Only a few weeks ago, I was sitting just behind the counsel’s table at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., listening to the arguments in 303 Creative, LLC v. Elenis. The issue at hand is whether a website designer can be forced by the government to create speech against her deeply held convictions about God’s design for marriage.
Would designer Lorie Smith be forced to create words, content and video promoting same-sex marriage—a message that violates her sincerely held beliefs?
Smith serves all people, including the LGBTQ community, but she will not express all messages. Alliance Defending Freedom CEO Kristen Waggoner represented 303 Creative and, as she always does, made clear and convincing arguments detailing how the Constitution and the high court have protected free speech, even when controversial or offensive.
Waggoner opened the arguments expressing the prevailing constitutional view that in our nation we rarely restrict speech and generally do not force people to say things they do not want to say. Smith did not want to use her creative skills to promote and celebrate same-sex marriage.
What happened next was entirely predictable. The liberal justices and the solicitor general of Colorado used the fear tactic of comparing Smith’s refusal to express messages about same-sex marriage—a message that would sear her conscience—to refusing to serve someone based on race. In their view, to put it bluntly, living out her Biblical view on marriage is akin to racism. Christians and other reasonable people should soundly reject and counter this tactic.
Justice Samuel Alito signaled he rejected this tactic when he asked, “In Obergefell, did the court say that religious objections to same-sex marriage are the same thing as religious or other objections to people of color?”
Waggoner quickly responded “No,” and reminded the justices of the Supreme Court’s opinion that reasonable and sincere people disagree with same-sex marriage based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises. That’s a good start to counter this unjustified analogy, but Scripture itself and historical reality make the best case.
Racism is sin against image bearers of God. Conversely, Scripture holds a high view of marriage. Ephesians 5 compares the relationship between husband and wife to the relationship between Jesus Christ and the church. A husband is to give himself up for his wife just as Christ gave up His life for the church. In Matthew 19, Jesus while speaking to a very large crowd says God created them male and female, and He created male and female for each other, to become one flesh in marriage.
Marriage is so important that this union between a man and a woman is the only context permissible for sexual relations. And Jesus defined the Biblical grounds for divorce very narrowly because intact marriages are of immense value to family, community and society. God designed marriage to be the fundamental building block of a stable family, community and nation. For Christians, the Biblical recipe for marriage cannot be cavalierly cast aside. Marriage is deeply rooted in the Christian faith; in fact, it is often noted that Jesus’ first miracle took place at a wedding. Lorie Smith should not be forced by the government to betray her convictions on marriage.
Scripture is truth, and it describes reality. The reality of the timeless treasure and blessing from mother/father-intact marriages on outcomes for children is well documented in the social sciences. Children of intact marriages with a mother and father generally excel in education. They face less poverty; have better physical, emotional and mental health; lower crime rates; lower substance abuse; and experience less child abuse than other family structures.
For the committed, married couple, Biblical marriage encourages personal responsibility; enhances relationships with children; reduces poverty; improves physical, mental and emotional health; fosters longevity; reduces risky behavior; breeds greater happiness; improves volunteerism and altruism; and results in quicker recovery from illness.
The benefits of Biblical marriage are undeniable.
Bradford Wilcox, a University of Virginia professor and director of the National Marriage Project, documents this in “Why Marriage Matters: 26 Conclusions from the Social Sciences.” God’s merciful design of marriage cannot be taken lightly by the faithful, and our government should not force us to act or speak otherwise.
The reality is that millions of Americans wake up each morning, enjoy a cup of coffee, open the Bible, study Scripture, seek to apply God’s truth to their lives that day, and imperfectly pursue an obedient walk with Christ. This is a part of Christian discipleship, being a student of God’s Word. A high view of Biblical marriage is a long-held, revered Christian teaching and part of discipleship.
Unfortunately, our government’s new orthodoxy on sexuality and marriage happens to clash with Christian teachings of God’s merciful design for marriage. Christians need to love and care for others who think and live differently from us. Yet love does not mean affirming and celebrating all ways of life, conduct, beliefs or behaviors. First Corinthians 13:6 states that love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.”
Like millions of others, Lorie Smith of 303 Creative honors Biblical marriage—the bedrock of stable societies throughout history. Honoring marriage is not akin to racial discrimination. And if the First Amendment still means anything in 2023, the Supreme Court will send a clear message and strike a blow against forced speech that violates deeply held religious convictions. Being able to freely live according to the Scripture hangs in the balance. ©2022 BGEA
The Scripture quotation is taken from the New American Standard Bible.
Todd Chasteen serves as vice president of public policy and general counsel for Samaritan’s Purse.
Above: Lorie Smith speaks outside the Supreme Court after oral arguments on Dec. 5, accompanied by Alliance Defending Freedom president, CEO and general counsel Kristen Waggoner.
Photo: Courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom