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Same-Sex “Marriage” And The Church: What’s On The Horizon?

Posted on May 1st, 2013 Churches and Politics,Marriage | 4 Comments »

My grandmother used to always quote the old mariner’s saying: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.  Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.”  While meteorologists will debate whether this saying is accurate, one thing about it is true.  Before the days of radars and satellites, the sailors of old would always keep an eye on the horizon to judge whether gathering clouds were harbingers of bad weather.

We also have a saying at Alliance Defending Freedom: “While you shepherd your flock, we’ll watch the horizon.”  The sentiment behind this statement is that pastors frequently lack time or expertise to watch the horizon and judge what poses a legal threat to the church. That’s why God placed Alliance Defending Freedom in this place at this time. We are watching the legal horizon.

This year, marriage is a hot topic in legal circles. The United States Supreme Court is deciding cases involving the definition of the institution created by God in the Garden of Eden even before the fall of man. How can you as a pastor best respond in these challenging times?

Before the Court has its say, America’s pastors must have their say

The Supreme Court decision is expected to be handed down by the end of June. In its decision, the Supreme Court will have its say on how our laws will treat marriage. But before the Supreme Court has its say, America’s pastors must have their say. That’s why we are conducting Pulpit Freedom Sunday on June 9, 2013. On that day, pastors across the country will stand united to proclaim with one voice what God’s design for marriage is and why our country should honor that design and resist the siren’s call to redefine this most basic of human institutions.

If you have not yet signed up for Pulpit Freedom Sunday, please do so. The sign-up process only takes a minute.  If you cannot preach on June 9, then pick a Sunday as close to that day as possible and indicate the date of your message in the sign-up process.

In this crucial time in our country’s history, the voice of God from the shepherds of God’s flocks must be heard proclaiming biblical Truth about marriage to a society that far too often seems on the verge of forgetting marriage altogether.

What’s the state of the marriage battle?

Given the complexities of the legal process, many pastors feel daunted by the prospect of communicating the state of the marriage battle. However, we’ve made it easy for you.  This simple map will show you the current state of the battle to protect marriage in the United States.

There are also numerous sermon preparation resources on our website to help you effectively communicate about marriage to your congregation. There are resources about God’s design for marriage, and the threat that same-sex “marriage” poses to religious freedom.

We also have created a resource highlighting the positions certain elected officials took before the Supreme Court on the issue of marriage. You can use this resource to praise elected officials who fought to protect marriage as God intended, or to call out with biblical Truth those officials who took a public stand against marriage.

What do I need to do to protect my church?

We also receive many questions about what proactive steps churches can take to protect themselves.  There are a couple of things all churches can do to best position themselves for the future.

First, read our resource Seven Things all Churches Should have in their Bylaws. We also have some suggested bylaw language on marriage and human sexuality that will help churches in this regard.

Second, we advise every church to adopt a facilities usage policy that governs use of church facilities for wedding ceremonies. We have created a sample policy for you to use to ensure your church is protected.

Even in those states that adopted same-sex “marriage” or some equivalent, such as civil unions, churches do not have to allow use of their facilities for wedding ceremonies that are inconsistent with their faith. But there is an effort underway in some areas — such as Hawaii and Hutchinson, Kansas — to force churches to allow use of their facilities for same-sex “weddings” if they open their facilities for use by non-members for weddings at all. Passing a facilities usage policy provides a good defense. Put simply, no government official has the right to force a church to allow its facilities to be used for events that violate its religious beliefs.

Never forget that Alliance Defending Freedom is “watching the legal horizon.” We will continue to keep you updated and provide the best ways you as a pastor can respond to protect your church from legal threats.

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ADF Senior Legal Counsel - Church Project

Prayer – It’s Needed, It’s Right And It’s Legal!

Posted on April 26th, 2013 Religious Freedom | 1 Comment »

My son recently came to me and asked me why a person would want to bomb innocent people running a race in Boston.  Sometimes as dads, we just don’t have the right answer.  If he had come to me for algebra help, I could save the day.  If he needed a heavy object moved, I would be the man.  If he needed help understanding girls, well … there’s always mom!

But sometimes, we as parents just don’t have the answers.  The only thing we can do is take our cares and our concerns to our Heavenly Father.  And yes, as a nation, we can also take our country to prayer as well.  In 2 Chronicles 7:14, we read, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

On Thursday, May 2, 2013, people from all walks of life will be taking their heartfelt needs to God in prayer.  Teachers, electricians, athletes, commercial real estate agents, public officials, mothers, bankers, doctors, and indeed Christians from all walks of life will be seeking the face of God.  From the Boston Marathon bombing, to Sandy Hook, to North Korea, to our economy – we as a nation lack answers and we need guidance from our Heavenly Father.

We at the Alliance Defending Freedom encourage you to join with us, and the many others, in seeking Him on this special day.  It’s needed.  It’s right.  And since we at the Alliance Defending Freedom specialize in constitutional litigation, let us also say – it’s legal!

Having a national day of fasting and prayer is as much a part of our national landscape as voting booths and majestic mountain peaks.  In 1775, the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming this infant nation.  In George Washington’s very first address as president, the first ever address by any president to this nation, he called this nation to a day of prayer.  The call to prayer has continued throughout our history, including President Lincoln’s proclamation of a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” in 1863.

In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Truman, continued this tradition and declared an annual, national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, setting first Thursday of every May as the National Day of Prayer.

So don’t fall prey to those claims by groups seeking to destroy religion in America.  Not everyone is proud of our religious heritage, and some wish to delete this day from our history books.  Atheists have attacked a Hattiesburg, Mississippi town for planning a prayer observance this year on May 2.  A few years ago, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a federal lawsuit seeking to strike down the National Day of Prayer.  But these attacks are baseless, and it is legal for all citizens, whether pastors, mayors or the president, to seek the aid of the Almighty on this special day.

If you are interested in protecting the National Day of Prayer, if you are concerned about the future of our nation, then the best way to protect the National Day of Prayer is to participate in the National Day of Prayer.  So we invite you to find an event near you,  http://nationaldayofprayer.org/events/, or if an event is not close, then by yourself or with another, join in the chorus of prayers on Thursday May 2, 2013 and let’s together seek His will.

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ADF Senior Legal Counsel - Church Project

IRS Official: We are “Close” to Auditing Churches Again

For some time now, the IRS has not been auditing churches.  As I explained in more detail in this post, the IRS’ decision to “suspend” church audits stems from a 2009 federal court decision finding the IRS’ regulations on church audits to be unlawful.  Since that decision, the IRS, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, has not been auditing any churches.  It has said since 2009 that it is preparing new regulations that will enable it to begin auditing churches again, but we have not seen those regulations finalized.

However, at a recent tax conference, Treasury Attorney-Advisor Ruth Madrigal said that the IRS’ long-awaited rules on church audits are “close” to being finalized.  So what does this mean for churches?

What this means is that once the IRS’ regulations on auditing churches are finalized, then it is logical to assume that the IRS will begin auditing churches again.  Whether this means that the IRS will audit churches that participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday remains to be seen.  We will have to closely watch the IRS’ actions once the church audit rules are finalized.

But ultimately, the constitutional rights of pastors and churches do not turn on whether the IRS decides to audit churches.  Alliance Defending Freedom has said for years that the Johnson Amendment in section 501(c)(3) of the tax code is unconstitutional.  If the IRS audits and penalizes churches for something it believes violates the Johnson Amendment, then Alliance Defending Freedom stands ready to defend the constitutional rights of America’s pastors to speak biblical truth uncensored by the IRS.

For now, we will continue to monitor the situation and will make you aware of any changes the IRS proposes.  As we say here at Alliance Defending Freedom, “You watch your flock, and we’ll watch the horizon.”  And if you have not yet signed up to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, please do so today.  This year, Pulpit Freedom Sunday is all about marriage, and America desperately needs to hear what God says about marriage at this crucial time.  Signing up for Pulpit Freedom Sunday is easy and we hope to see thousands of pastors standing united on June 9, 2013, preaching biblical truth about marriage.  Will you be one of those pastors?  Please sign up today.

Author

ADF Senior Legal Counsel - Church Project

“Marriage” Mayhem: Religious Freedom Being Trampled in the Scuffle

Posted on April 2nd, 2013 Religious Freedom | 1 Comment »

You may be tempted to think if marriage is redefined to include same-sex couples, then the whole issue may just go away and the two sides can come to some sort of grudging peace.  Everyone can get on with their lives, right?  Well, not so fast. One of the things that is often overlooked in the debate over marriage is the effect redefining marriage will have on religious freedom.

In short, redefining marriage to include same-sex couples poses a significant threat to religious freedom.  Examples abound to illustrate this fact. 

In New Mexico, a Christian photographer was fined several thousand dollars after she politely declined to use her artistic talents to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony”.

Attempts have been made in Vermont, Illinois, and New Jersey, just to name a few states, to force Christian businesses to open their properties for same-sex wedding ceremonies, in opposition to their sincere religious beliefs.

A city in Kansas attempted to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance that would have forced churches to open their facilities for same-sex weddings regardless of their religious beliefs to the contrary.

A Christian-owned business in Kentucky was accused of unlawful discrimination when it abided by its faith and declined to print t-shirts for a local “pride festival” that celebrates homosexual behavior and same-sex relationships.

These examples illustrate the effect that redefining marriage has on religious freedom.  But the “marriage” issue is more than just about marriage.  The push for same-sex “marriage” is really a broader push to normalize homosexual behavior in society, which also has a negative effect on religious freedom.

The latest example of this is the pressure on the Boy Scouts of America organization to change its membership policy to include individuals who advocate or engage in homosexual behavior.  This may not seem like a true threat to religious freedom, but over 70 percent of chartering organizations for Boy Scout troops are religious organizations.  These churches will face a difficult choice if the Boy Scouts’ leadership changes its policy.  Do the churches abide by their religious beliefs and cease being a chartering organization? 

These kinds of choices are faced by Christians across America with increasing frequency.  We must not forget the simple fact that religious freedom is the casualty of a society that embraces same-sex “marriage” and the normalization of homosexual behavior.

But we are not powerless.  The voice of the church is needed now more than ever.  In this moment, there are at least two things you and your church can do:

            1.  Sign up to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday on June 9, 2013.  On that day, pastors across America will stand together and preach sermons about what Scripture says regarding God’s design for marriage and sexual behavior.  Pastors have traditionally led the way in speaking to our culture at times when we have been confronted with momentous questions.  It was pastors who spoke out against slavery, child labor, and for civil rights and women’s suffrage.  Pastors have a lot to say about marriage – the first institution that God created.  And society needs to hear what the church has to say.

            2.         Sign the petition to encourage the Boy Scouts of America to stand strong and resist pressure to change its membership policy.  If your church is a chartering organization for a Boy Scout troop, download our sample policy you can adopt to prepare your church in the event the Boy Scouts do change membership requirements.

Now is not the time for America’s churches to be silent.  Because together we can speak up to protect religious freedom.

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In Gilbert, Arizona, Churches Ride On The Back Of The Free Speech Bus

Posted on April 2nd, 2013 Equal Access | 1 Comment »

Jeremy Tedesco, Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel

Rarely can the essence of a lawsuit be captured through pictures. But in Alliance Defending Freedom’s case involving a tiny Church’s First Amendment challenge to the Town of Gilbert’s discriminatory treatment of signs advertising its religious services, a picture truly speaks a thousand words.  Consider these two pictures:

Town officials view the sign on the left, which advertises our client’s Church services, as a constitutional crisis, and thus impose incredibly stringent limitations on the placement of such signs.  Yet these same officials see no problem with the proliferation of political signs, like those depicted in the picture on the right.  In fact, we presented the court with dozens of pictures showing how the Town permits the placement of numerous political signs at intersections throughout Gilbert.

The constitutional problem with the Town’s sign code is that it treats temporary signs VASTLY differently based on what they say.  In First Amendment parlance, this is called “content-based discrimination,” and it is a major constitutional no-no.

The Town’s sign code violates this core First Amendment principle in many ways.  One of them is by imposing highly restrictive requirements (related to size, duration, etc.) on the Church’s signs that it does not impose on similar temporary signs, like political and ideological signs.  For example, the Church’s signs can only be 6 square feet, while ideological signs can be up to 20 square feet (over 300% larger) and political signs up to 32 square feet (almost 600% larger)!  Also, the Church’s signs can be placed just 12 hours before their services begin and must be taken done 1 hour after they end.  In stark contrast, political signs may be placed 60 days before a primary election and may stay up 15 days after the general election and ideological signs may stay up indefinitely!  (A diagram depicting the code’s differential treatment of signs based on content can be viewed here.)  The Town’s code favors signs bearing political and ideological messages over those bearing religious messages, and that violates the First Amendment.

Unfortunately, a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled 2-1 against the Church.  So we filed a petition asking the full Ninth Circuit to rehear the case.  Please join us in praying for a favorable outcome and for this tiny Church’s courageous stand to be vindicated.

If you’ve faced similar disparity in your community when attempting to promote your church or ministry, contact Alliance Defending Freedom through our legal help form online.

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