By Bob Allen
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary devoted a special chapel service March 28 to rally support for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in North Carolina.
Keynote speaker Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called the upcoming May 8 vote on North Carolina’s marriage amendment “a propitious moment” both as the first of several state ballots taking up the issue this year and in terms of its potential for influencing Supreme Court justices who haven’t made up their mind on the issue of same-sex marriage.
“If the people speak in North Carolina and in the other states and affirm marriage as being between a man and a woman, I believe that it will tip the balance of the Supreme Court to reject trying to foist by judicial imperialism same-sex marriage on a populace that is clearly opposed to it,” Land said. “If we lose, they will exercise their judicial imperialism. That’s what’s at stake, and you’re first up.”
Land said the upcoming vote is not a matter of gay rights or “sexual freedom” but religious liberty.
“Make no mistake about it, this is not a debate about live and let live,” he said. “The agenda of the homosexual community is to have their lifestyle and their behavior normalized and have same-sex marriage normalized and to have those who disagree with it to be ostracized on the level of the Ku Klux Klan. That’s their goal. Make no mistake about it.”
“They would consider what I’m saying to you this morning to be hate speech,” Land continued. “If we didn’t have a First Amendment to protect us, at least when we’re in chapel, there could come a time when I could be arrested for just saying what the Bible says about homosexuality.”
In a panel discussion following Land’s speech, Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition, said that even though North Carolina already prohibits gay marriage, a constitutional amendment is needed in case a couple who moves there from one of the eight states and the District of Columbia with laws allowing gays to wed sues to have their marriage recognized.
“There’s a lot at stake for our citizens of North Carolina,” said Fitzgerald, an attorney from Raleigh. “It’s imperative that we pass the marriage protection amendment.”
Other panelists included Kenyn Cureton, vice president for church ministries with the Family Research Council.
“What you need to know is that proponents of same-sex marriage are well organized, they are well funded and they are relentless,” Cureton said. “They will not stop until we rise up, speak the truth in love and stop them, and do it together. That’s why it’s so important that folks like we have at the table here and here at the seminary are partnered together in this process.”
Cureton, former vice president for convention relations at the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, brought packets for ministers that included a $10 “Voter Impact Toolkit” provided by the Family Research Council and the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. The packet also included a DVD with sermons by preachers including Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Cureton said.
The marriage-amendment forum, open to the public and with video now posted on the Southeastern Seminary website, coincided with release of a new video by Protect All NC Families featuring religious leaders urging defeat of the initiative they call “Amendment One.” Four of them are Baptist ministers – Stephen Shoemaker of Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, Angela Yarber of Wake Forest Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, Peter Carman of Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh and Ricky Woods of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church-West.
Another panelist at the seminary forum, Mark Creech of the North Carolina Christian Action League, said proponents of gay marriage are trying to have it both ways by arguing the gay marriage ban “imposes a religious bias into the law” while recruiting liberal clergy to their cause.
“There are, unfortunately, a number of churches, small as they may be, that erroneously support same-sex marriage,” Creech said. “So if we are to hold to a strict separation of church and state, then churches who argue for same-sex marriage shouldn’t be a part of this dialogue, either.”
Prior to his formal remarks, Land, one of the first conservative SBC leaders to assume office during denominational controversy in the 1980s and 1990s, reflected on his audience.
“The first time I visited this campus in 1984, I was here to meet with a remnant of conservative students in a sea of liberalism with pro-homosexual posters and pro-homosexual students in the classrooms,” Land reminisced. “Thank God for his providence and watch care over Southern Baptists, and thank God for those Southern Baptists that were willing to stand up and to take back that which their ancestors had given sacrificially to build so that it could be re-consecrated for the kingdom of God.”