What does the Court’s marriage decision mean for Christian schools?

The Supreme Court issued a decision creating a constitutional right to same-sex marriage (SSM) in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015. Even so, you should be encouraged that your moral standards are far from moot, and you can still operate as a faithful Christian school. However, Christian schools must exercise greater vigilance than ever to ensure continued freedom.

There will be much sorting out of all the implications of this decision in the days, weeks, and years to come. The debate is not over. It is now our duty to ensure no level of government discriminates against any individual or organization that holds to the truth about marriage. As a community of faith we must redouble our efforts to strengthen marriage and to ensure we maintain the right to voice the truth about marriage.

We recognize three key points about the marriage decision:

  1. The Court got it wrong. The decision is judicial activism. Nothing in the Constitution requires the redefinition of marriage.
  2. A court ruling doesn't change the truth. Marriage has not changed. We must commit to finding compelling ways to advance the truth about marriage.
  3. We must protect our right to hold and to act on the truth about marriage. The best approach at present is to pass the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA).

What the Supreme Court's opinion did and did not do:

  • It forces states to recognize same-sex marriage (SSM).
  • It elevates SSM to a U.S. constitutional right.
  • It does recognize there is still a First Amendment right to religious freedom to believe and operate in a way that upholds the truth about marriage.
  • It did not create a test to know when this new right trumps other rights (namely freedom of religion); it simply created a new right.

What the opinion means for Christian schools:

  • It did NOT end your right to base admissions and hiring practices on a Biblical understanding of sexual morals. We must still be honest about our beliefs and very clear about love and grace but share the truth.
  • If you have not instituted the suggested policies and standards ACSI and others have made available, then you must do so this summer before school starts this fall.
  • State and federal legislatures will now be emboldened (as SSM is now a constitutionally protected right) to pass laws that limit the rights of Christian schools and ministries. It will be imperative that you keep abreast of what is taking place in your local, state and national lawmaking bodies. ACSI is here to help keep you informed.
  • We are asking you to call and email your Senators and Representatives to support the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), S. 1598 (in the Senate) and H.R. 2802 (in the House). FADA is designed to protect religious nonprofits, including schools, from governmental action to punish or limit our ability to uphold the truth about marriage.
  • The elevation of SSM to a constitutional right is now in direct opposition to the constitutional right of religious freedom. At some point in the near future these two rights will be in direct opposition in court and the courts will then determine which one prevails or how far religious freedom extends. Would it extend to churches and parachurches or, would it be limited to the four walls of the church?
  • While the extent is unknown it is highly probable that accreditation through non-faith based entities will require adoption of policies in direct opposition to what your school upholds or you may face revocation of your accreditation. The same would apply to teacher licensure.
  • The charitable tax deduction and other related issues may also be in play as some of the implications of this ruling are teased out, but they are not immediate threats.

Contact the ACSI Legal/Legislative Department (acsidc@acsi.org or 719.867.5276) if you have any questions or would like further clarification.

Thomas J. Cathey, EdD
Assistant to the President
Director for Legal Legislative Issues 

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