an organisation of lawyers defending freedom of conscience, have filed a federal lawsuit and a motion for a temporary restraining order to stop the officials in Coeur d’Alene from enforcing the non-discrimination ordinance against the Knapps.
Commenting on the case, ADF senior legal counsel Jeremy Tedesco said, “Many have denied the idea that pastors would ever be forced to perform ceremonies that are completely at odds with their faith, but that’s what is happening here — and it’s happened this quickly.”
A number of American businesses providing wedding industry services have been fined under various state laws for refusing their services to same-sex weddings. These include bakers, photographers, wedding reception owners and others.
Last year, the Australian Capital Territory’s short-lived same-sex marriage law also threatened to see the prosecution of businesses that refused their services for same-sex weddings.
Last November, ACT Labor Attorney-General Simon Corbell admitted in a letter to the Australian Christian Lobby that the ACT’s same-sex marriage law would be reinforced by the Discrimination Act 1991, making it “unlawful for those who provide goods, services and facilities in the wedding industry to discriminate against another person on the basis of their sexuality or their relationship status. This includes discrimination by refusing to provide or make available those goods, services or facilities.”
Before such sanctions could be enacted, the High Court ruled that only the Commonwealth government had the power to define marriage, thereby nullifying the ACT legislation.
The U.S. situation is prompting a serious rethink of the role of ministers of religion in civil wedding ceremonies.
In a recent speech at the New York-based Institute on Religion and Public Life (which publishes the journal, First Things), Charles Chaput, Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia, urged the nation’s Catholic bishops to consider refusing to sign civil marriage licences for all couples in response to what he called the “new marriage regime” of same-sex civil marriage.
Chaput said, “It’s hard to see how a priest or bishop could, in good conscience, sign a marriage certificate that merely identifies ‘Spouse A’ and ‘Spouse B’. Refusing to conduct civil marriages now, as a matter of principled resistance, has vastly more witness value than being kicked out of the marriage business later by the government, which is a likely bet.”
The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision not to review state appeals against same-sex marriage was a “tipping point”, the archbishop said. Though he said he wasn’t necessarily endorsing the move, Archbishop Chaput suggested that the American bishops should “discuss and consider it as a real course of action”.
A similar debate is underway among U.S. Protestants.
Prominent Baptist Church opponent of same-sex marriage, Albert Mohler, has warned for some time that church communities were going to have to decide if they accepted or rejected gay marriage, and that there was no middle ground.
Dr Mohler recently pointed out that a prominent Baptist supporter of same-sex marriage, pastor Tony Jones, also holds the same view.
Jones said: “At some point, every congregation in America will decide either, YES, same-sex marriages will take place in our sanctuary, performed by our clergy; or NO, same-sex marriages will not take place in our sanctuary, performed by our clergy.
“There is no third way on that. A church either allows same-sex marriages, or it doesn’t.”
The pressure for same-sex marriage continues in Australia. Norfolk Island is considering legalising it. Some local councils are forming same-sex-friendly cities. With state elections due soon in Victoria, NSW and Queensland, pressure will come from the left of the ALP, the Greens and others for new federal legislation.
The battle lines are now being clearly drawn between those who believe in freedom of speech and freedom of conscience (freedoms intrinsic to democracies) and those who don’t.
Patrick J. Byrne is national vice-president of the National Civic Council.
“Two ministers told to perform same-sex wedding face jail, fines”, Alliance Defending Freedom, October 20, 2014.
Charles J. Chaput, “Strangers in a strange land”, 2014 Erasmus Lecture, at Institute on Religion and Public Life, New York, October 20, 2014, quoted in “Advice for a declining culture from Archbishop Chaput”, Aleteia.org, October 23, 2014.
Tony Jones quoted in Albert Mohler, “There is no ‘third way’ — Southern Baptists face a moment of decision (and so will you)”, AlbertMohler.com, June 2, 2014.