How should ministers respond to The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act?
In a recent article, a controversy has developed due to The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act. The Alabama legislature is acting to offset new federal laws that embrace same-sex marriages. Ministers should have the freedom to decide if they are to perform ceremonial duties for same-sex weddings for which The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act can provide an alternative.
The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act – Prohibits the federal government from taking an adverse action against a person on the basis that such person acts in accordance with a religious belief that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.
Defines “adverse action” as any federal government action to discriminate against such person, including: (1) denying or revoking certain tax exemptions or disallowing a deduction of any charitable contribution made to or by such person; (2) denying or excluding such person from receiving any federal grant, contract, cooperative agreement, loan, license, certification, accreditation, employment, or similar position or status; or (3) denying or withholding any benefit under a federal benefit program.
Permits a person to assert an actual or threatened violation of this Act as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and to obtain compensatory damages or other appropriate relief against the federal government.
The first problem with the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act is that from a foundational level it provides that the United States government is responsible for determining persons who qualify as a minister.
There are two types of ministers. Some religious denominations and congregations make distinctions between different types of clergy, classifying them as ordained or licensed ministers. Each denomination sets its own policy for distinguishing between the two, but in many cases, religious organizations consider ordained ministers to be permanent clergy. Ordination permits the minister to perform church rites and sacraments, such as baptisms, legal marriages and funerals. Licensed ministers, on the other hand, are usually authorized to perform some ministerial functions, but may be required by the terms of their license to only act as clergy in the context of a local congregation. Unlike ordination, which is usually considered to be a one-time event, the credentials for licensed ministers may only be valid for a specific period of time. For tax purposes, the IRS recognizes both licensed and ordained ministers as clergy, although it may apply additional standards when determining whether a clergyperson is subject to special tax rules for ministers.
The benefits that ministers receive from the Internal Revenue Service has allowed the federal government to place a rope around the neck of God’s purpose for ministers and ministry.
Many people who believe that the government is in violation of the constitution have made an error for which The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act attempts to ratify religious freedom for ministers.
The “Separation of church and state” (sometimes “wall of separation between church and state”) is a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson and others expressing an understanding of the intent and function of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The phrase has since been repeatedly used by the Supreme Court of the United States.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that and Article VI specifies that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The modern concept of a wholly secular government is sometimes credited to the writings of English philosopher John Locke, but the phrase “separation of church and state” in this context is generally traced to a January 1, 1802 letter by Thomas Jefferson, addressed to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut, and published in a Massachusetts newspaper.
Echoing the language of the founder of the first Baptist church in America, Roger Williams—who had written in 1644 of “[A] hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world”—Jefferson wrote, “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”
Jefferson’s metaphor of a wall of separation has been cited repeatedly by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Reynolds v. United States (1879) the Court wrote that Jefferson’s comments “may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the [First] Amendment.” In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), Justice Hugo Black wrote: “In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state.”
However, the Court has not always interpreted the constitutional principle as absolute, and the proper extent of separation between government and religion in the U.S. remains an ongoing subject of impassioned debate.
There would be no need for The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act if ministers made the decision to no longer be dependent on the Internal Revenue Service and become more dependent on God for resources.
Dr. Derrick and Mrs. Sheila Campbell
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012
Published books – Leading Your Marriage into the Promised Land -Leading Your Marriage into the Promised Land (Workbook for husbands & Wives) – Advanced Marriage Training for Singles
“I was blessed by the love and sensitivity that you and your wife showed during the presentation”.
Bishop Joseph P. Ravenell
Samaritan Baptist Church
Trenton, NJ “I would highly recommend you to any church or organization desiring to provide their people with timely marital wisdom and practical application skills”.
Dr. James E. Woods, II
El Shaddia Christian Assembly