Ever since the decision came down from the Supreme Court, there's been rumblings afoot just beneath the surface. They occasionally break the surface when a high profile person makes some kind of public statement about refusing to perform gay marriages, such as the one Jerry Falwell's son made yesterday.
Here's the video:
If you don't want to watch, let me sum it up for you. Rev. Jonathan Falwell refuses to perform same-sex marriages. Don't let your jaws drop all at once.
But the tag line on his declaration is one that caught my attention:
Falwell warned his congregants of the reaches of the high court’s ruling, pointing to the threat of jail time two ministers in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, face who refuse to perform same-sex marriage and of Montana polygamists who are seeking a marriage license.
Oh, well. That clears things up. I've been a little confused about why I'm seeing ministers fearing lawsuits. There is, after all, a First Amendment in this country that protects them from paying taxes and anti-discrimination laws, too. So what's that all about?
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is the same right-wing organization that brought you the Hobby Lobby case and state-based RFRA laws earlier this year. It is the ALEC of the Religious Right in the country, and exists for one purpose and one purpose only: to litigate every single case it can invent or dig up that might deal with infringement on Christian religious practices.
On mailing lists across the country, ministers are likely receiving notices telling them that they're in danger of being sued, or if they're not personally, their church is. This is what the ADF and allied organizations are preaching to their masses.
The ADF contends that local and municipal ordinances can endanger ministers who refuse to perform same-sex marriages. They've got a slick PR packet with appendices of suggested language ministers should use to protect themselves from being sued, fined, or even jailed by municipalities for choosing not to perform same-sex marriages.
All of the sound and fury is based on one lawsuit pending in Idaho, brought by two ministers who run a for-profit wedding chapel -- Hitching Post Wedding Chapel. They are in danger of being penalized for violating city non-discrimination ordinances, because they operate a business that is open to the public and is a for-profit concern, Christian statements of principles notwithstanding. The two ministers who operate the chapel are a married couple ordained by the Foursquare church. They perform Christian ceremonies at their chapel, profit from them, and are subject to the same municipal laws as any other business in the area.
One of these things is not like the other. For-profit organizations do not get to claim church exemptions and operate on a for-profit basis. Churches are exempt because they are non-profit entities which are, by design, intended to be protected by the First Amendment. For-profit entities, on the other hand, are not entitled to church protections simply because they are owned by Christians, or Hindus or Muslims or Satanists. That is not how religious freedom works.
The lack of parallel, however, is not stopping the ADF from scaring ministers into thinking they either must stop officiating at weddings altogether or make Big Public Declarations like the one Falwell's son made above in order to make it abundantly clear that they are doing what they are constitutionally entitled to do under the law.
Once again, you have the Murray strategy in play here. If you cannot actually subvert the Constitution via the Supreme Court, then do it in smaller, less noticeable ways by litigating the hell out of every single law on on the books in court. Make sure to find the most bizarre and unusual cases ever and bring lawsuits on behalf of the single instance (or possibly there might be two) of this occurring.
In the process, be sure to overgeneralize the reason for the lawsuit in order to scare ministers or whoever else might think they are a target into thinking they too, will be persecuted. This prompts them to make statements like this one, proclaiming a refusal to be "bullied" into performing same-sex marriages.
All of this is part of the larger pivot of the culture war away from same-sex marriage to a larger "religious freedom" push. If left unchecked, such a movement could cause the United States to have its very own Taliban dictating proper and improper social and political behavior. See? I can scare-monger too.
If only ministers understood that the Alliance Defending Freedom is a completely political organization, created of, by and for billionaires to preserve billionaires' political power in this country. They're just props on the road to oligarchy.