WASHINGTON — In the wake of recent legislative and judicial victories for homosexual activists seeking the redefinition of marriage, Catholics and other Christians throughout the United States are complaining of new rules, laws and practices that jeopardize their right to openly oppose homosexual relations and same-sex “marriage” in the military and civilian culture.
“There is a disturbing trend, an authoritarian trend, among some supporters of the agenda to redefine marriage,” says attorney Jordan Lorence, who is a senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom. “They are forcing people to express beliefs they don’t believe in or punishing them for expressing support for marriage between one man and one woman.”
Lorence represents a New Mexico couple who own Elane Photography in Albuquerque. When asked several years ago to photograph a same-sex “marriage,” Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin declined. The same-sex couple sued, claiming the New Mexico Human Rights Act should force the Huguenins to do business with them. The case worked its way to the Arizona Supreme Court, which ruled against the Huguenins Aug. 22.
The Huguenins, evangelical Protestants, said they don’t object to working for homosexual clients — just not in a way that might appear to endorse same-sex “marriage.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal.
“I think the New Mexico law is unconstitutional as it was interpreted and applied to this situation,” Lorence told the Register. “Generally, a state can ban discrimination in public accommodations, such as restaurants and hotels. But some businesses are inherently expressive, such as ad agencies, website developers and videography services. A wedding expresses ideas and photography expresses ideas, so a photographer may say, ‘I can’t do that wedding in good conscience.’ The expression of ideas is protected from government punishment.”
Lorence believes homosexual-rights activists who oppose his clients may inadvertently curtail their own right to express moral convictions. He wonders if they would challenge a photographer who declines contracting with the Boy Scouts of America — an organization that doesn’t allow adult homosexual scout leaders.
“There’s an example in which you could see some earnest, liberal photographer saying, ‘I cannot in good conscience take this job.’ Yet, under the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling, the photographer would have to work with the Boy Scouts,” Lorence explained. “I plead with any of my fellow citizens who may think it’s good that my clients lost to realize they are trashing the protected freedoms for every American and not just for Christians with traditional views on marriage.”
Activists Target Bakery
As the Huguenins hope the U.S. Supreme Court will hear their appeal, Oregon couple Aaron and Melissa Klein struggle to stay in business. After they declined to bake a wedding cake for the “marriage” of two lesbians, they learned their decision came at a price. The Kleins own Sweet Cakes by Melissa, in Gresham, Ore., and turned down a request to bake for the wedding of Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowmann. The homosexual couple filed a pending complaint with the state government and took their case to the media.
Homosexual activists immediately targeted Sweet Cakes, urging the public to avoid the bakery by swamping the Internet and social-media sites with negative and vituperative reviews.
Bad publicity and harassment led the Kleins, parents of five, to shut down their storefront. Today, they try to maintain the struggling business from home. Homosexual-rights activists intensified a boycott effort to ensure failure of the home-based version of Sweet Cakes. A Facebook page, “Boycott Sweet Cakes by Melissa,” received hundreds of “likes.”
“Yeah, I have lost something I worked really hard for and lots of years put into, but I know that really doesn’t matter,” Melissa told the Washington Times. “My eternal home is what matters.”
Meanwhile, Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk struggles with losing a prestigious assignment at Langley Air Force Base, allegedly for implying to his commanding officer that he objects to same-sex “marriage.”
In a widely publicized dispute, Monk claims he was punished after his openly lesbian commander asked for his thoughts about her plans to punish a colleague. The colleague had expressed objections to homosexuality. Monk alleges that the commander relieved him of his assignment because he declined to support her plan.
“My client was asked by his commanding officer to acknowledge that voicing a moral or religious objection to same-sex marriage was tantamount to discrimination,” said Mike Berry, who represents Monk as part of a legal team provided by the Texas-based Liberty Institute. “My client told the commanding officer he could not answer the question in a way that would please her. He effectively pleaded the Fifth Amendment. So the commanding officer connected the dots, became angry with him and relieved him of his duties.”
When Monk arrived in late August at a meeting with an Air Force investigator, ostensibly to tell his side of the story, he was handcuffed and read Miranda rights. Monk was brought up on charges of giving “false statements” about the ordeal to Todd Starnes, host of Fox News & Commentary.
Berry wants to restore Monk’s status in the Air Force and to prevent further repercussions.
“This type of activity against Christians is becoming systemic in the military, mostly in the Air Force,” said Berry, a combat veteran of Afghanistan and a former attorney for the Marine Corps.
Berry said the Air Force has been out front trying to implement sweeping changes to military culture encouraged by President Barack Obama.
“The Obama administration’s repeal of 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' is something my client’s commanding officer cited as a reason he could not hold a belief against same-sex marriage,” Berry told the Register. “In her mind, simply indicating opposition to same-sex marriage is tantamount to discrimination.”
Mikey Weinstein’s Influence
Some observers charge that reports of recent actions taken against vocal Christians in the military reflect the growing influence of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The organization is headed by attorney Mikey Weinstein, former legal counsel to the Reagan White House and a graduate of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Weinstein’s organization, based in New Mexico, routinely challenges Christian speakers, expressions and symbols at military academies and bases throughout the world. After Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced ending “religious proselytizing” as a top priority for the military, Weinstein was brought in as a Pentagon consultant to help devise new military policies about religion.
Weinstein summarized his concerns about Christianity in an April 16 Huffington Post article: “Today, we face incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s armed forces.”
A May 31 Huffington Post article, titled “The Pentagon Most Certainly is Listening to Mikey Weinstein,” explains how Weinstein can call ranking Pentagon officials and get results within minutes. It tells of a call he made last spring to complain about a framed painting that had adorned the wall of the dining hall at Idaho’s Mountain Home Air Force Base for years. The image features an officer and the word “Integrity” above “Matthew 5:9.” The actual Scripture verse, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” isn’t quoted on the image.
“Fifty-six minutes after his call to the Pentagon,” said the Huffington Post, the image “had been removed.”
Speaking to the Register, Weinstein said he has no problem with the vast majority of Christians in the military. He claims 96% of his 34,729 military “clients” are Protestants or Catholics. “At the end of the day, we are all brothers and sisters in the Constitution, but not necessarily in Christ or Yahweh,” he said.
Weinstein self-identifies as a “secular Jew” who prays in Hebrew three times a day and fasts for Yom Kippur. He says his crusade mostly targets “dominionist Christians” devoted to “The Great Commission,” as outlined in Mark 16:15 (“Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation”) and Matthew 28:19 (“Therefore, go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”).
Examples Weinstein cites as “dominionists” include Focus on the Family, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (who represents a Colorado district that includes the Air Force Academy), the American Family Association, the Family Research Council and “anything with ‘family’ in the name.”
A May 13 letter from 72 members of Congress to Hagel, first circulated by Lamborn, expressed concerns about a “growing pattern of hostility” toward Christians in the military. It told of an Army PowerPoint presentation on equal opportunity that included evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons, Sunni Muslims and some Jews on a list of “extremist groups,” along with al Qaeda and Hamas.
The letter backed language in the National Defense Authorization Act that defends religious liberty in the military.
President Obama, who said when signing the 2013 Defense Authorization Act that such language was “unnecessary and ill-advised,” has threatened to veto the 2014 version of the bill if the religious-liberty language is retained.
Weinstein maintains a wait-and-see attitude about the Air Force and Monk. If the facts ultimately match what Weinstein has heard, he said his group could intervene on Monk’s behalf. His foundation defended a Christian airman who was punished for complaining about an officer who drove on base with a bumper sticker that said “Satan” inside of the Christian fish symbol.
Despite that defense of a Christian, Weinstein disagrees with the premise that Christians are abused for their beliefs, arguing that they are actually “privileged” in the military.
Monk’s attorney disagrees.
“I don’t agree that Christians enjoy privileged status,” Berry said. “Furthermore, this goes far beyond reversal of privilege. What we’re seeing is a pattern of action taken against people because of their faith and what they believe in. No one should be given special status because of religion, but removing someone from an assignment because of a perceived slight against homosexuals goes far beyond reversal of any perceived state of privilege.”
Wayne Laugesen writes from Colorado.