Have you all noticed that there is very little complaining on the anti-gay fringe about the ongoing avalanche of changes to public policy in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA? The Department of Defense now extends full military benefits to same sex spouses, the Department of State is issuing immigrant visas to same sex spouses, and a multitude of other federal benefits of marriage will now be enjoyed by LGBT families previously denied them. But the anti-gay fringe is largely silent about these events that are actually happening, preferring to talk instead about a hypothetical event that is not only not happening, but is impossible due to our First Amendment protections. What they are talking about – and talking about incessantly in that hysterical, strident tone they favor – is the impending loss of religious liberty for churches “forced to perform homosexual weddings.” Really. It’s bound to happen any day now.
Fear not, fearful mongers of fear: Churches can (still!) refuse to marry any couple, for any reason. The First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs in Mississippi, for instance, just told an African American couple that they would have to be married in a different church, because, according to the pastor, “This was, had not, had never been done here before so it was setting a new (precedent) and there were those who reacted to that.”
The couple, married instead at “a nearby church” which presumably had already set the “precedent” of allowing black people inside, described themselves as “hurt, devastated and crushed.” What they did not do was file a lawsuit against the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs for refusing to be their wedding venue, since such a lawsuit would be summarily dismissed as without merit – kind of like this one was. As far as the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs is concerned, the “controversy” is being dealt with internally, as it should be. Speaking of “those who reacted,” another member said “we hope we can straighten them out, you know, get them to understand what Christianity is all about because they have some misconceptions about it.” The racism within this church is a matter of religious belief, not a civil or legal one, even though race is a protected class in the sphere of civil law.
So, fearful ones, know that our precious religious freedom clause is still in full effect. Faith communities remain free, as they have always been, to be exclusionary, ugly, stupid, embarrassing and cruel if that’s what they choose to do, or to be the opposite of those things, or to work out what they are amongst themselves.