Thursday, July 30, 2015

Vote Pandering in GA

So the speaker of the GA House of Representatives wants to make sure no clergy is forced to perform any gay weddings. Ok. But let’s be clear: the law already protects clergy from being forced to perform any wedding, and no house of worship is ever required to allow its facilities to be used in a manner it doesn’t want.

This is vote pandering, plain and simple.

Let’s get some examples from history here.

Remember when women won the right to vote? No? Well, many churches – particularly those in the South – were opposed to women participating in the electoral process. In fact, many churches didn’t even allow their women to participate in the voting systems in church matters. Few women were in ministerial positions and I personally know of several churches where even today women are not permitted to speak in the church’s business meetings. And the cry of that time was that if women were allowed to vote in civil matters, then the government would force churches to have women preachers, deacons, elders, etc. Never happened.

Then there was Prohibition with the fundamentalist religious groups leading the charge to keep the Liquid SIn out of the hands of all people – people who would be captivated by its seduction and immediately place them in the fast lane of the highway to hell. These religious groups yelled loudly that if Prohibition were repealed, it would be only a matter of time before churches would no longer have the option to preach against the dangers of Beelzebub’s Brew; that Uncle Sam would be in league with Satan so that no member could be disciplined for drunkenness. Never happened.

And how could we forget the end of segregation! Many Southern Baptist churches (and I’m certain other denominations did this too) claimed that when school segregation and other Jim Crow laws were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the logical next step would be churches forced to integrate their membership. Never happened. Even today, 60 years after the Civil Rights Act passed, Sunday morning at 11AM is the most racially segregated hour of the week.

How about a very similar Supreme Court ruling: Loving v VA, where interracial marriage could no longer be outlawed by the individual states. This case was identical to the gay marriage ruling as far as the application of the 14th amendment. The screams of outrage and the predictions of doom, are the same as we hear today regarding gay marriage. Pastors were convinced they would now have to perform weddings they believed God didn’t bless (after all, Jesus may have died for all, but that doesn’t mean He saw All People as equal, right?) Churches claimed they would be forced to open their doors to interracial couples who wanted a church wedding. Many charged that their freedom of religion was being trampled on and there would be lawsuits against clergy and churches. Never happened.

Why did were no lawsuits against pastors or churches over these examples? Because churches and their religious leaders are protected by the 1st amendment and government may not decide matters of doctrine or practice, nor force actions onto a religious group. Can’t do it.

The very idea that a pastor would be forced to perform a religious ceremony, or that a church would be mandated to give use of its facilities is simply absurd and without any basis whatsoever. None.
Now there are some caveats here. If a pastor is running a business where performing religious ceremonies is part of the business, then that is a different story. A business – complete with a tax ID, business license, advertising, etc. – is subject to the law just like any other business, and in those states where sexual orientation is a protected class, then a clergy member cannot discriminate. However, that is a major distinction: a wedding business is far different from a clergy member performing a wedding as one part of her many religious duties. The same would be true of a religious organization / church that has a facility marketed for weddings. If the organization is running a business, then it is subject to the rules just like any other business. Granted, there may be instances where this is a really grey area since many religious organizations have wedding venues that are quasi-business, but that have to be decided by the courts later on with specific circumstances. Of course, there is an easy fix for these churches / organizations: don’t comingle faith and for-profit practice.

There have been no lawsuits over this, much less any court rulings against pastors. Massachusetts legalized gay marriage more than a decade ago and not a single lawsuit. Not any lawsuits in any state for that matter, has forced any pastor to perform any wedding she didn’t want to perform. None. Not just any gay wedding, but any wedding whatsoever. A pastor may simply say “no” and that is that.

This is just a maneuver by David Ralston to play to the masses who are ignorant on these matters. It is nothing more than playing on the fear and emotions of people in order get votes.

Shameful, David Ralston. Shameful. This would be a good time for you to show leadership and just speak some truth – that this Pastor Protection Bill is just not needed and a waste of time. 

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