EDITOR’S NOTE: Read an update to this story here: “United States Senators have a last chance to block threats to religious liberty brought about by the so-called ‘Respect for Marriage Act.’ As such, faith-based policy experts are calling Christians to contact their senators and urge them to protect religious freedom.” Read more at https://mbcpathway.com/2022/11/25/last-chance-remains-to-protect-religious-liberty-in-u-s-senate.
JEFFERSON CITY – The so-called “Respect for Marriage Act” being considered by the U.S. Senate actually “shows great disrespect for marriage, and intolerance for those who hold a traditional or biblical worldview,” Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) leaders said in a Nov. 15th letter to U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
Yesterday (Nov. 14), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) scheduled a vote on the bill (H.R. 8408/S. 4556) for tomorrow (Nov. 16).
“[W]e write to urge you to oppose cloture or passage of the so-called ‘Respect Marriage Act,” the letter – signed by MBC president Chris Williams (pastor of Fellowship Church, Greenwood) and MBC Executive Director John Yeats – said.
“The whole point of H.R. 8404/S. 4556 is to repudiate” the U.S. Supreme Court’s promise – in its 2015 decision, Obergefell v. Hodges – of constitutional protection for people of faith who oppose same-sex marriage, the letter said.
The bill “is an intentional attack on the religious freedom of millions of Americans with sincerely held beliefs about marriage, based on dictates of faith in God and His revealed Truth,” the letter added.
MBC leaders opposed the political agenda and legal movement that is trying to redefine marriage in U.S. legal code. These advocates for same-sex marriage “demand that religious dissenters pledge allegiance to the federal definition of marriage, rather than God’s definition.”
“We must obey God rather than men,” they said, citing Acts 4:19-20 and Article 17 of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.
The letter continued: “An alliance of over 80 groups sent Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a letter urging him to stand firm against pressures to move the bill forward, and over 2,000 churches and ministries sent a letter to the Senate specifically calling attention to the effects of the bill on their ability to serve their communities in accordance with their religious beliefs. We agree with those groups as well.”
While Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) have attempted to amend the bill, their efforts “do not adequately address the bill’s significant religious freedom issues,” MBC leaders wrote.
The letter cited three “major deficiencies” in the bill, as listed elsewhere by Greg Baylor, counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom:
- “There are no real protections for religious individuals or organizations.” Even with the amendments suggested by senators mentioned above, the bill would not protect “faith-based non-profits such as adoption and foster care providers,” “religious schools,” “wedding vendors,” “business owners outside the wedding context, especially in expressive or creative professions” or “civil servants.”
- “The amendment leaves numerous religious social-service organizations vulnerable.” According to the letter, the bill would not force churches to celebrate same-sex marriages. But “the bill can be used to punish social-service organizations like adoption or foster placement agencies that serve their communities in accordance with their religious belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”
- “The amendment fails to address concerns over nonprofits’ tax-exempt status.” If it is enacted, “the IRS could rely upon the bill to conclude that certain nonprofits” – namely, those that oppose same-sex marriage – “are not ‘charitable.’”
MBC leaders told Sen. Blunt, “We urge you to stand firm against this attempted redefinition of marriage.”
The full text of the letter can be found here.