We have seen many examples recently of religious people claiming that their religious freedoms are being violated because they cannot practice discrimination or they wish to avoid complying with laws that they object to. But now comes a curious reversal in which religious people are suing because they are being prevented from being inclusive and accepting
The United Church of Christ, headquartered in Cleveland, has long been one of the most progressive of mainstream churches, being the first in 1972 to ordain an openly gay pastor and then in 2005 endorsing the call for same-sex couples to contract civil marriages, long before that movement gained the momentum it has now.
It is now suing the state of North Carolina over its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, saying that the amendment passed in 2012 violates the religious freedom of its clergy.
As part of the state ban, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor for a minister to perform a marriage ceremony for a couple that hasn’t obtained a civil marriage license. In addition, the law allows anyone to sue the minister who performs a marriage ceremony without a license.
The church’s leadership held a press conference yesterday announcing the lawsuit.
The Rev. Dr. Bernard Wilson, chairman of the UCC’s board of directors, said the law is unconstitutional because it criminalizes ministers for performing their religious duties, and restricts residents from the free exercise of religion – a principle upon which the UCC was built.
It is really quite extraordinary that the state of North Carolina not only will not provide equal access to marriage, they would actually ban people from conducting any kind of religious ceremony associated with it even if it has no legal consequences.