In Keithville, Louisiana, a church has banned an Alcoholics Anonymous group from meeting on its premises for fear that they’ll later be forced to hold same-sex weddings.
Last month, Pastor David Venable of Westwood Baptist Church (not to be confused with the Westboro Baptist Church) sent a letter to the leaders of the AA group, letting them know that if the church came across as tolerant enough to host AA meetings, they would eventually be required to marry same-sex couples as well.
“As I am sure you are aware, God’s church, his written word, and its values and principles have come under a constant and aggressive attack from the homosexual and lesbian community,” the letter read. “Church’s and businesses alike, across our nation, are being forced, by our legal system, to accommodate these groups in the use of their buildings/facilities to perform marriages ceremonies, receptions, etc. The court’s decision was based on the fact that the churches/businesses were accepting and accommodating other public entities and therefore must also accommodate the homosexual and lesbian community.”
It’s worth noting here that even if marriage equality were legalized nationwide, no church will ever be forced to perform same-sex weddings, according to Adrienne Critcher of the Louisiana group People Acting for Change and Equality.
“They have every protection, gay people have no protection, so who is it that should be afraid of being victimized,” said People Acting for Change and Equality political director, Adrienne Critcher.
“They say they are not out to get anyone, but they singled out homosexuals as having some agenda that they are trying to force on the Baptist Church.”
The root of their fear, apart from general hatemongering from extreme right-wingers, is a court decision from New Jersey back in 2012. In that decision, a lesbian couple won the right to hold their wedding at a church pavilion, but only because the church held a tax-exempt status requiring their property to be free for public use.
The pastors at Westwood Baptist — and conservative Christian leaders everywhere — are concerned that similar rulings in their states could mean churches being forced to hold same-sex weddings against their will. But as Think Progress eloquently explains, that’s not the case at all:
Various conservative groups have often claimed that the public’s slow embrace of marriage equality will eventually lead to chaplains and churches being forced to perform gay weddings. But gay rights groups and federal officials have repeatedly insisted that this is not the case, and that religious leaders and institutions will never be required to perform a marriage ceremony that violates their beliefs. In fact, some gay activists have openly supported measures to guarantee churches the right to decide who they marry: In 2013, James Dabakis (D), Utah’s only openly gay legislator, voiced support for an amendment to the state’s constitution protecting churches who do not wish to perform same-sex weddings, saying “No sane person I know of wants to coerce or force any religion to perform any ceremony that they are not comfortable with.”
So because this church is so terrified of being seen as gay-friendly, a group that has genuinely benefited from them for five years is booted out. Commenters on other articles about this have guessed that Westwood is making a poor excuse to disaffiliate with AA. That might be the only explanation; otherwise, these two individual acts of prejudice don’t have much to do with each other.
(Image via Shutterstock)