One question during the recent oral arguments on legalizing gay marriage has caused quite the kerfuffle in the religious education community. Will legal gay marriage cause religious colleges to lose their tax-exempt status? Ooh, looks like another religious freedom debate!
The tiny question with the epic punch came from SCOTUS Justice Samuel Alito and was asked of Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. Could these institutions lose tax-exempt status if they continue to work for traditional marriage only? Verrilli’s response was telling:
“I don’t deny that … It is going to be an issue.”
The director of The Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Liberty, Travis Weber, comments that there’s a potential for Verrilli’s “issue” to eventually reach as far as churches and “anyone holding a traditional view of marriage.”
Speaking at the Women in the World Summit 2016, Hillary Clinton said, “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” And the sky started falling. Opponents to gay marriage started hollering about how the government shouldn’t be allowed to use its power to force a belief system on anyone. Separation of Church and State, after all!
Excuse me while I roll on the floor laughing.
Ahem. I’m back. There are two points I’d like to make.
One, just what is a “traditional” marriage? Before 1967, “traditional marriage” could only be between members of the same race. Going even farther back in time, marriage in the English Regency was an exchange of property, namely the dowry for the bride. The woman became a piece of property owned by her husband with no claim to her own fortune or even her own children! It seems to me that “traditional” marriage has changed enormously with the passage of time. So what’s the big deal with letting me marry Brad Pitt already?
Two and I’m trying not to laugh again, the separation of Church and State? The government not being allowed to influence religion? Pshaw! This is a straight-up (pardon the pun) case of “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” In other words, the only time religion speaks up for that famous separation is when it’s convenient for it to do so.
America is not a “Christian nation.” The Founding Fathers are spinning in their graves over this issue. After all the crap the early Americans had to put up with in England over religion, this nation was founded on principles of freedom. Yet, every time I turn around I see religion grasping for governmental power.
Pro-abortion politicians, for example, have been threatened with denial of communion for their political positions. This happened in 2004 with John Kerry, a presidential candidate. The message was clear: bow to the will of the Holy See and you’re good, go against it and you’re toast. John F. Kennedy had to go to great lengths to prove the Vatican didn’t pull his strings because the American people were concerned.
Some pastors, such as Rev. James Lindell of the 9,000-member James River Church in Missouri even go so far as to direct their members on how to vote. He urged his congregation to overturn a gay rights law. Others tell congregants who to vote for in elections.
According to the IRS, tax-exempt organizations such as churches “may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.”
So. Tell me again about how the government can’t influence religion when religion is always busting its hump to influence government. I hate double standards.
The solution is simple: follow the law of the land (which could include legal gay marriage) or pay the price. What is that price? Taxes. I’m not saying the government should tell churches what to believe, but religion wants to have its cake and eat it, too. Honey, if I can’t do it, neither can you!
I wrote this week about how I wouldn’t force gay-hating churches to perform gay weddings. I still feel that way. However, if gay marriage becomes the law of the land, there is a choice as I said above. Every day we all make choices. Most of us willingly pay the price for those choices. If I eat that cupcake, I may gain weight. If a restaurant refuses to serve African Americans, it may get sued. If churches break the law, they may lose their tax-exempt status. Fair is fair.