Criminalizing Christianity

With the Supreme Court decision over the homosexual marriage issue expected next month, it could potentially be a landmark decision.  The Justices have said their decision will rest on these questions:

  • Is marriage based on biology or feelings?
  • Who should decide whether to redefine an institution that stretches back for “millennia”?
  • If justices begin tampering with the historically exclusive definition of marriage as the lifelong union of a man and a woman, what would prevent future courts from imposing polygamy, incest or pedophilia-based marriage on the nation?

Justice Scalia noted that if the Court rules that homosexual marriage is a constitutional right, then pastors, rabbis, priests and imams will be forced to perform such ceremonies or face state penalties.

Lifesite – Justice Scalia repeatedly suggested that once a constitutional right to marry by same-sex couples was enshrined by the court, a member of the clergy could not be given civil marriage powers by the state unless he agreed to perform any and all marriages that the nation legally recognizes.

“Every state allows ministers to marry people, and their marriages are effective under state law,” Scalia said. “That will not be the case if, indeed, we hold, as a constitutional matter, that the state must marry two men.”

As it stands, most clergy serve a dual role, celebrating church nuptials but also signing legal documents allowing the state to legally recognize that marriage. But if they refuse to conduct same-sex rituals, government officials may strip clergy of their state legal standing, rendering their marriages legally invalid in the eyes of the state government.

Justice Scalia noted the key difference between state laws, which can make exceptions for religious beliefs, and finding a right to gay “marriage” in the Constitution, which would allow no exceptions. “Were the states to [redefine marriage] by law, they could make exceptions to what is required for same-sex marriage, who has to honor it, and so forth. But once it’s made a matter of constitutional law…is it conceivable that a minister who is authorized by the state to conduct marriage can decline to marry two men? Is it conceivable that that would be allowed?”

His question was rebuffed by some of the court’s liberal justices, who pointed to the “free exercise of religion” clause in the Bill of Rights – but it was not answered.

Unsatisfied, Justice Scalia continued to explain that same-sex “marriage” bans in the states “are laws. They are not constitutional requirements. If you let the states [redefine marriage], you can make a [religious] exception. The state can say, ‘Yes, two men can marry — but ministers who do not believe in same-sex marriage will still be authorized to conduct marriages on behalf of the state.’ You can’t do that once it is a constitutional proscription.”

A devout Roman Catholic, Scalia said that no religious exception can be allowed for a constitutional right. A minister “is not given the state’s power, unless he agrees to use that power in accordance with the Constitution. You can’t appoint people who will then go ahead and violate the Constitution.”

Two years ago, journalist Ben Shapiro wrote that there is already a movement on the state level “to revoke non-profit status for religious organizations that do not abide by same-sex marriage.”  If the Supreme Court declares homosexual marriage to be Constitutional, there will be clergy who refuse to conduct homosexual weddings.  Once that happens, if Scalia’s assessment is correct, those clergy will be the new target of the homosexuals and their friends on the left.  Might there be states that begin revoking ministerial licenses of those who refuse to conduct homosexual marriages?  Would the IRS begin targeting a church’s non-profit status when their pastor refuses to marry homosexuals?  Don’t think for one minute that pastors wouldn’t be targeted by homosexuals if they thought doing so would bring down the wrath of the government on Christians.  Homosexuals have already proven themselves very adept at targeting businesses providing wedding services when the owner declines on religious principles to participate in a homosexual wedding.

There have already been efforts to protect clergy from having to conduct homosexual weddings.  Here in Oklahoma, Governor Fallin just signed HB1007, a bill that protects religious leaders from being compelled to perform marriages that contradict their religious beliefs.  Governor Fallin said, “This bill makes it clear that the government can never compel our religious leaders or houses of worship to act in violation of their faith where marriage is concerned.”

And in Texas, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has spearheaded an effort to get a similar bill passed in the state legislature.  The efforts are being opposed by Democrats, naturally, but are expected to be passed.

But are these efforts a waste of time?  It might depend on the Court’s ruling.  Justice Scalia seems to think so, noting that making homosexual marriage a matter of constitutional law precludes states from legislating exceptions for clergy.

Wallace Henry of The Christian Post points out that it is not just churches that could find themselves in trouble should homosexual marriage be declared Constitutional.

Christian Post – In our time this means local churches that do not embrace same-sex marriage would find their legal status shaky or non-existent, as well as parachurch groups, conservative Christian colleges, church-based humanitarian agencies, and all other religious institutions – Christian and otherwise – supporting the traditional view of marriage.

Without state-recognized corporate status everything from mortgages and building permits to employment and hiring practices is threatened – all of them essential for institutional function.

Denial of permits, contracts, etc for having Christian beliefs in opposition to homosexual marriage could bring legal trouble to many organizations, in addition to churches.  Without the necessary government approval to operate on a non-profit basis or acquire permits for various events, their very existence could be threatened.  Henry goes on to explain the process being used to eventually criminalize Christianity.  We’re almost there.

Previously, I wrote in The Christian Post about the process by which the prophetic voice is silenced in a culture: Marginalization, caricaturization, vilification, criminalization, elimination.

We have reached the stage of vilification – conservative Christians are now regarded by the consensus establishments as the villains in “transformed” America. The Supreme Court may well take us to the criminalization stage.

The biblical church therefore must learn to live as the first century Christians did in Rome.

Their faith would not permit violent resistance to the state. Rather, as Dr. Martin Luther King would demonstrate, the resistance would take the positive form of standing for truth midst the antagonism of individuals and institutions opposing their freedom. The first century Roman Christians knew the greatest they could do in the exclusion of marginalization, ridicule of caricaturization, loathing of vilification, infamy of criminalization, and threat of elimination was to live out their faith in the midst of a society that hated them.

Since they did not have official sanction for an institutional presence in Rome, the Roman Christians operated through organic relational communities. In homes, catacombs, and other secret places, they functioned as the body of Christ. And when they emerged up into the public glare they manifested the face of Christ.

This is what the biblical church must prepare for now. Leaders should begin thinking about what will happen if non-profit status is lost. Christian institutions must embrace a Book of Acts strategy for corporate operation. Schools must train future church leaders in New Testament strategies.

criminalizing christianityI’m sure that many people believe that Christianity could never be criminalized and some of the left would say they would never seek to make that happen.  But it’s already happening.  Here in the United States, pastors aren’t being arrested for what they preach and Christians haven’t been handcuffed and thrown in jail, but it’s happened in other countries.  I’ve read of many incidents in the United Kingdom where Christians and pastors were arrested by police for publicly speaking against the sin of homosexuality.  Usually the arrested person is merely cautioned by police and released after a short time, but the fact remains they are arrested and hauled away.

Here in the United States we’re not quite at that point, but we have reached the time when Christian business owners are sued and fined into homelessness and bankruptcy for refusing to violate their Christian principles and provide services in support of homosexual weddings.  Just last month a couple in Oregon was told their fine would be $135,000 for declining to provide a wedding cake for a homosexual wedding.  Bakers, photographers, owners of wedding venues and others have all come under fire from homosexuals for declining to participate in their sin.  Government entities have become involved, Christians have been declared to have violated nondiscrimination laws and fines have been assessed.  It’s not a stretch at all to see that we are headed for the day when prison is the next step.  Who would have thought even ten years ago that husband and wife bakers would lose their business and be fined $135,000 for refusing to make a cake for two lesbians? 

We are definitely in the vilification stage.  The waters for the criminalization stage have been tested and found to be inviting.  The ruling by the Supreme Court next month could be the tipping point that moves our country completely into criminalization. 

Others have apparently read of Scalia’s comments and have dismissed the notion that pastors could be targeted for refusing to perform homosexual weddings.  We’ve got the First Amendment, they say.  Sure, and tell that to Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of the now-closed Sweet Cakes by Melissa.  Explain to them that they’ve still got their First Amendment rights while they lose their home paying the $135,000 penalty for exercising those rights.  Tell it to Elaine Huguenin, who was fined $6,637.94 by the New Mexico Human Rights Commission for refusing to photograph a lesbian wedding.  Elaine appealed all the way to the Supreme Court and they declined to hear her case, which meant the fine stood.  Apparently, the Supreme Court is fine with her First Amendment rights being taken from her.  So don’t tell me that clergy have First Amendment rights and that those rights will supersede a Supreme Court ruling that homosexual marriage is Constitutional.  Don’t tell me that the homosexuals won’t go after those who oppose homosexual marriage because they’ve already been doing it.  Don’t tell me that the government won’t be used to target colleges, religious organizations and businesses for opposing homosexual marriage because that’s already been happening as well.  The only thing that hasn’t happened yet, here in the United States, is sending someone to prison for refusing to bow down at the homosexual altar and worship their debauchery. 

Don’t tell me that’s not coming because all the signs point to it.  It’s a matter of when, not if.  Criminalizing Christianity is just around the corner.  Perhaps not with this Supreme Court ruling, should they decide homosexual marriage is not Constitutional, but it will come one day.  When it does there will be just one stage left – elimination.

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