Christian ministers are now under attack in several cities for their views on homosexuality, gender identity, and same-sex marriage. It seems that the gay community has become like the proverbial camel who just wanted to put its nose in the tent. The owner allowed the camel to shield its nose from the wind-driven sand, but the camel was not satisfied. It then wanted to protect its eyes, then its ears, and then its entire head. Soon the entire camel was in the tent, leaving no room for the owner.
It appears that the more tolerant we are of the “rights” of homosexuals, the more they demand. Is it possible to satisfy all their demands without destroying traditional marriage and family life – or even freedom of religion and freedom of speech?
On October 14, 2014, Annise Parker, the first openly lesbian mayor of Houston, Texas, issued subpoenas demanding that a group of pastors turn over any of their sermons dealing with homosexuality or gender identity. The Houston city council approved a new non-discrimination ordinance in June 2014, and the subpoenas are the “latest twist in an ongoing saga.”
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a religious liberty law firm, is representing the five pastors and filed a motion in Harris County Court to stop the subpoenas, calling them “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious.” The ADF attorney Christina Holcomb stated, “The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented…. The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.”
On October 18, 2014, the city of Houston informed the five Christian pastors that they would no longer have to turn over their “sermons” but would instead have to turn over their “speeches” to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). HERO apparently includes 17 different categories of information.
ADF attorney Erik Stanley stated, “The city of Houston still doesn’t get it. The subpoenas still ask for information that encompasses speeches made by the pastors and private communications with their church members.”
Stanley said that the only way to resolve the problem is for the city of Houston to rescind the subpoenas. He continued that the legal action “tramples their First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion. Any inquiry into what these pastors did in standing against the ordinance passed by the city of Houston and encouraging members to sign the petition is a violation of the First Amendment.”
The fiasco began when religious groups opposed and filed a lawsuit against one of the provisions in HERO that “would allow men who identify as women to use the restrooms of their choice.” The pastors were leading the opposition to what is called the “Bathroom Bill” and thus were subpoenaed.
Meanwhile in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, other ministers are under attack for refusing to conduct same-sex marriages. Donald and Evelyn, husband and wife and both ordained ministers, run the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel. City officials told them that they are required to perform [same-sex wedding] ceremonies or face months in jail and/or thousands of dollars in fines. Coeur d’Alene also has a “non-discrimination” ordinance; city officials claim that ministers have to conduct same-sex marriages because “the courts have overridden Idaho’s voter-approved constitutional amendment that affirmed marriage as the union of a man and a woman.”
ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco stated, “The government should not force ordained ministers to act contrary to their faith under threat of jail time and criminal fines…. Many have denied that pastors would ever be forced to perform ceremonies that are completely at odds with their faith, but that’s what is happening here – and it’s happened this quickly. The city is on seriously flawed legal ground, and our lawsuit intends to ensure that this couple’s freedom to adhere to their own faith as pastors is protected just as the First Amendment intended.”
Tedesco added, “The government exists to protect and respect our freedoms, not attack them…. The city cannot erase these fundamental freedoms and replace them with government coercion and intolerance.”
I expect that my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will come under fire some time. When the U.S. Supreme Court chose to not hear the gay marriage cases, it also failed to protect traditional marriage. The Church issued an official statement on October 6, 2014, in response to the Supreme Court non-decision.
“The succession of federal court decisions in recent months, culminating in today’s announcement by the Supreme Court, will have no effect on the doctrinal position or practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is that only marriage between a man and woman is acceptable to God. In prizing freedom of conscience and Constitutional guarantees of the free exercise of religion, we will continue to teach that standard and uphold it in our religious practices.
“Nevertheless, respectful coexistence is possible with those with differing values. As far as the civil law is concerned, the courts have spoken. Church leaders will continue to encourage our people to be persons of good will toward all, rejecting persecution of any kind based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or non-belief, and differences in sexual orientation.”
The officials in Houston and Coeur d’Alene are attempting to force Christians to change their beliefs by jail time or fines. I feel confident that some people will cave to the pressure, but I know there will be many who will not conform. When a person knows the law of God and commits to obedience to it, nothing – including death – will change that person’s belief.
The government can take away everything that is dear to a converted Christian and still not change who he/she is. Consider the case of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. The government put him in prison for many years but never changed his beliefs. He came out of prison a stronger person and earned his nation’s and the world’s respect. History is full of examples of people who died rather than conform.
We may see more examples of this type of dedication to God in the near future if we do not stop the tyrannical behavior before it takes over the “tent” of our nation. Toleration and respect are important to the unity of a nation, but there must be a two-way street rather than always going in one direction. I respect all people as children of a living God and believe that all of us are equal before the law of the land; however, but I do not and cannot respect the breaking of any of God’s laws. There I will plant my flag and make my stand!