One of the first questions we are usually asked by pastors whose states have redefined marriage and adopted same-sex “marriage” is whether they will be required to allow use of their church buildings for same-sex “wedding” ceremonies. This is not an unreasonable question considering that at least one city has considered forcing churches to allow use of their buildings for same-sex “weddings.” But the very simple answer to that question is an unequivocal “no.” Churches do not have to allow use of their facilities in ways that are inconsistent with their biblical beliefs.
Church buildings are private property and are used primarily for the exercise of religion. As such, the use of church buildings is cloaked with First Amendment protection both under the Free Exercise Clause and the Free Speech Clause. If the government attempts to force a church to use its private property in ways that are inconsistent with its religious beliefs, the government would violate the church’s First Amendment rights.
Put simply, a church has a right to only allow uses of its facilities that are consistent with its religious beliefs and to deny all other uses. No church should ever feel compelled to open its buildings for use in a same-sex “wedding” ceremony.
The best way to protect your church is to adopt a facility usage policy that outlines the religious nature of the church buildings and restricts usage of the facility to uses that are consistent with the church’s biblical beliefs. It is always best to adopt a policy governing the use of the facility because a policy is powerful evidence of the church’s beliefs and practice regarding use of its buildings. And if your church adopts a policy, it should follow that policy consistently.
Alliance Defending Freedom has prepared a sample facilities usage policy for churches. This policy is crafted to allow churches to make the decision as to what uses they will allow and to ensure that the church has the ability to approve uses consistent with its biblical beliefs and to deny all other requests to use the church buildings. Download the policy today and consider having your church adopt it.
And if your church is ever told that it must allow use of its facilities for something that is inconsistent with the church’s beliefs, contact our attorneys to review the facts. We want to ensure that the church remains free to minister through its church buildings in ways that are consistent with its religious faith.