Starnes Gets His Demagoguery On


Todd Starnes of Fox News has a specialty and it’s demagoguery. If he can find a way to whip up unjustified fear in the coming oppression, especially of Christians, he’ll do it. His column entitled “Churches Fear Lawsuits over Gay Weddings” is a textbook example:

Joe Carr believes a day is fast approaching when pastors will be charged with hate crimes for preaching that homosexuality is a sin and churches will face lawsuits for refusing to host same-sex weddings.

“It’s just a matter of time,” said Carr, the pastor of Waynesville Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia. “What’s happening in Europe – we’re going to see happen here and we’re going to see it happen sooner rather than later I’m afraid.”

And that’s why the congregation will be voting next month to change their church bylaws – to officially ban the usage of their facilities for gay marriages.

“We needed to have a clear statement,” Carr told Fox News. “It’s to protect us from being forced to allow someone to use our facilities who does not believe what we believe the Bible teaches.”

Um. If they think that the government is going to force them to perform same-sex weddings, why do they think that having an official church policy against performing them will protect them from that happening? In fact, wouldn’t it be more likely to trigger such an outcome? We clearly aren’t dealing with Rhodes Scholars here. And is Europe forcing churches to perform same-sex weddings? Not that I’m aware of. But even if they were, what would that have to do with this country? Our laws clearly forbid such a thing.

And Waynesville Missionary Baptist Church isn’t alone in their fears. Hundreds of churches around the nation are considering similar changes to their constitutions and bylaws as a result of the Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act.

Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty legal organization, has already provided churches with sample bylaws that define marriage.

“I think we’re in a day where every church needs to have a statement in its bylaws of its doctrinal beliefs on marriage and sexuality,” attorney Erik Stanley told Baptist Press. “This is a proactive approach that churches can take to head off any claims of discrimination in the future, should they occur.”

Greg Erwin, an attorney who represents the Louisiana Baptist Convention, said it’s hard to speculate on what impact the Supreme Court ruling could have.

“It would seem that the law now is that churches do not have to perform marriages that violate its beliefs,” he told The Baptist Message newspaper. “However, if a church rents out its facilities for weddings to anyone but same-sex couples, then a court could find that the church is discriminating in violation of law by only refusing to rent to homosexuals.”

No, no, no. Churches are very explicitly exempted not only from this particular issue but from all anti-discrimination laws. It has been illegal at the federal level for 50 years to discriminate on the basis of religion and race. Has any church ever been forced to hire a Muslim or an atheist? Has any church ever been forced to perform an interracial marriage? The answer is no. Why? Because the First Amendment forbids it, as it should. And because statutory law also forbids it, as it should. And because the judicial doctrine called the ministerial exception forbids it, as it should.

This is empty fear-mongering. For crying out loud, I don’t know of anyone, even the most zealous gay rights advocate, who wants to force churches to perform gay weddings. Not one.

Comments

  1. cottonnero says

    It may be the case that certain European countries with both same-sex marriage and a state church might require churches to officiate same-sex marriages, but I seem to remember Denmark ruling that ministers who didn’t want to officiate weren’t required to.

  2. says

    Oh, come on, Ed! If he doesn’t stand up against the thing the government can’t do, who will? You? No! What will you do when the imagined infringments of religious liberties come for you?

  3. cptdoom says

    @cottonnero – actually in most Western European countries, the only wedding that matters is at a courthouse or other municipal building; the religious ceremony is irrelevant and not legally binding. England is a notable exception to that rule, but I believe all of Scandinavia follows the “civil marriage only” system.

  4. John Pieret says

    “However, if a church rents out its facilities for weddings to anyone but same-sex couples, then a court could find that the church is discriminating in violation of law by only refusing to rent to homosexuals.”

    On that very specific fact pattern, where, say, a church owns a hall it rents out to the public for various functions not directly related to church services, it is possible that a church could be required to rent its facilities to all people under various state laws concerning equal accommodation. Neither the church or its pastor could be forces to preside at the marriage, however.

  5. gshelley says

    Do they just not pay attention to the news? It was only a couple of years ago a church got into the news for banning interracial couples. They got a lot of condemnation for it, but I don’t think anyone suggested they should be prosecuted and certainly no one from the government thought they should

  6. scienceavenger says

    This is a growing trend I’ve noticed in conservative circles, talking not about what is happening, or even what will happen, but about what MIGHT happen. Fox news these days is chock full of stories that take the form “Some people fear X, Y and Z will happen”, and then we get 15 minutes of baseless bloviation.

  7. Randomfactor says

    “However, if a church rents out its facilities for weddings to anyone but same-sex couples, then a court could find that the church is discriminating in violation of law by only refusing to rent to homosexual

    This part is correct. If a church is in the business of renting out facilities to the public, they may not discriminate. If they want to discriminate, they have to go all the way and provide facilities ONLY for members.

  8. says

    John Pieret “Neither the church or its pastor could be forces to preside at the marriage, however.”
    Lies! They will be forced to officiate. Forced! And Obama’s Jackbooted Thugs will force them to attend the couple consumating the relationship, over and over and over again, forcing them to stare at the sweaty heaving homogay man-on-man mansex!

  9. John Pieret says

    Modus @ 8:

    Are you all hot now? And why did you leave out the sweaty heaving lesbogay woman-on-woman girlsex? Ya think they’d like that?

  10. kantalope says

    @9 Of course they would like that….everyone would like that.

    What we really need is for those churches to post in 4 foot tall letters (little over 3 meters for you metric people…you know who you are) whether or not they hate the fags. Westoboro Baptist has a template that I am sure they could borrow. Then no one could doubt their sincerity. And look at the snub that would be to Obama! “Ha Ha. We hate the gay and you can’t make us take down our sign!” Or they could hide in their basements, soiling their diapers, waiting for the fabulously jackbooted thugs to come and take away their sign.

    Why aren’t they afraid of real things…like bats or something?

  11. vmanis1 says

    There seems to be a major martyr complex on the right regarding marriage equality. Almost every act that provides for it has a vast (and in my opinion, unnecessary) set of provisions respecting the right of faith communities not to observe or practise same-sex marriage. The English/Welsh version has what i I think is called a `triple lock’ (it might have gone to quadruple) that guarantees these rights, and has specific provisions banning the Church of England from offering any same-sex marriage ceremonies. (These provisions are unnecessary because Britain, the U.S., and Canada, among others, have written guarantees of freedom of religion and a history of common law that gives this primacy. For example, it would be absurd to sue the RCs for refusing to permit the marriage of a divorced person.)

    Even so, this hasn’t stopped some from playing the martyr role. Probably the craziest was the evangelical C of E site Anglican Mainstream (which emulates the Russian Bolsheviks and the Moral Majority in having a name that contradicts the size of its membership), which responded to the passage of the Marriage Act by posting Martin Niemoller’s famous quote (`First they came for the socialists’). Apparently these clowns think that now that marriage equality is almost here, they’re all going to be shipped off to a British equivalent of Dachau (perhaps a Butlin’s holiday camp) tomorrow.

    Sad.

  12. Michael Heath says

    I think the martyr complex shown by conservative Christians is motivated by their fear they’ll eventually lose their tax exempt status if they continue to hate on gay people and their children.

    While their misogyny towards females hasn’t caused them to lose their tax exempt status, I think they’re thinking gays will eventually not be so submissive. That’s due to their female members willfully submitting to their misogynistic policies while it’ll be far more difficult for gay people to submit and remain members. Shut-up and listen for women, for gays it’ll be go away or stay in the closet; a far harder prospect for gays.

  13. says

    Why would anyone want to force a church that hates them to officiate over their wedding? It’s not like there aren’t any churches that are wiling to perform the ceremony or they could just go to a JP for a secular ceremony.

    Their entire fear is best on a ridiculous assumption (I know, I know). Does anyone want their wedding video to feature a priest grinding his teeth as he reads through the entire litany?

  14. didgen says

    I would think their worry would be more properly placed thinking about that they are becoming less and less important as time goes on.

  15. skemono says

    Has any church ever been forced to perform an interracial marriage? The answer is no.

    I’ve actually heard of people saying that yes, churches have been forced to perform interracial marriages (a commenter on some other blog said she knew a person who held this position). Which is odd, because I’ve read of a few churches that made the news because the pastor or whoever refused to marry an interracial couple, and not once has the story ended with the government forcing them to do so.

    But then again, maybe the fact that you never hear about it is proof that it happens, and the evil liberal media-government conspiracy is keeping it under wraps.

  16. meg says

    John @9 cause in wingnut world, women don’t have sexuality. Except when they’re tempting men.

  17. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    I posted this at HuffPo a few weeks ago over an article about this:

    “So the takeaway message here is that churches will not, after all, be forced to marry anyone that they don’t want to marry… as has been said for some time. Churches can be as bigoted as they want. They don’t have to marry same sex couples, just as they don’t have to marry biracial couples, just as they don’t have to marry people who don’t share their faith. It WILL NOT AFFECT churches in the slightest, other than to shine the light of bigotry on them.

    But at the same time, they will no longer be able to dictate to others who can get married. Gay couples can now get married as a CIVIL right, meaning that they get the same advantages as straight couples in the eyes of the law and the state. If a gay couple wants to get married in a church as well, there are plenty to choose from, but the bigoted ones still don’t have to worry about the big bad gays setting foot in their precious halls. Straight couples will still get married, still get divorced, still have the right to adopt, still have tax advantages over singles. The only difference is that now gay couples in love with each other can now get those same rights.

    And in 10 or 20 years, it will be a non-issue, as unsurprising as interracial marriage is today.

  18. Erp says

    A minister of a church in a hierarchical denomination might be forced to allow weddings he or she opposes. However the force would be from the denomination’s governing body not from the state (except in such cases where the church is established and the denomination’s governing body is part of the state). The denomination will take legal action if the individual (or a group) leaves the denomination and attempts to take denomination property (money or land) with them. Some might try to depict that as government force.

  19. magistramarla says

    I wonder if anyone else noticed that there seem to be some lawyers there who are making money off of this fear-mongering?
    “Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty legal organization, has already provided churches with sample bylaws that define marriage.”
    I’m betting that this “legal organization” and other lawyers are providing this legal advice for a fee. And I’m sure that the rubes in the congregations are willingly pitching in to pay them.
    As always, follow the money.

  20. laurentweppe says

    There seems to be a major martyr complex on the right regarding marriage equality

    The more privileged you are, and the more blatantly unjust your privileges are, the more likely you will be convinced that the underclass secretly wants to either slaughter you or at least turn the tables, take by force your privileged status and forcibly drag you down at the bottom of the fodd-chain. It’s not “crazy” at all: it’s a cynical, egoistical, zzero-sum calculus.

  21. redluc says

    It never fails to amaze me that the most obvious discrimination rarely or never gets mentioned: women.

  22. dingojack says

    Meanwhile – today Nelson Mandela celebrates his 95th birthday.
    You know the guy who brought an end to the racist apartheid regime that supported the undeserved and virtually unassailable privilege of the minority white population over the majority black population within South Africa. And without resorting to mass-slaughter, pillaging or mass-imprisonment (and whatever else the Wingnut brigade are fouling their adult diapers over today).
    It’s not worth pointing this out to them though, irony isn’t really their strong suit.
    Dingo

  23. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    It has been illegal at the federal level for 50 years to discriminate on the basis of religion and race.

    (..And gender and sexual orientation too.)

    Illegal? Or rather *legal* for them to do so because they have the religious exemption allowing the Churches, mosques, etc.. to break the usual laws on anti-discrimination that apply to the rest of society?

    Has any church ever been forced to hire a Muslim or an atheist? Has any church ever been forced to perform an interracial marriage? The answer is no.

    Has the Vatican been compelled to have a female Pope under the new laws?

  24. Nick Gotts says

    the religious ceremony is irrelevant and not legally binding. England is a notable exception to that rule – cottonnero

    No, it’s not. All that counts legally is signing the marriage register and having the signatures witnessed. The minister (or for that matter, the civil celebrant) will say a couple are now married after they’ve verbally agreed to be, but if they were to go home after that without signing the register, they wouldn’t be.

  25. says

    “And Obama’s Jackbooted Thugs will force them to…”

    Modusoperandi:

    You’re still not getting the GODDAMNED* memos?

    Since the recent SCotUS decision, ALL Obamathugs on the SKR** detail are wearing PLATFORM Jackboots, honey!

    * Gay Oligarch Detention, Domination And Masculinity Negating Education Department

    ** Straight KKKristian Rendition

  26. says

    “Has any church ever been forced to perform an interracial marriage? The answer is no. Why? Because the First Amendment forbids it, as it should.”

    You’re complete correct. However, if a church did refuse an interracial couple’s wedding and people found out there would be outrage. Racism use to be normal but now it’s not. One reason for that are the Civil Rights laws that were passed during the 1960s.

    Right now is still a little normal to be homophobic. But, that’s changing quickly. As cultural norms change and federal laws change homophobia will continue to become a less and less accepted idea (hopefully).

  27. eric says

    Like @4, I can see where there may be some exceptions. A church that opens its facilities to public use could conceivably be forced to make that public use nondiscriminatory. Here’s a real life example that may be relevant to marriage ceremonies (I’ve changed some details but the gist is true): my uncle’s chuch has a smaller side chapel on their church property. They regularly allow other Christian sects to use it for religious services. Typically they do so for minority or immigrant christian sects groups that do not have facilities of their own: lately its been a group from the Congo, but in the past they’ve hosted different groups.

    Now, let’s say this Congolese group suddenly decides to let two of its (hypothetically) gay members get married. I can see how they could legally argue that my uncle’s church cannot deny them this. The “christian ceremonies only” criteria for using the space may be legally valid, but the Congolese group already already passed that criteria: suddenly denying that they are christian could easily be seen as a legal sham or dodge. And my uncle’s church can’t really use the “its against our sectarian beliefs” argument, because they clearly have no problem letting other sects use the space – so, obviously, they let ceremonies that do not match their sectarian beliefs go on in that chapel.

    In such a circumstance, I can see a judge saying: ‘this group met the criteria you’ve used to decide who can use your chapel. You’ve agreed to let them use your chapel for X period of time to conduct their christian religious ceremonies. Marriage is one such ceremony. You can’t suddenly go back on that agreement just to stop this particular ceremony happening on your property.’ I don’t think its cut and dried, and I can certainly see a legal case going the other way too (depending on the details of the case). But I doubt my uncle’s denomination is unique in letting other sects use their facilities for other-sectarian ceremonies, and so I do think cases like this might reach the courts at some point.

  28. Synfandel says

    This is a proactive approach that churches can take to head off any claims of discrimination in the future, should they occur.

    Yes, a church can head off claims of discrimination by enshrining discrimination in its constitution. Wait. What?

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