On Tuesday while Americans went to the polls in an off-year election, another political decision was made with greater long term consequences for Christians. The Illinois Legislature legalized homosexual marriage—the fifteenth state to do so. Governor Pat Quinn promised to sign the bill into law and it will take effect June 1.
Illinois’ decision is just one more step toward a national legal consensus. Sooner or later, homosexual marriage will be settled law in all fifty states. In some, legislative action will make it happen. In others, court decisions will bring about the same result. A few will turn to popular votes. Once marriage was redefined as a civil right—in popular imagination as well as in constitutional law—the political landscape changed. What once was unthinkable is now inevitable.
But all of that’s old news. Evangelicals have been fighting the good fight over this issue for years. I believe we’ll continue the battle. What Illinois’ decision shows us, though, is something darker and more dangerous to Christians.
The supporters of homosexual marriage know that at the end of the day, it will only be accepted into the mainstream of American life if Christian voices opposing it are silenced. And they’re determined to make that happen. For them, religious liberty is a small price to pay for the progress of their social agenda.
You can see how all this played out in the Illinois legislation. It had the remarkable title, “Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.” I suppose the reason sponsor Rep. Greg Harris (he held an American flag sent by a soldier in Afghanistan as a prop during the final vote—which raised the notion of wrapping yourself in the flag to a new level) titled his bill that way was so that any church types concerned with the decaying moral fabric of the nation would see the magic words “Religious Freedom” and not feel threatened by what the bill actually contained.
What it contains is dangerous. On the one hand, it says no clergy or church will be forced to perform homosexual marriages against their convictions. On the other hand, church organizations like universities, hospitals, charities and children’s homes are not protected and may be subject to civil litigation if they refuse to recognize homosexual marriages or the partners within those marriages. For instance, a Christian college that refuses to rent its chapel for a homosexual marriage could be liable for damages.
Employment practices of faith organizations—including local churches—aren’t protected either. If an employee of a local church chooses to marry a person of the same gender, the church is then obligated to provide benefits to the partner with the tithes and offerings of its parishioners.
Three years ago, when the Illinois legislature legalized civil unions, religious liberty was similarly guaranteed to faith-based organizations. Six months later, the state refused to renew its contracts with Catholic Charities for foster care and adoption services because of their practice of not placing children with unmarried couples—heterosexual or homosexual. You can read the full story of all this at
In a nation where faith-based organizations are routinely harassed by the IRS and other government agencies, do we really believe that guarantees of religious freedom will apply in this newest round of social re-engineering?
The actions of the Illinois legislature in legalizing homosexual marriage are clear enough for us at this point to draw a few conclusions for what we Christians can expect in the near future:
- Homosexual marriage will one day soon be legal in all fifty states
- Religious liberty will not be protected for Christians or churches that oppose the unbiblical redefinition of marriage
- Churches will have to choose whether to follow their biblical mandate or conform to the state’s demands
- Civil litigation and economic penalties (for instance, the loss of non-profit status) will be the price exacted by the state toward churches who refuse to conform to the law