With the historic and sweeping Supreme Court marriage decision, churches and Christian organizations should protect themselves from possible litigation.
What will happen when you’re challenged for violating the “constitutional” rights of a homosexual?
Will you cave in?
Will you fight?
Are you willing to go to court… and possibly lose? Are you willing to go to jail?
Several situations will arise that could place your church in major legal trouble and a moral dilemma.
These situations include:
- Allowing traditional couples but not same-sex couples to use the church for a wedding.
- Allowing traditional couples but not same-sex couples to be in a marriage class.
- Firing an employee who engages in same-sex behavior or participates in a same-sex wedding.
Having church bylaws specifically addressing these issues might not protect a church from a lawsuit, but it will place them in a better position to fight a lawsuit.
Every church is at risk of a lawsuit forcing a pastor or church to not “discriminate” against a homosexual leader.
Even hiring is a risk. In 1999, a woman who worked as a youth minister at a Colorado church was fired after it was revealed she was a lesbian living with another woman.
She brought a lawsuit against the church but was dismissed, with the court citing the First Amendment. But that decision would likely be different now that same-sex marriage is allowed.
In another instance, a worship leader at a California church was released when it was discovered he was gay. He sued the church because the pastor had explained to the congregation why he was let go. In this instance, the church won in court. But the church would lose today.
Should a church have in its bylaws these specifics, and should an employee be fired for not complying with the bylaws or a same-sex wedding denied based on the bylaws, it would allow the church to stand on better legal ground.
- Update your statement of faith to clearly state your position on marriage, sexuality and gender. Update your church’s standards of conduct.
- Update your employment criteria – employees should be required to sign the statement of faith and standards of conduct.
- Have clear criteria about the qualifications for becoming a church member, and base these qualifications on your statement of faith and Biblical standards of conduct. Include a process for ending a membership.
- Have a bylaw that explicitly states your marriage policy: state that your church and staff will only conduct wedding ceremonies for one man and one woman, as biologically designed by birth (to protect against transgender claims). Define the unions that your pastors will officiate – this can be even narrower, as some pastors will not marry a Christian to a non-Christian.
- Have an explicit plan B in your church bylaws, stating that if you are ever legally compelled to perform same-sex ceremonies, all staff will opt out of civil ceremonies and will only perform Biblically based “covenant ceremonies” that conform to your marriage policy.
- Have a clear, written policy for facilities use: point to your statement of faith and do not allow non-members or non-attendees to rent or use facilities for same-sex ceremonies.
- If all else fails, be prepared to engage in civil disobedience, regardless of the cost.
Contact me at (310) 212-5727 or firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll connect you with more resources and a Christian legal team that can help you.