Your pastor jailed? Your church closed by court order? Are you ready for what is coming soon to your church? How could that be, you might well ask? On or before June 30th the Supreme Court of the United States will hand down its opinion in four similar cases from Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky (referred to together as Obergefell v. Hodges). If you have followed the same sex marriage cases in the last five years you know that various federal courts across the nation have thrown out state laws and state constitutional provisions limiting marriage to a man and a woman. 37 states now allow same sex marriage, most, but not all, by order of federal district court judges. The U.S. Supreme Court to date hasn’t ruled directly on the issue, but in its opinions in related cases it has clearly telegraphed where it stands. Until last November, though, there was no case before the Court which would form the legal basis to rule directly on whether the states could limit marriage to a man and a woman. In late 2014, in four state cases the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals went against the prevailing legal winds and instead ruled that states could enact legal limitations on who may be married in their states.
Journalists, legal pundits and various members of Congress have all concluded that when the U.S. Supreme Court rules in four months, it will overrule the Sixth Circuit and hold that the states may not restrict marriage to a man and a woman. Based on the order setting the hearings in the cases the Court will very likely rule that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution prevents the states from prohibiting persons of the same gender from marrying. Ignore the historical fact that when the 14th Amendment was adopted, following the Civil War in 1868, homosexuality was against the law in every state. The Justices are expected to issue their opinion in late June, which will have the force of law, and which will mandate that all states must grant marriage licenses to a man and a man and a woman and a woman.
Note: This is from a Protestant author, but it has a ring of truth to it.
It will not end, though, with this foundation-shaking ruling.
As night follows day, you can be sure that within a short time of the Supreme Court’s ruling a same sex couple, or more than one couples, will come knocking on your church’s door, and the doors of every church in America. Once the same sex couple is seated in front of your pastor, the conversation may likely go something like this:
“Pastor, we are here to request that you marry us in your church. When can we schedule the ceremony?”
“But, first gentlemen (or, alternatively, ladies), I must say that I don’t think we have ever met and I don’t recall seeing you at our Sunday services.”
“No, we don’t belong to your church, but we are demanding that you perform our marriage, just as you do for straight couples. Do you have a problem with that?”
“Well, yes, in fact I do have a problem with marrying you, with all due respect. Our church is based upon and ruled by The Bible. God created marriage between a man and a woman. He decided the issue of marriage 6,000 years ago. We’ll not be contradicting what God has said. We….”
“Stop right there, Pastor. In case you haven’t noticed, the supreme law of the land now is that the states must issue marriage permits to same sex partners. So, therefore….”
“Let me stop you, sirs. We are not the state. We are a private church whose head is Jesus Christ. We will not bow to any order that we violate God’s word in how we operate our church.”
“Are you living in the dark ages, Pastor? Didn’t you follow the test cases over the last two years where florists and caterers who refused to do business with same sex couples were fined and even had their property seized? You didn’t speak up and organize then, did you? Your church uses the public streets and utilities. Your church gets special tax treatment by the state. Your….”
“Taxes? What do taxes have to do with….”
“You don’t pay property taxes. Your congregation gets to deduct their contributions to you. You have become creatures of the state. You can’t discriminate against us any more than you can discriminate against people based on their race.”
“But, uh, we just won’t do it. We won’t marry you in this church. That’s it. Flat. End of discussion. This meeting is over. I’ll show you the door.”
“Fine, sir, fine. We’ll leave, but you will soon learn how this country has changed. The next people who will contact you will be agents of the Department of Justice. Churches which refuse to comply with the law will soon find that either the church will obey the law or the pastor will be jailed, and probably the board of elders. If you still refuse to obey the law, the church will be closed by court order. We can’t allow homophobia to exist in this community. You’ll hear from the federal government, soon. Very soon.”
Far-fetched, you may say? Really? Tell that to the Christian owners of 111 Cakery, who closed their doors after media attacks following the bakery’s refusal to bake a cake for a same sex event. Tell that to the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Washington State. Weddings made up only about 3% of the florist’s total business, but the business was targeted by two gay men, with the ICLU in tow. As soon as the owner said that selling flower arrangements for a gay wedding would violate her Christian beliefs, she was sued by the state Attorney General, who claimed that she had violated consumer protection laws. Entering a 60 page summary judgment (she received no trial) the judge ruled that the florist “cannot comply with both the law and her faith if she continues to provide flowers for weddings”. The court fined her and ordered that it would determine later how much of her assets would be forfeited to the state.
Now, follow this. The Washington state Attorney General said, ‘The law is clear: If you choose to provide a service to couples of the opposite sex, you must provide the same service to same sex couples”. Do you see where this will soon be heading? Once the Supreme Court does what it is widely expected to do and makes same sex marriage the law of America, the church visits and the lawsuits, and the arrests and the closings will come soon after. How, they will argue, can you marry people of opposite gender in your church, without also marrying same sex couples? The courts will be sympathetic to their argument. Many pastors and boards of elders will refuse to obey court orders, and will be held in contempt and in jail because of their faith-based refusal to comply.