Posted tagged ‘Church and State’

Coming to a Church (and courtroom) Near You?

August 7, 2008

There is an interesting case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals right now.  You can read about Canyon Road Baptist Church here.  The bottom line is that a Pastor scheduled a movie one Sunday evening, dealing with the fight for one man/one woman marriage in the political area.   The movie came at the issue from a biblical perspective.  After the movie, petitions to support an effort to get the issue on the ballot were in the back of the church.  The church got dinged for not filing as a political committee under Montana law.

The church cited First Amendment religious grounds for not filing as a committee; every issue has religious overtones.  For a Christian, worldview means knowing how God thinks about everything.  The court lost in the Administrative Court, the Federal District Court, and is now before the appeals court.
One could argue that a more legally savvy Pastor could have gotten around the whole thing by moving the petitions outside–announcing that a separate organization was handling them.  But, shoud he have to?  How far a reach is it to imagine that even if there were no petitions, some group might bring an action against the Pastor and Church for political rhetoric on any issue such as marriage, divorce, abortion, or even theft!  Where does it stop?

Lest you think this is far-fetched imagining, Pastors have already been taken to criminal court for “hate speech” in Canada and Scandanavia.  So, when does a Sermon or teaching become a court case?  The answer for me is, I don’t know any longer.  The bigger question is, will this threat or perceived threat silence the church.  No!  That I do know.