SBTS prof defends Ky. marriage amendment in television debate
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman upholds biblical standards for the family and prevents activist judges from arbitrarily overthrowing accepted standards of morality, seminary professor Hershael York said in a debate on Kentucky Educational Television Aug. 16.
York, who serves as Lester Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., argued that Kentucky voters must support a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution in order to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. The amendment, which will go before voters Nov. 2, would outlaw any marriage or civil union between homosexuals.
"[The amendment] is a matter, at its core, of morality,” York said. “But also it’s a matter of whom ... we want to define what marriage is -- society itself or some judge sitting in a room somewhere that just decides to overthrow thousands of years of civilization on a whim.”
Appearing alongside York were Walter Jones, policy analyst for The Family Foundation of Kentucky; Ricky Jones, professor of Pan-African studies at the University of Louisville; and Albert Pennybacker, chair and CEO of the Clergy Network for National Leadership Change.
Contrary to claims made by proponents of homosexual "marriage," an amendment to Kentucky’s state constitution would not take away any rights from homosexuals, York said. Rather, an amendment would take “a stand for what marriage is and always has been,” he said.
Ricky Jones countered York’s argument, saying that any law restricting same-sex "marriage" improperly marginalizes homosexuals. Such marginalizing is comparable to the discrimination against African Americans that took place in the United States following the Civil War, Jones said.
“People on the right overstate things,” Jones said. “I think it is interesting that Rev. York sees this (same-sex 'marriage') as a threat to civilization.... I think that is a very self-absorbed, arrogant, judgmental approach to this, which necessarily places people on the margins.”
But according to Walter Jones, The Family Foundation spokesman, restricting same-sex "marriage" is different than discriminating against someone on the basis of his or her race. Racial discrimination is “an issue of biology. This is an issue of behavior,” he said.
If homosexual "marriage" becomes a legal reality, children raised by homosexual parents will be the ones who truly are “discriminated against,” Walter Jones said.
“Studies show that our children fare best when raised in an environment with a biologically married set of parents,” Walter Jones said. “Same-sex marriage, by definition, by default, will rob children of either a mother or a father.”
In addition to harming children, legalizing same-sex "marriage" would also set a precedent for state protection of other sexually immoral behaviors, York said.
According to Ricky Jones, however, any sexual behavior that does not harm others should be legal.
When asked by York whether he would be in favor of legalizing polygamy, Ricky Jones responded, “Individually, yes.... If people are doing things which they see as healthy in their lives without doing harm to others, I am not going to marginalize them.”
At one point in the program, a caller argued that Jesus did not consider homosexuality an immoral behavior because the Bible never records Him speaking against it. York responded by asserting that all Scripture is equally the Word of God and that a condemnation of homosexuality in Scripture written by Paul is equally authoritative as a condemnation recorded in the gospels.
“All of the Word of God is inspired,” York said. “... The inscripturated words of Paul were inspired by the Holy Spirit and carry the exact same authority as those of Jesus. So therefore, I make no distinction. Anything in the Scripture, Paul says, ‘is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteous because it is God-breathed.’”
Pennybacker argued that York’s interpretation of Scripture is inappropriately literal. Pennybacker said he views the Bible “in much more complicated and comprehensive terms,” he said.
“There are many views of Scripture,” Pennybacker said. “And I obviously am not a literalist. I do not agree with a literal reading of [the] Bible. I agree with a thoughtful and reflective reading of [the] Bible, in which I enter into a relationship with the text.”
Such a reading of the Bible affirms love for one’s neighbor as a supreme value, Pennybacker said. Out of love for one’s neighbor, Christians should “affirm” homosexuals’ “right to make choices and their value,” he said.
York, though, said that Pennybacker misrepresents the Scriptural concept of love. True Christian love attempts to prevent homosexuals from engaging in behavior that is harmful and destructive, he said.
“You define love wrongly,” York said. “I don’t love my son in a way that affirms his right to speed on the highway. I’m out to protect him from himself. They ask the question, ‘Who does homosexuality hurt?’ It hurts those who practice it.”
York said, “It is the job of society to encourage that which is beneficial to society. Two-parent heterosexual families are great for society.... Every society in the history of the world has had sexual laws, sexual taboos saying ... what is permissible and what is not. And what a segment of our society is proposing to do is overthrow a taboo. I’m simply saying no.”
For more information about the national debate over same-sex "marriage," visit
This program can be viewed online at http://www.ket.org/cgi/foxweb.exe/db/ket/dmps/Programs?id=KYTO&year=2004&do=year