For most evangelical leaders, today's discussion of the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage revolves around how best to express their dissent amid the legal uncertainties for churches and pastors.
“Outrage and panic are not the responses of those confident in the promises of a reigning Christ Jesus,” read a joint statement organized by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and signed by more than 100 evangelical leaders, including David Platt, J. I. Packer, Richard Mouw, Jim Daly, Al Mohler, and Ron Sider.
“While we believe the Supreme Court has erred in its ruling, we pledge to stand steadfastly, faithfully witnessing to the biblical teaching that marriage is the chief cornerstone of society, designed to unite men, women, and children,” the group stated. [Full text]
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) regrets the ruling but “calls on evangelicals to be gracious and compassionate to those who do not share their views on marriage and to also advocate for liberty for all who desire to live out their faith.”
Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, stated:
In the days to come, we must remember to season our words with salt. It’s time to be a light in these dark times. It is not time to be combative and caustic. Now, more than ever, we must emulate Jesus Christ. We must continue to show that loving kindness as we talk with our neighbors and friends who see this issue differently.
Not all Protestants disagreed with the decision.
“The Court holds that denying civil marriage to same-sex couples violates their fundamental right to civil marriage under the due-process clause and their right to equal protection in the enjoyment of that fundamental right. I think this holding is correct,” said Tom Berg, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas. “Many of the same principles that support religious liberty—the right to live one's life with integrity consistent with a fundamental element of one's identity—also support the right of gay couples to marry.”
But most evangelicals oppose the decision, including Al Mohler, John Piper, andFranklin Graham.
Lynne Marie Kohm, the associate dean at Regent University School of Law, told CT she was “disappointed” but not “saddened or disheartened” even though she filed an amicus brief arguing against same-sex marriage. [Many evangelical organizations filed this argument, and many evangelical experts filed this one.]
“The Court has found a new fundamental right which will expand marriage toward a broader spectrum than was ever expected when women gained rights toward equality in modern marriage law,” Kohm told CT. “For centuries, that [traditional] understanding of marriage has served to forestall the ills—especially to women, children, and underprivileged populations—that all too often result when society separates sex, procreation, and childrearing. It has provided stability where there might otherwise be disorder.”
Most faith leaders worry the decision will erode religious liberty. “In the coming years, evangelical institutions could be pressed to sacrifice their sacred beliefs about marriage and sexuality in order to accommodate whatever demands the culture and law require,” the ERLC-led statement said. “We do not have the option to meet those demands without violating our consciences and surrendering the gospel. We will not allow the government to coerce or infringe upon the rights of institutions to live by the sacred belief that only men and women can enter into marriage.”