By David French, The National Review.
In the aftermath of Obergefell v. Hodges, pastors and church members are experiencing a wave of anxiety over what many of them deem the “nightmare scenario”: lawsuits or government action designed to force them to perform or recognize same-sex marriages. While there are — so far — no meaningful judicial precedents that would permit such dramatic interference with churches’ core First Amendment rights, lawsuits challenging church liberties are inevitable.
Indeed, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission has declared that prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity “sometimes” apply to churches and has stated that a “church service open to the public” is not a “bona fide religious purpose” that would limit application of the law. In 2012 a New Jersey administrative-law judge ruled that a religious organization “closely associated with the United Methodist Church” wrongly denied access to its facilities for a same-sex wedding. Churches, like virtually every functioning corporation, protect against liability risks and the potentially ruinous costs of litigation through liability insurance. With same-sex marriage now recognized as a constitutional right — and with news of Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries awarding a lesbian couple $135,000 in damages for “emotional, mental and physical suffering” after a Christian bakery refused to bake their wedding cake — pastors are reaching out to insurance companies to make sure they’re covered. And at least one insurer has responded with a preemptory denial: no coverage if a church is sued for refusing to perform a same-sex wedding.
On July 1, David Karns, vice president of underwriting at Southern Mutual Church Insurance Company (which “serve[s] more than 8,400 churches”), wrote an “all states” agents’ bulletin addressing same-sex marriage. It begins: “We have received numerous calls and emails regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriages. The main concern is whether or not liability coverage applies in the event a church gets sued for declining to perform a same-sex marriage.” Karns continues: The general liability form does not provide any coverage for this type of situation, since there is no bodily injury, property damage, personal injury, or advertising injury. If a church is concerned about the possibility of a suit, we do offer Miscellaneous Legal Defense Coverage. This is not liability coverage, but rather expense reimbursement for defense costs. There is no coverage for any judgments against an insured.
In other words: Churches, you’re on your own.
People who think that tax-emp staus and general liability are not going to be issues for churches not performing same-sex weddings is smoking dope and not exhailing. This going to be a HUGE issue and I’m thankful that the Layman is addressing it
It’s just a matter of time….I think there used to be song by that title
Stop doing any kind of civil wedding. Problem solved. Do Christian marriage only and leave the state out of it. Not hard folks.
This issue is a lot more complicated than the article indicates and consultation with your insurance carrier, higher governing body and attorney are highly recommended.
It is my understanding (this is Carmen speaking, NOT an attorney and should not be construed as giving legal counsel),
1. Most insurance policies will provide a legal defense to claims of discrimination.
2. Many policies will provide indemnity coverage for claims of discrimination, but some may not.
3. Churches will win in almost every conceivable context – particularly in the near term.
Indemnity is different and will only enter the conversation if we begin to see churches actually losing cases.
Now, the best defense is a good offense. So, its time to act if you’ve been waiting to see what would happen with SCOTUS.
EVERY local church needs to clearly articulate their theological view of marriage as ordained of God, ordered by God, and solemnized by a religious service which honors God. This is the best defense to establish “genuinely held religious belief” to which you would appeal in a lawsuit.
If, in fact, this is NOT a sincerely held religious belief for your local congregation, if there is not theological consensus that marriage is God’s design for human sexual relations and the ordering of family life from Genesis through Revelation and from Creation to eternity, then now is the time to be honest about that.
Further, if weddings are something you do as a service to the community, essentially renting out your facility and providing a fee for service event, then you are almost certainly at risk under “public accommodation” laws and regulations.
For help you can visit ERLC.com, AllianceDefendingFreedom.org, or our marriage resource page.
insurance companies are not driven by theology. The are driven by $$! We will see this pressure applied to insurance companies to drop churches who discriminate in civil marriage. There is NO way this will not happen.
So, stop doing civil marriages. You are not required to do them and couples are not required to have them. It is wise to have a civil marriage take place for legal and tax reasons. Right?
So let’s do this: have aChristian marriage as an act of worship (no brainer here but stick with me). First amendment protects this and will do this in perpetuity. Advise the couple to go to the justice of the peace on Friday to “sign the papers”. This is all that is required for a civil wedding certificate. Then host the religious ceremony Saturday and “marry” the two people.
Is this scenario “marriage?” Yes. Do you define a marriage by secular civil definition or by Scripture? You choose. I define it by Scripture and would be happy to keep my name off any marriage certificate – that way I am not liable, nor is my church because I performed a worship service, not a civil contract.
This is a simple problem to fix if you let go of the idea you must sign a certificate for the state. Easy fix here.
Gee, you would think the five adolescent judges would have seen this coming….well, they did…they knew this kind of stuff would follow and they were fine with it.
The libs pushing elimination of tax exempt status for churches are on record, after Citizens United, as saying for profit (taxable) entities aren’t persons and thus don’t have rights. They don’t want the tax money from you; they plan to shut you down.
I’m torn. On the one hand, if unpopular people don’t have rights then nobody has rights (the popular don’t need protection). On the other hand,…..