By Lonnie Wilkey
Eeditor, Baptist and Reflector
NASHVILLE — Following the decision of the United States Supreme Court on June 26, two state representatives in Tennessee announced plans to draft a “Tennessee Pastor Protection Act.”
“It comes as no surprise that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. I have had multiple constituents concerned with how the ruling may impact their church and their religious beliefs,” said Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro) in a press release.
He noted, however, if the “issue is truly about equality of civil liberties and benefits, then this ruling should have minimal legal impact on churches.”
Terry added that if “the issue and the cause is about redefining marriage to require others to change their deeply held religious beliefs, then the concerns of many will be valid.”
Terry is co-sponsor of the bill which will be designed to protect all religious clergy from performing same-sex marriages, as well as providing legal protection from being forced to perform same-sex marriages on church property. Andy Holt (R-Dresden), a deacon and Sunday School teacher at Long Heights Baptist Church in McKenzie, is the other sponsor.
Holt said the Supreme Court’s decision was wrong on two counts.
The first was the moral perspective. In that regard, he says he does not plan to recognize the Court’s ruling as being valid. “God is the ultimate Supreme Court and He has spoken. Marriage is between one man and one woman,” Holt said.
Second, the decision is a violation of states’ rights, he continued.
“The Court has made it clear that they have no intention to uphold the principles of separation of power. It’s more important now than ever that we stand and resist the abuse of our own government and that is exactly what I plan to do by lobbying for the Pastor Protection Act with Rep. Terry,” Holt said.
In addition to forcing states to recognize same-sex marriage, Holt said he believes it will ultimately be forced upon religious institutions and leaders.
“If people aren’t given the ability to express their religious freedom, what freedom do we really have?” Holt asked.
Holt, who is in the first year of his third term as a state representative, observed there are a significant number of legislators in Tennessee who want to respond to this issue.
“At this point we can’t come to an agreement on how to respond,” Holt acknowledged.
Terry noted in the press release that he is concerned the ruling will set off a chain reaction in judicial activism.
“The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Article 1, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution states that personal freedom of religion is protected and that no human authority can interfere in the rights of conscience,” Terry said.
“Under normal circumstances, I would expect the Court to honor the Constitution of the United States and Tennessee, but as recently confirmed by activist judges, we no longer are under normal circumstances.”