THE BRIEFING | Lisa Sergent and Meredith Flynn
Vote possible during fall veto session
Same-sex marriage could be on the legislative agenda this week as the Illinois General Assembly returns to Springfield for their fall veto session. Meanwhile, people on both sides of the issue plan to make their voices heard at the Capitol.
At issue is SB10, or the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which was passed in the Senate last spring but stalled when it wasn’t called for a vote in the House. Supporters of the bill are calling on the House to vote on it during the fall veto session or in January 2014 when the regular session begins. Due to legislative rules, if passed this fall, same-sex marriages could begin in June 2014. However, if voted on and passed in January, such marriages could begin in February 2014.
In preparation for a possible vote, groups supporting same-sex marriage will rally at the Capitol October 22 for the “March on Springfield for Marriage Equality.” The next day, the Illinois Family Institute (IFI) will host a “Defend Marriage Lobby Day” for supporters of traditional marriage. On the schedule are prayer gatherings in front of the Lincoln statue and inside the Rotunda, and an opportunity to lobby legislators on behalf of traditional marriage.
A major concern of pro-traditional marriage groups is the religious liberty of those who oppose same-sex marriage, should the bill pass in Illinois.
Earlier this month, the Chicago Tribune hosted a marriage equality debate where State Rep. Greg Harris (Chicago), sponsor of SB10, told those gathered he believed the bill protected the rights of religious institutions opposed to same-sex marriage. But some doubt whether individuals are similarly protected.
Peter Breen, senior counsel with the Thomas More Society, countered Harris by sharing the story of Jim Walder, a bed and breakfast owner in Paxton, Ill., who is being sued for refusing to rent out his facility for a same-sex civil union ceremony. The argument against Walder is that Illinois businesses are governed by the Human Rights Act, passed in 1979, which forbids discrimination based on many factors, including sexual orientation.
The Illinois Family Institute and others argue that the Human Rights Act and SB10 protects individuals from discrimination in regard to sexual preference, but not religious conviction.
Same-sex marriage is legal in 14 U.S states and the District of Columbia. Last month, New Jersey became the latest state to allow same-sex marriage after a state judge ruled that because it already allows civil unions for same-sex couples, the state is illegally preventing them from receiving federal benefits. Same-sex marriage ceremonies officially began in New Jersey October 21.
Illinois volunteers join flood relief efforts in Colorado
IBSA Disaster Relief teams have joined with teams from 22 other Baptist state conventions to help Colorado residents clean up their homes after they were damaged by recent flooding.
Veteran disaster relief volunteer Butch Porter called it “the worst devastation” he’s ever seen. “It seemed like a tsunami of mud came down from the mountains and destroyed everything in its path,” he said. Butch and his wife, Debbie, are members of a team from First Baptist Church, Galatia, that served for five days in Lyons, Colorado.
Debbie shared the story of one young man, Brian, who needed help removing the waist-deep mud that had settled in his garage. He and his aunt had had worked for two days shoveling out the mud, but only had a small corner cleared.
“When we pulled up and started getting out of the van he looked deflated,” the retiree laughed. “You could tell he thought, ‘All these old people, they can’t do anything.’”
The team spent two days working at his home, and removed all the mud from his garage. His aunt, a Christian, had been witnessing to him and team members continued along the same track. While he had not accepted Christ by the time they left to return home, Debbie believes he is very close.
“I told him, “Your aunt is right, she’s trying to tell you that you need to get closer to God. You need to accept Him.’ I have a feeling we made a big difference and that his aunt will finish the work.”
Read the full story in the October 21 edition of the Illinois Baptist, online here.
Bad choices dog many of us
Nearly half of Americans feel weighed down by a bad decision they made at some point, according to a new study by LifeWay Research. The survey found 47% of respondents are still dealing with the consequences of a bad decision, including 51% of self-identified born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christians. The better news: 84% of those surveyed believe God gives second chances. Read more at LifeWayResearch.com.
Mormon missionaries top 80,000
Relaxed age restrictions on Mormon missionaries have resulted in a drastic increase in the number of people serving around the world, according to a report on The Washington Post’s On Faith blog. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced earlier this month that 80,000 missionaries are now on the field, 22,000 more than the previous year. The number of women serving has more than doubled since the age requirement was dropped from 21 to 19 last year. Read more at the On Faith blog.
Moody drops faculty alcohol ban
Moody Bible Institute in Chicago this summer lifted a ban on alcohol and tobacco use by its 600 faculty members and employees. Marketing vice president Christine Gorz told The Christian Post, “Employees of Moody are expected to adhere to all biblical absolutes, but for behaviors that Scripture does not expressly prohibit, Moody leaves these matters to the employee’s biblically-informed conscience.” Students at the 127-year-old school are still required to abstain. Read more at ChristianPost.com.