The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) today heard arguments related to gay marriage. Despite the multitudinous memes, cartoons, and one-line arguments on social media, the civil arguments are quite nuanced. No tweet or Facebook post can rightly or fully capture the breadth of this issue. In the end, those on social media and the talking heads on television and radio often end up talking past each other and offering overly simplistic “analysis” (and I use that word very loosely).
Part of what is at stake is the relationship between gay marriage and religious practice. No, I don’t mean bakers and photographers, though those questions are related. Rather, I refer to ministers and churches performing gay marriages.
Some denominations and local churches already accept and perform such ceremonies despite biblical prohibitions against homosexuality. That is their God-given and constitutionally protected right (yes, God gives us the free will to choose sin). Others, including the denomination with which I affiliate, the Southern Baptist Convention, choose not to recognize gay marriages. That, too, is their right.
It is unclear what the ultimate impact of the eventual SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage will be. Will it impact only civil authorities? Will it affect churches? We’ll have to wait until June when the ruling is finally given to see its overall impact on society and law.
Gay Marriage and the Church
Because of the uncertainties, I can only speculate. I suspect that if the SCOTUS upholds gay marriage, they will reinforce the First Amendment religious freedom regarding churches. I don’t see the court requiring churches to violate their faith and perform gay marriages or require them to allow gay couples to use church buildings.
[pullquote]When it comes to government versus God, Scripture trumps SCOTUS.[/pullquote]
It is also possible that the Justices could conclude that while ministers cannot be forced to officiate gay marriages, they can decide that church facilities, like restaurants or other privately-owned establishments, are open to the public. Thus the Court could rule that churches cannot prohibit gay couples from using the facilities for their marriage.
Another possibility is that the SCOTUS could decide that ministers cannot discriminate in the name of religion, thus they must perform gay marriages and churches must allow gays to use their facilities.
It is also possible that the Justice may decide that this is not an issue for the Federal government based on the Tenth Amendment, and thus each state has the right to make its own choice.
Only God knows what they will decide because only He knows the future. Regardless, what they decide will not impact my choice.
Gay Marriage and Scripture
Should I ever pastor again (which I’m open to doing), then, depending on the SCOTUS ruling, I may be forced to engage in civil disobedience.
First, I will never officiate a gay marriage. Even if a government agency requires me to do so, I will not perform any gay marriage. Scripture trumps SCOTUS.
Second, no church I pastor will allow a gay couple to use its facilities for a gay marriage. The building is owned by a group of individuals for the purpose of expressing and practicing their religious faith. Part of that expression is a rejection of gay marriage as contrary to God’s design. To allow a gay couple to use the facilities in association with their marriage ceremony, even if it’s just the wedding reception, is to affirm that marriage. As pastor, the church I lead will not allow a gay couple to use the facilities for their marriage.
My father has proposed an intriguing idea that I might adopt myself. His position, as a pastor, is that if the court or other governing body requires him to perform gay marriages or requires the church allow a gay couple to use church facilities for their marriage, then he will stop performing any marriage. Instead, he will require the couple—gay or straight—to obtain a civil marriage. Then, he will perform a religious “sanctioning ceremony” for straight couples only; no such service will be provided to gay couples.
While that idea can be debated, his stance is solid: ‘No’ to recognizing or participating in gay marriages. I agree with this stance.
Taking such a stand, however, could require outright defiance to the Supreme Court, law, or executive order. If that is the case, so be it. Why? Because when it comes to government versus God, Scripture trumps SCOTUS.