Evangelical leader: ‘Battlefield shifts to religious freedom’


The just-released Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage has put a question mark on churches and their ability to perform marriage ceremonies in accordance with doctrine, with at least one religious leader predicting a full-blown showdown with government entities over the First Amendment’s religious freedom clause.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, said the “battlefield shifts to religious freedom,” in a statement emailed to WND.

“Will the progressive, totalitarian and intolerant left weaponize the government and attempt to force or compel people to affirm same-sex behavior and relationships? Or will they respect the freedom of conscience guaranteed by the Constitution?” Land said.

Some Catholic Church leaders tend to think the court ruling legalizing marriage between homosexuals in all 50 states will have little effect on how they do business, given the strict religious-based prohibitions on the unions.

“It is beyond my jurisdiction,” said Rev. John Burke, of the St. William Catholic Church in Louisville, Kentucky, USA Today reported.

And Cecelioa Price, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Louisville, said similarly, referring to the Catholic Church catechism and the fact it establishes marriage “by mutual consent between a man and a woman, … ordered towards the good of the spouses and the procreation of offspring.”

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling only applied to civil marriages, and did not address churches. Yet the gay rights lobby has been aggressively pursuing what they claim are equal rights and equal access, taking their discrimination claims to court with great success.

But if the LGBT lobby goes on the attack nationwide the way it has in states that have already caved on the issue of same-sex marriage, Katy bar the door. That was a warning issued by Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito in their dissenting opinions.

What do YOU think? Is the marriage decision a threat to America’s survival? Sound off in today’s WND poll!

Among the gay rights’ groups legal battles:

  • They’ve sued Christian bakers in Oregon over the owners’ refusal to make a wedding cake for a gay marriage. In that case, the bakers were ordered to pay $135,000 in damages for emotional suffering experienced by the lesbians.
  • They’ve sued a Christian couple in Iowa who owned and operated a wedding chapel, art gallery, flower shop and bistro, and refused to marry a gay couple in their facility. In that case, the couple, Richard and Betty Odgaard, were forced to close their business.
  • They’ve threatened to boycott and sue the Christian owners of Memories Pizza in Indiana. In that case, nobody was refused service, but the co-owner told a reporter she would probably not be able to cater a gay wedding because of her religious beliefs. Soon after, her comments went viral, sparking massive outcry from the LGBT rights community.

Meanwhile, conservative churches like Weatherly Heights Baptist Church in Alabama, have firmly resisted same-sex marriage. In March, the congregation cheered a 74-5 vote of the Madison Baptist Association to dismiss a minister from the Southern Baptist Convention for his reported support of same-sex marriage, AL.com reported.

Michael O’Loughlin, in an article for Crux, pointed out that with same-sex marriage declared constitutional in all 50 states, some Supreme Court justices worry that religious freedom will face unprecedented challenges in coming years.

In his dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “Today’s decision, for example, creates serious questions about religious liberty. Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith, and their freedom to exercise religion is – unlike the right imagined by the majority – actually spelled out in the Constitution.”

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts

In his decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that those who object to same-sex marriage because of religious beliefs still enjoy constitutional rights to “advocate” against it.

“The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered,” he wrote. “The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons.”

Roberts dismissed this language as essentially meaningless.

“The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to ‘exercise’ religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses,” he wrote.

He went on to highlight “hard questions” about religious freedom, including housing and adoption policies at religious institutions. “There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this Court. Unfortunately, people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today,” he wrote.

Speaking to reporters Friday, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who heads the US bishops’ religious liberty efforts, said Friday’s decision recognized the free-speech rights of religious institutions and people who object to same-sex marriage, but said that was “not enough.”

He predicted a “difficult road ahead for people of faith who believe in the true definition of marriage” and said the Church will “do our very best to protect ourselves, the way we organize ourselves and run our ministries”

In a separate dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas also predicted fights over religious liberty.

“Aside from undermining the political processes that protect our liberty, the majority’s decision threatens the religious liberty our Nation has long sought to protect,” Thomas wrote. He wrote the decision could create “potentially ruinous consequences for religious liberty.”

Both Roberts and Thomas lamented that the Supreme Court intervened instead of letting states vote on marriage laws.

The “People have long elected to afford broader protections than this Court’s constitutional precedents mandate,” Thomas wrote. “Had the majority allowed the definition of marriage to be left to the political process — as the Constitution requires — the People could have considered the religious liberty implications of deviating from the traditional definition as part of their deliberative process.”

Justice Antonin Scalia, in his dissent, criticized the lack of religious diversity on the Court.

“Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single Southwesterner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count). Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination,” he wrote. (Scalia and five of his colleagues are Catholic, and the remaining three are Jewish.)

In recent years, Catholic social-service agencies have eliminated adoption programs in Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and California rather than comply with government mandates that they place children with same-sex couples.

Will Catholic social services and other religious agencies now have to eliminate adoption programs in all 50 states?

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington co-authored an op-ed in April in which he said, “Disagreement is not the same as discrimination,” coming out against a proposed D.C. law that would require, among other things, religious schools to recognize LGBT student groups.

Brian Burch, the head of CatholicVote, told Crux in an interview Friday that he expects religious liberty fights to grow as a result of the decision.

“I think there will be a growing pressure for the Church to host or bless same sex unions, and it will come in the form of various types of pressure and penalties if they refuse to participate,” he said. Those pressures, he said, could include threats to take away the Church’s tax-exempt status or the loss of government grants for Catholic aid organizations.

See WND’s big list of literally dozens of cases where homosexual activists have legally bludgeoned Christian business owners and other believers for taking a stand based on conscience.

‘Governors should ignore this edict’

Randy Thomasson, president of the SaveCalifornia.com Campaign for Children and Families, said states with constitutional marriage amendments or laws “should ignore this unconstitutional edict.”

He is urging conservatives who live in states with Republican governors to contact their governor and request that he ignore the ruling and keep traditional marriage laws intact.

“Do we now give an excuse to pastors and governors who call themselves Christian just because nine judges in black robes have issued and edict?” he said.

For example, Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama, a Republican state with a Constitution that upholds traditional marriage, is a Sunday school teacher who prides himself in his Christian values.

Yet, Bentley said in a radio interview that he would never go against the decision of a federal court.

“If conservative governors, pastors, and individual believers are talkers, not doers, if they don’t’ truly support man-woman marriage, then in states that do not have the homosexual, transgender agenda embedded in their state laws there will be those who try to force those laws at the expense of free speech, and private property,” Thomasson said.

“They will be justifying this takeover because of ‘rights’ that flow from the marriage license,” he added. “In California it took less than 40 years to embed every desire of this homosexual agenda into state law and the cherry on top was the new ‘marriage law.’ Other states will start with the cherry and then try to force every other part of the cake on the populace.”

This cake that Thomasson believes will prove to be poisonous on families and the very future of America as a free republic.

“The singular question is, who is the governor who will uphold the Constitution on marriage?” he said. “Is there not one? It’s not Scott Walker, it’s not Bentley, it’s not Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia. You need to call them, call now, and be an active lobbyist now, don’t be a spectator.”

Opening the door to more chaos?

Land said the Supreme Court ruling has opened the door to more chaos surrounding same-sex marriage and how the decision will impact some segments of society.

“These [issues] will continue to be questions for the coming generations, now that the high court has seized the historic role of defining marriage from the individual states and stripped it away from voters,” he said.

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

If there was any doubt as to how far LGBT rights advocates intended to take today’s ruling in order to challenge the status quo, Rep. Debbie Wasserman, D-Fla., Schultz set the record straight in her comment following Friday’s decision.

Consistent with her previous comments, Schultz indicated that the LGBT movement will not be satisfied with merely being allowed to marry.

“Love won,” she said. “Thanks to today’s decision, same-sex couples will have their marriages recognized in every state and can no longer be discriminated against for wanting to adopt a child — just like any other married couple in this country.”

She continued, “Last week I had the privilege of officiating a same-sex wedding right across the street from the Supreme Court building. It was clear that the love between Alex and Robert is no different than the love I share with my husband Steve. Love is love, and love is now the law. Today is a day of celebration, and as we move forward from this important victory, Democrats will continue fighting to ensure that nobody in this country faces discrimination because of who they are or whom they love.”

WND News Editor Leo Hohmann contributed to this report.

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Related columns:

The consequences of the marriage ruling by Joseph Farah

The Roberts Court — harbinger to revolution? by Larry Klayman

‘Gay marriage’ ruling: Evil with a silver lining by Matt Barber

I fear judgment befalling America by James Dobson

Good intentions along the road to hell by Craige McMillan