Tuesday Briefing: Christian schools weigh marriage ruling amid liberty concerns

Meredith Flynn —  July 14, 2015

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The_BriefingFollowing the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, churches and Christian institutions, including colleges and universities, are navigating the potential religious liberty ramifications.

Christian colleges in Michigan and Tennessee announced last week they would extend benefits to same-sex spouses of employees. But a representative for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) told Baptist Press that as long as Christian colleges and universities “ensure that all of their policies are clearly tied to their religious beliefs,” the threats of losing tax-exempt status and being held liable for discrimination aren’t immediate.

“At this point, there is no reason to believe that religious institutions, who do immense good by educating first-generation and low-income students, providing thousands of hours of volunteer time to their communities, and are institutions essential to the fabric of their communities, would be targeted to be penalized in this way for their longstanding religious beliefs,” said Shapri LoMaglio. “The test for tax-exemption is public good, and our institutions absolutely serve the public good.”

Neither of the two schools who announced benefits for same-sex spouses–Hope College in Holland, Mich., and Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.–are affiliated with the CCCU. Belmont, which was affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention until 2007, added “sexual orientation” to its non-discrimination policy in 2011, BP reports.

Durbin says schools are ‘challenging area’ after marriage decision
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he doesn’t “have a quick answer” about whether religious schools that oppose same-sex marriage are protected from religious liberty concerns in the same ways as churches. “There’s no question this was an historic decision, and now we’re going to go through a series of suggestions for new laws to implement it,” Durbin told The Weekly Standard. “I can’t predict how this will end. But from the beginning we have said that when it comes to marriage, religions can decide what their standards will be.”

But on the schools question, Durbin said, “Getting into a challenging area, and I don’t have a quick answer to you. I’ll have to think about it long and hard.”

Baylor drops ‘homosexual acts’ ban from conduct policy
Christian school Baylor University in Waco, Texas, has removed “homosexual acts” from behaviors banned in its sexual conduct policy, the Houston Chronicle reported this month. However, a “Statement on Human Sexuality” on the Baylor website says, “Christian churches… have affirmed purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm. Temptations to deviate from this norm include both heterosexual sex outside of marriage and homosexual behavior.”

Carter says Jesus would be OK with same-sex marriage
Former President Jimmy Carter says he has no problem with same-sex marriage, and Jesus wouldn’t either. “I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don’t see that gay marriage damages anyone else,” Carter told interviewer Marc Lamont Hill on HuffPost Live.

Carter did say he’s not in favor of the government being able to force churches to perform same-sex weddings.

Wheaton denied injunction against contraceptive mandate
Wheaton University in Illinois will be required to notify the federal government that it objects to providing emergency contraception through its employee healthcare plans, after a judge denied the school’s request for an injunction. That notification will allow health plan participants to receive free contraception coverage, Christianity Today reported.

“…[W]e remain hopeful for a time when the government will allow us to provide healthcare for our employees and their families in full accordance with our common faith,” said Wheaton President Philip Ryken.

Meredith Flynn


Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.