Standing for Marriage with a Pledge for Civil Disobedience

Religious leaders across a theological spectrum gather in call for the Marriage Pledge.

By Anika Smith Published on April 25, 2015

A diverse group of religious leaders gathered in Washington Friday to present the Marriage Pledge to a national audience on the eve of the March for Marriage.

The event was broadcast live on C-SPAN2.

Rick Scarborough of Vision America presented the Marriage Pledge, which was written by Christian lawyers (and Stream contributors) Mat Staver, an evangelical, and Keith Fournier, a Catholic deacon.

Scarborough dramatically unrolled the pages of signatures to the Marriage Pledge so far, pages that he left covering the floor. When Deacon Fournier took the podium later, he noted that the papers served as a reminder.

“I’m standing with thousands, with millions, in defending marriage.”

This ecumenism was highlighted several times by the participants. Staver acknowledged that disagreements over theological distinctives remain, but on the truth of marriage, unity is strong.

Several key signers of the pledge were unable to attend, but sent written or recorded remarks. Rabbi Aryeh Spero of Caucus for America wrote that “marriage is sacredly defined for us at the outset of creation by God himself. So important is this definition to the individual and society that it is the first announcement God proclaims when first interacting with mankind.”

The Rabbi’s statement includes words that were echoed by all at the panel: “We come not to malign, nor out of a sense of sexual discrimination or desire to hurt anyone, but to safeguard the institution of marriage, whose definition is unchangeable and upon whose truthful practice our society and civilization depend.”

The other speakers concurred, pointing to both scripture and natural law as bases for marriage between a man and a woman, and reminding those present of the constitutional protections afforded religious beliefs.

“The genius of America and religious freedom is that you don’t have to accept or believe any of what I have said,” Scarborough noted. But he said our religious liberties “will be sacrificed if the Court approves same-sex marriage.”

Most signers of the pledge assume that the Supreme Court will rule against natural marriage when they issue their ruling in June.

In James Dobson’s recorded statement, he warned, “God help us if we throw the divine plan for humankind on the ash heap of history.”

“Here we stand. And we will not go where the U.S. courts seek to take us.”

Scarborough was equally explicit: “If a majority of the court redefines marriage, thousands of Christians will respectfully refuse to acknowledge such a ruling has jurisdiction over their lives.”

“We are here because of an impending Supreme Court decision,” Staver said, highlighting his article at The Stream and quoting the Manhattan Declaration, released in 2009. “We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.”

“Five years later, the future is now here with the impending decision at the United States Supreme Court.”

“Marriage is the union between a man and a woman, and on our watch we will not idly allow that to be deconstructed,” Staver said. “Whenever that happens, we by experience and history have known that the government uses the police power to collide with religious freedom.”

Staver and others cited the case of Arlene’s Flowers and other Christian-owned businesses who were punished for their views on marriage. “This is a zero-sum game,” Staver said.

Citing Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” where King writes that “an unjust law is no law at all.” Staver compared the times the court has been on the wrong side of justice, remembering the injustices of the Dred Scott and Buck v. Bell decisions.

“We do stand at a point in our history,” Deacon Fournier explained, “where nine black-robed justices may decide that the moral law no longer has any standing in the jurisprudence of the United States.”

“They’ve been wrong before — and they would be wrong now if they did such a thing.”

When asked how civil disobedience for marriage might play out, Staver said, “There’s going to be all kinds of ways that this plays out, and … what we need to do is stand together. Pastors and churches, religious organizations are going to be targeted, and when those people are targeted we need to stand with those individuals, whether it’s Arlene’s Flowers or the photographer or the baker, and not allow them to simply be bullied into … abandoning their convictions.”

“I think the first thing is the public affirmation, the acknowledgment, standing together in unity for marriage. In terms of how that plays out, it’s going to be an individual, case-by-case situation.”

Deacon Fournier added, “I think it’s laying the predicate for a massive marriage movement, because if the court decides wrongly, which it could, it’s not going to change marriage. Look at la Manif [a French marriage movement] as an example.”


To read the pledge in full, visit Stay tuned to The Stream for continuing coverage on the March for Marriage this weekend.

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