In this issue of “Theology & Culture” (T&C), we are going to take a look at a law that has passed through the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. Known as the “Respect For Marriage Act” (RFMA), this piece of legislature, though claiming to not affect any religious organization’s views and actions regarding marriage, is actually a danger to all religious liberty, though claiming otherwise. Sadly, many Republicans voted for this new law.
We are not here to debate all the aspects of this law. The Supreme Court has already defined that marriage is not just between a man and a woman back in 2016 by a 5-4 vote, so that part of the law we do not have to discuss. In fact, this was an unnecessary piece of legislature but that has never stopped Congress before from enacting some law for whatever their reasons may be.
The Scripture is clear on God’s view of marriage (Gen. 2:24-25; Matt. 19:5; Eph. 5:21-33). As a Christian, the Bible is to be our guide regarding any relationship, not the government. A political mandate does not supersede the Word of God, nor should it, for those who claim to be followers of Christ. We build our foundation on what the Scripture says.
Unfortunately, culture has dictated much of what is happening in our country. Whether it be Critical Race Theory, the pressure on kids and people regarding gender choice, pronouns, whatever you want to be addressed as, to white privilege, cancel culture, wokism, all have the same foundation. They are opposite to what Scripture teaches, and that immediately puts Christians on the fringe of society, according to the mouthpieces that speak the loudest in favor of things just noted.
So should Christians be concerned about this new “Respect For Marriage Act?” Some argue that we will, as churches or a religious organization, still be allowed to hold to our views on marriage or relationships in general, that we are free from any legal ties to this bill. This law, though, does, in fact, disrespect the views of countless millions who hold to a traditional view of marriage.
Pressure from the government under President Biden towards religious organizations that hold to a different view than the White House does on many issues is evident. Threats of civil and criminal penalties have been aimed at people who do not toe the line regarding (fill in the blank) has been documented and is real.
The government, in some cases, for example, has forced Gospel missions to hire people who do not believe in the message about Jesus. These organizations may have been funded partially by some political entity and thus to receive their funding had to follow certain guidelines. It would be ridiculous as a Bible-believing church to hire a pastor who did not believe in Christ or the main doctrines of the faith, but if you were counting on funding from Uncle Sam, it is possible pressure could be applied to do so.
This “Respect For Marriage Act”, though it states in Section 6 of this bill that it will have “no impact on religious liberty or conscience”, vaguely defines who qualifies under this part of the law. Thus, it leaves open loopholes for the government to still go after Christian organizations. Let me explain.
More than one Christian business has been sued or prosecuted for a refusal to perform a service that goes against their religious convictions. This law does not change this from happening. It has also been stated that religious schools who hold to a traditional view of marriage could be in danger of losing their tax-exempt status if they receive funding of any sort from the government, state or federal. Plus, individuals can sue religious groups if they feel (subjectively) discriminated against.
Section 6 of this new law is quite broad and undefined when read closely. Here is what this part of the bill says but we will shorten it and then comment on it. You can read its entirety online.
“Consistent with the First Amendment to the Constitution, nonprofit religious organizations, including churches...nondenominational ministries...mission organizations...religious educational institutions, and nonprofit entities whose principal purpose is the study, practice, or advancement of religion, and any employee of such an organization, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage. Any refusal under this subsection to provide such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges shall not create any civil claim or cause of action.”
It basically says that we do not have provide, in wide ranging undefined terms, services, facilities, goods, or privileges for the celebration of a marriage that fits outside a Christian worldview. But it does not protect organizations when it comes to hiring, or refusing to be supportive of a marriage that violates the conscience of a Christian after the fact of the marriage (see underlined above).
This law even adds a statement regarding polygamy, claiming that the Federal government is not required to recognize the marriage of more than two individuals.
This section of the bill says that polygamy, if being practiced now, may not be recognized by the government but so what, that changes nothing regarding those who currently practice it, even though polygamy is illegal in the United States, the government turns a blind eye for the most part to those who practice this demeaning act, which degrades women by its very nature.
It also continues the government’s relentless attack on anyone who holds to Christian values. This bill does not protect churches or Christian organizations or business owners from being labeled as “bigots” and sued if after the fact said Christians refuse to support something that violates their religious beliefs.
A sad thing is that the view of traditional marriage and any other conservative Christian values are labeled as hate or discriminatory, are magnified by this bill. They went all out to make sure that all marriages between two people, whether inter-racial, inter-ethnic, etc., are all treated equal and thus put those marriages on the same plane as same sex marriage.
Christians should have no problem with inter-racial and inter-ethnic marriages. There is no Biblical support for denying these, in my opinion. Moses, for example, was married to a Cushite woman (Num. 12:1). To add these to the bill is ludicrous. These types of marriages do not go against God’s Word but this just broadens the field to allow people to go after someone even if they felt mistreated because of their marital status as just noted.
My concern as a pastor is that there is to much vagueness in this bill along with clearly undefined parameters, despite the rhetoric of protecting religious freedom, that Christians are not as protected as some claim.
Senator Mike Lee of Utah introduced an amendment to fully protect an individual’s view of marriage based on religious beliefs but the Senate voted it down. Senator Lee’s amendment would stop the government from going after those who differ from, shall I say, the woke and leftist culture ruling our land today. Their goal is to get us to conform to their thinking and this “Respect For Marriage Act” does not protect those who think different than the cancel culture mindset.