Pastors, are you ready for a gay wedding in your sanctuary?

Dear Fellow Pastors,

I am writing to you today with an urgent message about the Gay Marriage Equality bill, SB 6239 introduced on Friday, January 13, 2012 in Washington State. This is a deceptive and dangerous bill. It represents a radical shift in the definition of marriage and would be a serious threat to religious freedom.

The bill's introduction says it would not force clergy or churches to marry gays. However, it adds a section to state marriage law dealing with discrimination. There has never been a section on discrimination in the Washington Marriage Code. This is a pretty clear warning about the future. You don't add discrimination for the first time without an intention to use it. First they label it discrimination then they criminalize it. They say they are respecting clergy and churches but they place refusal to marry gays in the category of discrimination. Sexual rights are more important than the violation of a core tenant of our religious beliefs.

A bill which describes the conditions under which a church can be sued for discrimination against gays is not about marriage equality and it certainly does not protect religious freedom. The Gay Marriage Equality bill is a serious threat to religious freedom in Washington State. It takes aim at the heart of religious freedom. 

Churches and ministers who participate in the newly defined "discrimination" against gays would be subject to lawsuits and legal penalties. You will be bludgeoned into acceptance and submission. They want the church to accept and approve of gay marriage whether we like it or not.

The state has already granted gays every right that goes along with marriage. They have equality under the law. But that's apparently not enough for Governor Gregoire and the homosexual special interest groups. The Gay Marriage Equality bill will not be satisfied until virtually every church in Washington is forced to allow gays to hold their weddings in church sanctuaries under the threat of discrimination lawsuits. The laws against discrimination are so expansive that virtually every church in Washington could come under legal threat. Just fighting back legally could bankrupt most churches whether or not you were actually guilty of anything.

All the hype on this bill says it protects religious freedom. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The bill says a church can refuse to marry gays without being subject to "a civil claim or cause of action unless ..." 

When someone says we are not going to have a problem "unless..." you already have a problem. More than that, when they add a section to the marriage laws covering "discrimination" they are telling you how this will eventually go down. They intend to come after churches and clergy using discrimination as their weapon.

They want us to tolerate them but they don't want to tolerate us. They want to use the power of the state and civil rights laws to force the church into accepting homosexuality. They give lip service to religious freedom while at the same time setting up the legal system to empower homosexual coercion of the church. This is not marriage equality. It is the setup for a knockdown. They already have equality but that is not what they actually want. They want to force the church to accept homosexuality.

Some churches might be able to decline to host gay weddings under some limited circumstances but would be forced to allow gay weddings in their sanctuary under most circumstances. 

What churches could be forced to allow gay weddings?  

  • Does the public ever use your facilities? If you ever allow non-members to use your sanctuary for a wedding you could NOT deny a gay couple from using your sanctuary. 

  • Do you have a pop machine or sell coffee? 

  • Do you sometimes have fundraisers where you sell cookies or popcorn for consumption at the church? 

  • Have you ever allowed your church to be used by another Christian organization for which they paid you a fee? 

All of those actions would open the door to a civil rights lawsuit and severe penalties if you failed to allow a gay couple to use your facility to have their wedding.

The laws covering discrimination create a wide net to include any place "... where food or beverages of any kind are sold for consumption on the premises," Discrimination also includes places with "schools of special instruction, or nursery schools, or day care centers or children's camps "Those provisions alone include thousands of Washington churches. The marriage laws of Washington have never referenced discrimination. 

So-called "Gay Marriage Equality" will change everything.

The church that I pastor would probably have at least twenty different avenues from which we could be attacked under this proposed Gay Marriage Equality law. Our refusal to have gay weddings is labeled as "discriminatory" under this law even though we would be theoretically exempted from prosecution from the government "unless..." 

However, the "discriminatory" label would deprive a church like ours of grants and gifts from organizations, which have a policy against "discrimination defined by law." One only has to remember United Way's hostile treatment of the Boy Scouts decision prohibiting gay scout leaders. That is the future of religious freedom as well.

The bill is very deceptive about its intentions. 

Several places it claims to protect religious freedom and to respect clergy and religious institutions. This is pure propaganda of the worst sort. 

It is democracy Soviet style: 

  • Say one thing and do another. 

  • Say you are protecting churches but label their actions as discriminatory and make them subject to the criminal laws on discrimination.

  • Say that no state agency or local government can penalize an organization if a minister refuses to marry a gay but threaten the church with a claim for damages or cause of action if they don't rent to gays for weddings or receptions.

The Gay Marriage Equality bill touts the narrow religious exemption to deceive the gullible while hiding the cause for legal actions under the wide net of the discrimination clause. The velvety call for equality hides the iron fist reserved for religious holdouts.

Pastors, if you are concerned about this bill, please consider taking the following three actions: 

  1. First, personally contact your legislators about this. Some legislators have said they have not heard from a conservative member of the clergy in a decade or more. Express your concern not just about the religious freedom risks, but about the underlying issue of redefining marriage as well. 

  2. Second, share this information with your congregation and make sure they understand why God wants His church to use our influence to encourage righteousness in legislation. 

  3. Third, give your church the legislative hotline (1-800-562-6000) and urge them to call. 

You can print contact cards to distribute for your congregation here:http://media1.razorplanet.com/share/511538-7984/siteDocs/Hotline%20Flier.pdf.

If you are concerned about the legality of these actions, please look at the following legal guidelines: http://www.fpiw.org/get-involved/churchs-and-pastors/legal-guidelines-for-pastors.html.

You can also urge your congregation to email their legislators by sending them to the following website: http://www.fpiw.org/marriage/email-your-legislator.html.

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, concerns and/or have comments you'd like to share. 

Yours for the Kingdom,

Pastor Joe Fuiten

Comments:

Posted by Samuel Hoo on October 18, 2012
It is profane and reprehensible to turn a House of God into a House of Mammon. Don't get me wrong I am opposed to gay marriage but I am even stronger opposed to renting out the House of the Lord and selling things in the House of the Lord. To me it just looks like the state is saying if you are going to profane the house of the lord for money then you have to profane it this way as well.
Posted by Geoff on January 19, 2012
Here: "unless ... to the public for a fee," appearing twice. Definition of the word "public" becomes important here. If my church supplies hot dogs to some visitors for a dollar at a special event on X day, that sounds like it qualifies as providing to the public for a fee, to me. If that's the case, I am presented with the non-sequitur of "If you have ever sold anything to the public, you must allow that which you consider profane and reprehensible to use your holy facilities."
Posted by Brian Murphy on January 18, 2012
Given the concerns you articulated about SB 6239, I was surprised that you didn't link to the bill text that causes your concern. I've excerpted the sections of the bill (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2011-12/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Bills/6239.pdf) that use the word "discrimination" below: "NEW SECTION. Sec. 1. (1) It is the intent of this act to end discrimination in marriage based on gender and sexual orientation in Washington, to ensure that all persons in this state may enjoy the freedom to marry on equal terms, while also respecting the religious freedom of clergy and religious institutions to determine for whom to perform marriage ceremonies and to determine which marriages to recognize for religious purposes. (2) No official of any religious denomination or nonprofit institution authorized to solemnize marriages may be required to solemnize any marriage in violation of his or her right to free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or by the Washington state Constitution. [...] NEW SECTION. Sec. 7. A new section is added to chapter 26.04 RCW to read as follows: (1) Consistent with the law against discrimination, chapter 49.60 RCW, no religious organization is required to provide accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, services, or goods related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage unless the organization offers admission, occupancy, or use of those accommodations or facilities to the public for a fee, or offers those advantages, privileges, services, or goods to the public for sale. (2) A refusal by any religious organization to provide accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, services, or goods related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage does not create a civil claim or cause of action unless the organization offers those accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, services, or goods to the public in transactions governed by law against discrimination, chapter 49.60 RCW." Can you please point to the specific problems in the bill (or in the Discrimination - Civil Rights Commission RCW that it references) so that we can clearly understand where your concerns are in the language?
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