FIRST-PERSON: How gay activism affects you
ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) -- Homosexual activists are pressing the issue of so-called rights in an effort to marginalize Christians and force religion to be practiced only in private. And they are having success.
One recent victim of homosexual activism is a Christian couple in upstate New York who, according to Religion News Service, "declined a lesbian couple's request to hold a wedding ceremony on their property." The couple has "been fined $10,000 and ordered to pay the women $1,500 each" by Administrative Law Judge Migdalia Pares of the Bronx, RNS reported.
Cynthia and Robert Gifford own a farm near Albany. They rent their facilities, which include their private residence, for birthday parties and an occasional wedding. Weddings are conducted either in the Giffords' home or in a nearby field.
When asked to host a homosexual wedding, the Giffords cited their religious beliefs in declining to hold the ceremony on their property. They did, however, offer their facilities for a reception.
That was not good enough for Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, a homosexual couple from Newark, N.J., who sued.
The Giffords' attorney released the following statement in response to the judge's ruling, "Liberty Ridge Farm ... has employed gay people and has conducted events for same-sex couples. The Giffords' objection was to hosting and participating in the wedding ceremony itself and not to providing service in general to lesbians."
You can add the Giffords to a growing list of business owners being punished for not celebrating homosexuality as natural, normal and healthy. They do not refuse to provide products and services generally to homosexuals and have demonstrated no personal animosity toward same-sex couples. These owners simply have religious convictions about homosexual marriage and are asking for the freedom to live by those convictions.
Yet homosexual activists -- in New York and across the nation -- have religious freedom in their crosshairs. They are asking courts to declare that the celebration of homosexuality must trump freedom of religion. The activists' efforts are increasing from sea to shining sea and constitute a culture war aimed at Christians. Many want to ignore it, but the war continues to rage.
Even if you do not personally own a facility that hosts wedding ceremonies, the war likely will affect you soon. Your church may be sued for refusing to host a gay wedding ceremony; your pastor may be cited for speaking out against homosexuality; or your friends may be convicted of violating civil rights laws for refusing to support a homosexual wedding ceremony with their bakery, photography business, hair salon, event planning service or bridal boutique.
Homosexual activists do not want their lifestyle simply to be tolerated; they want it celebrated as being on par with heterosexuality. Those who refuse to comply must be shamed and/or sued.
One of my favorite movies is "Shenandoah," a 1965 American Civil War film starring Jimmy Stewart in the role of Virginia farmer Charlie Anderson. Anderson persistently refuses to support the Confederate war effort saying, "This war is not mine." Finally, Anderson's son is mistaken for a Confederate soldier and captured by Union troops. Upon hearing the news, Anderson says, "Now it concerns us."
Charlie Anderson thought he could ignore the war raging around him. However, the war did not ignore him. When he finally became concerned, it was in many ways too late.
Similarly, you may not want to believe the culture war in America concerns you right now. But it is only a matter of time before it touches you.
If you wait to take a stand for your Christian convictions until the culture war finally does concern you, it might be too late.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention's office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).