Recent and potential developments in the law make it clear that claiming a legal right to engage in homosexual behavior comes at the cost of religious freedom. A California federal court ruled on August 4, 2010, that marriage as it has been understood for thousands of years violates the rights of those engaging in homosexual behavior. Congress decided to use our nation’s armed forces for a social experiment on December 18 – when it mandated inclusion of those who practice bisexual and homosexual behavior in the military. And it is poised to strike another blow against biblical morality as it considers adding “sexual orientation” to race, sex, and other classes that are protected by employment anti-discrimination laws.
These changes in the law – popularly referred to as the Prop 8 trial on same-sex “marriage,” repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), and the “Employment Non-Discrimination Act” (ENDA) – will have a profound effect on religious freedom. How is this? Just ask the current Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Chai R. Feldblum. When questioned about instances when religious liberty and homosexual “rights” conflict, she stated that she would have “a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.”
For example, in the opinion striking down the California statute protecting marriage, the court held that Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist religious tenets teaching that homosexual behavior is sinful “harm gays and lesbians.” This is just a few small steps away from characterizing a pastor’s sermon or priest’s homily quoting Romans 1:27 as so-called “hate speech” and unworthy of First Amendment protections.
Military chaplains – the pastors of our armed forces – will probably be the first to experience censorship – given the recent repeal of DADT. Many who stay will begin avoiding the topic of sexuality in their sermons to keep from being accused of sexual orientation discrimination or harassment.
If ENDA passes, churches are next in line. Forced hiring of those engaged in homosexual behavior will first show up in venues such as church schools, soup kitchens, and other church ministries. The law currently allows churches to discriminate based on religion when it comes to hiring for any position – even a janitor. And there’s even more protection allowed in the process of selecting pastors. The courts don’t have jurisdiction to review those church decisions under the church autonomy doctrine. But churches do not have the right to discriminate based on sex and race when hiring non-pastoral employees. And that restriction may soon expand to include sexual orientation if ENDA passes, thus requiring a church to hire an individual openly practicing homosexual behavior to be the director of its pre-school.
So the threat to religious freedom is very real, but what can be done about it? The answer can be summed up in three words: preach, teach, and act. The recent Gallup Poll report that 60 percent of weekly church attendees support the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell tells us that too many Christians do not understand the grave moral impact of homosexual behavior on marriages, families, and even our understanding of Christians as being the “bride of Christ.” So, teaching the moral values and theology that explain the meaning of marriage is essential to understanding who we are as humans and as Christians. But preaching and teaching will be ineffectual if pastors and Christians simply clam up when there are opportunities to share the Truth with our culture. Rather, they must fearlessly exercise their constitutional right to graciously speak sound Truth about the virtues of marriage and the profound sin of homosexual behavior.
With our form of representative government, Congress would never have passed the repeal if 60 percent of Christians had recognized and openly expressed the moral dangers of imposing bisexual and homosexual behavior on the military. Legislators, and even judges, cannot get away with changing the law unless allowed to do so by the people.
I’m convinced that many Christians are either ignorant or choose to ignore the Bible’s instruction regarding homosexual behavior and sexual morality in general because it’s not being taught routinely by their spiritual leaders. Years ago, pastors may have put lower priority on these teachings because people generally agreed that sexual sins – adultery, bisexual and homosexual behavior, and cohabitation – was sinful. But that lack of teaching in recent times left a moral vacuum that was filled not by good biblical teaching, but by Hollywood and USAToday.
The good news is that this is a problem that can still be remedied. A quick glance at a few “sermon starters” on Family Research Council’s website shows that there are good resources available online. Pastor Dan Scott of Christ Church of Nashville recently gave a sermon regarding homosexual behavior. Reading his words may inspire you, they certainly touched the hearts of many in his congregation.
If the Church in America will educate her people to stand against government-imposed sexual immorality, our leaders will lose the political will or power to merrily continue on this road to debauchery. But if this trend of rejecting biblical sexual morality continues, it won’t be long till it’s illegal to even preach against it. It is time for American pastors to unleash the light – lest we find ourselves where Europe and Canada have already landed.
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