If the Supreme Court Imposes Same Sex Marriage, You Could Lose Your Church

Obama's Solicitor General admits that the feds will treat orthodox Christians like racists.

By John Zmirak Published on April 30, 2015

If you aren’t following the arguments over same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court, you should be. Even if you don’t cater weddings or sell pizza in Indiana, your religious freedom is in danger. For detailed accounts of the debate and the questions asked by justices that might be readable tea leaves, see Ryan Anderson’s analysis and the capsule summary provided by Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker.

The outcome of this week’s debate will determine whether orthodox American Christians will fall to the status of dhimmis, the third-class Christian citizens of sharia Muslim states. (Dhimmis have bare freedom of worship, but pay special, heavy taxes and are excluded from any positions of influence.) If the court imposes same-sex “marriage,” it will be exposing the churches attended by the majority of Americans to sustained legal attack. Does that sound like crazy alarmism? The Solicitor General of the United States agrees with me. Except that he is in favor of it.

Justice Samuel Alito asked Solicitor General Donald Verrilli whether acceptance of same-sex marriage would subject orthodox Christian churches to the treatment once accorded Bob Jones University, which lost its tax-exempt status because its ban on interracial dating contradicted federal policy. Verrilli seemed a little taken aback, then answered yes, “it’s certainly going to be an issue.”

Imagine if your house of worship needed to turn a hefty profit, so it could pay the same taxes on its property and income as a casino or a strip joint.

In other words, if the Supreme Court votes against natural marriage, it will free up the feds to target organizations you might have heard of, such as the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention. (In theory, the feds might also take aim at every mosque in America, but something tells me that the mosques are likely to get a pass.) Remember that the Obama administration has already tried to force these same churches to provide abortifacients to their employees. Attacking their tax-exempt status over biblical sexual ethics is peanuts next to that.

In case you don’t follow tax policy as a hobby, see Joe Carter’s detailed account of the grave consequences this would have for churches. Put briefly, most would close. Unless, of course, they caved.

Imagine if your house of worship needed to turn a hefty profit, so it could pay the same taxes on its property and income as a casino or a strip joint — unlike Planned Parenthood, since that abortion business is a tax-exempt (and federally funded) “charity.” Imagine if none of the money you gave your church were deductible from your taxes, unlike the money you sent to Greenpeace. Many if not most religious schools and colleges would also shut their doors, unable to pay the same business taxes as for-profit diploma mills.

The First Amendment won’t prevent any of this. When the dictates of a religion conflict with what courts have ruled is a constitutional right, the church’s claims give way every time.

A Two-Tiered System of Churches

If the court hands the Obama administration the bully stick it is requesting, it will be creating a two-tier system of churches in America — those that “obey the Constitution” and those that don’t. The first set of churches, including “mainline” denominations such as the Episcopalians, would enjoy benefits much like those of “registered” churches in China. They have gleefully worshiped Caesar, and so he will leave them in peace. He will continue their tax exemption. He will even reward them with lucrative government contracts for their charities. Expect many local congregations to leave the embrace of “outlaw” conventions such as the Southern Baptist, and strike out on their own with Caesar’s smile.

With this much money at stake, I will be shocked if some Catholic bishops don’t start performing same-sex marriages in their cathedrals. As we saw from last year’s Synod on the Family, a surprising number of prelates seem sympathetic to the practice. By American law, each diocese is sovereign, and each bishop controls its property in a corporation quite independent of Rome. (That’s why plaintiffs in sex abuse cases can’t sue the Holy See.) If a pope deposed a bishop for violating church doctrine, and the bishop thumbed his nose and stayed in place, American courts would very likely side with the bishop — especially if the fight centered on a constitutional right, such as same-sex marriage.

A large slice of ordinary Catholics (like those picketing Abp. Cordileone in San Francisco) would back any local bishop who defended “American values” and “equality” against a suddenly backward, foreign pope. German bishops have already threatened to flout Rome’s authority over communion for the remarried — again, there’s money at stake, the German church tax — and it’s not clear what power Rome has to rein them in. So expect an American Catholic schism.

When presidential candidates come to our states to court us during the primaries — the only time faithful Christians exercise any real leverage in this country — the issue of same-sex marriage must now rival abortion in its importance. Any hopeful should be pressed repeatedly to give a straight, unambiguous answer to this question: “Do you support a constitutional amendment restoring natural marriage? If not, then what exactly will you do to protect my religious freedom? If nothing, why should I support you?” We should print that question on cards and distribute it in Iowa and New Hampshire, and candidates should hear nothing else from us till they answer. We need to know whether a year from now we will be living like Americans, or increasingly like Christians in China.

Of course, things need not get that bad for your church. It’s just a teensy pinch of incense you’d have to burn, to worship Caesar….

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