Legal opinions vary widely on what the U.S. Supreme Court’s mandate of nationwide same-sex marriage will mean for pastors and government officials authorized to perform weddings.
Some legal experts say government officials charged with performing weddings could lose their jobs for refusing to marry gay couples. But others believe both ministers and government officials likely will have freedom not to perform same-sex marriages that violate their religious convictions.
Religious liberty was, or at least was supposed to be, a consideration of the high court in its deliberation of the ban on same sex marriage. Legal decisions are based on precedent, previous court decision that set the standard for future rulings. To be put it bluntly, we are entered unprecedented territory here. It will take further interpretations and additional court rulings, possibly by the Supreme Court, to answer these questions. The American Family Association recommends that churches and other Christian ministries quickly do three things:
- Adopt a clear statement of faith regarding human sexuality and marriage.
- Clarify that weddings in your church are Christian worship services.
- Adopt a policy that clearly restricts the use of ministry facilities to the ministry’s religious purposes.
For Southern Baptist churches the Baptist Faith and message makes a “clear statement of faith regarding human sexuality and marriage.” The time will come, sooner rather than later, that each individual church will have to make a decision about same sex marriage for their congregation. Do not assume anything goes without saying; you need to have a clear policy in writing, perhaps in the by-laws or church constitution if these apply in your particular case.