By Kelly Boggs, Message Editor
The Defense of Marriage Act passed by Congress in 1996 allowed states to refuse to recognize homosexual marriages that were granted by the laws of other states.
However, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional it opened the door for homosexual couples to insist their marriages performed in one state to be recognized in a state where homosexual marriage was not sanctioned by law.
Section 3, which the Court found violated the Constitution reads as follows:
“In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling coupled with the trend of states granting legal status to homosexual marriage has caused some measure of concern among churches throughout America. Louisiana Baptist are no exception.
The concern is very real. I have predicted in previous columns that homosexual activists will seek to further advance their agenda of forced acceptance by coercing conservative churches to perform or host homosexual weddings.
Consider the plight of the Oak Grove Camp Meeting Association (OGCMA). Months before the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling, one homosexual couple sued the religious group concerning homosexual nuptials and won.
A lesbian couple approached the OGCMA, located in the New Jersey seaside community of Ocean Grove, about renting the Christian group’s beachfront boardwalk pavilion for their civil union ceremony.
OGCMA was founded in 1869 as a ministry to provide opportunities for spiritual birth, growth and renewal in a Christian seaside setting. The group has a loose affiliation with the United Methodist Church.
OGCMA denied the couple’s request, saying homosexual unions went against the group’s beliefs. The homosexual couple sued and in January 2012 a New Jersey state administrative law judge ruled the Christian group had no grounds for denying the couple’s request and had discriminated against them.
The judge said the OGCMA pavilion had been previously open to the public for a variety of community events, thus it had been established as a venue of public accommodation. The only denial, other than for scheduling conflicts, had been to the lesbian couple.
Furthermore, the judge pointed out that OGCMA received a state tax exemption with the understanding the Christian group’s property was to be “open for public use on an equal basis.” Since the association did not allow a lesbian wedding, it violated the terms of the agreement.
“When you open your doors to the public, you can’t treat same-sex couples differently,” said Jeanne LoCicero, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey deputy legal director, according to a report on the ACLU-NJ website
In order to keep your church from experiencing the same reality as the Oak Grove Camp Meeting Association, let me make a couple of suggestions.
The first is that a church must seriously consider opening its buildings to anyone other than church members. I know many churches allow their facilities to be utilized by the public and even rent space for weddings, receptions and meetings.
The problem with allowing the public at large to utilize church facilities is it could establish the church as a place of public accommodation. As a result, a judge could rule that because public accommodation had been established, use of the church’s facilities must be granted even to homosexual couples.
The aforementioned might not ever happen to your church. However, it must be noted that the Oak Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Christian group opposed to homosexual marriage, was forced to allow a homosexual wedding at its facility.
Additionally, a church may want to consider amending its constitution and by-laws so as to state specifically that under no circumstances will it allow a homosexual wedding to be conducted on its premises or by any of its ministers.
Some Louisiana Baptist churches have already taken this step. First Baptist Church of Mandeville, pastored by Ken Schroeder, is one such church.
Below is an addition FBC Mandeville recently made to its constitution and by-laws. It is printed which Schroeder’s permission as an example of what your church may want to consider.
“Statement on Marriage and Sexuality
“We believe that the term ‘marriage’ has only one meaning and that is marriage sanctioned by God which joins one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture. We believe that God intends sexual intimacy to occur only between a man and a woman who are married to each other. We believe that any form of sexual immorality, such as but not limited to adultery, fornication, homosexuality, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, pornography, or any attempt to change one’s sex, or disagreement with one’s biological sex, is sinful and offensive to God.
“We believe that in order to preserve the function and integrity of this church as the local Body of Christ, and to provide a biblical role model to the church members and the community, it is imperative that all employees, volunteers, and members of this church abide by and agree to this Statement on Marriage and Sexuality and conduct themselves accordingly.
“Because we believe that the biblical teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman, marriages outside those parameters will not be performed by church ministers or on church property.
“We believe that God offers redemption and restoration to all who confess and forsake their sin, seeking His mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
“We believe that every person must be afforded compassion, love, kindness, respect, and dignity. This church stands ready to provide loving ministry to anyone who struggles with sexual sin. We believe that hateful and harassing behavior or attitudes directed toward any individual are to be repudiated and are not in accord with Scripture or the doctrines of this church.”
It is a shame that churches have to seriously consider closing their facilities to the public and stipulating that homosexual weddings will not be allowed in their facilities. However, it is the homosexual activists that have brought this on, not the church.
May the Lord bless as you seek to do what is in the best interest of His church.