Bill of Rights

Push is coming to shove in Tennessee

Vanderbilt University is Exhibit 1 to the cultural clash between the irresistible force and the immovable object – religious liberty on the one hand and homosexual conduct as a civil right on the other.   Our position is pretty clear: religious liberty is a God-given right and protected by the First Amendment but the historical understanding of a civil right does not entail conduct, sexual or otherwise.  As the old saying goes, “that’s our position and we’re sticking with it.”  But what about the “other side’s” position?

"I don't want to interfere with anyone's religious beliefs" - TEP spokesman

Last week, Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis informed its congregation about the local City Council elections taking place. More specifically, the congregation was informed about an on-going effort by  The Tennessee Equality Project  to get the City Council to pass an ordinance writing homosexual conduct and gender expressive activities into the city’s personnel policies.  And parishioners were told that they could go to our website to find out which candidates had opposed the measure and supported the historic Biblical view of human sexuality.

As you might expect, that set off fireworks.  Americans United for Separation of Church and State called on the IRS to investigate the church’s tax-exempt status, but what was interesting was the response of the Tennessee Equality Project.  Through its local spokesperson, they said Bellevue is “welcome to talk about any issues they want to support.  I don’t want to interfere with anyone’s religious beliefs, but … they step[ped] over the legal line … recommending that people vote for certain candidates….”

Now we can debate whether Bellevue Baptist was endorsing candidates in a way contrary to the law, whether churches in general should endorse candidates, and whether the IRS should be able to regulate what is said in a pulpit, but the interesting point was an expressed desire not to interfere with anyone’s religious beliefs.

Vandy Office of Religious Life

Listen to the FACT Report on the Vandy story.

But another situation has arisen with a different line of thought. Vanderbilt University has refused to recognize student groups like the Christian Legal Society because they require their officers to lead Bible studies, prayer and worship.  The problem is that such a requirement could have a student group teaching that homosexuality is wrong and that might violate the University’s non-discrimination policy that extends protections to those who engage in homosexual conduct.  Now these organizations do not forbid anyone from attending their meetings but being an officer is another matter. And none of these organizations advocate any kind of harm to anyone.  But the media here reported that the Nashville spokesman for the Tennessee Equality Project “said it would be sensible for the school to deny official recognition and funding to a group that discriminates based on sexual orientation.”

Personally, I have a hard time reconciling these two positions.  Perhaps the difference is you can believe what you want to believe, but you’ll have to be comfortable with being a social outcast because of it.

To be honest, I think that’s where we’re headed – the irresistible force of culture will run into the immovable object of those will not compromise their commitment to Christ and the historical doctrines of Biblical sexuality that have been hammered out on the anvil of history.  But if that history is also any indication of the consequence, then it will only make the true church even stronger for then the world will see that there are those who believe in a God more worthy of our adoration than our own adoration by other others.

Vanderbilt non-discrimination policy called unfair to religious groups. – The Tennessean, Sept. 27, 2011

Tennessee Equality Project Says Bellevue is in violation of tax exempt status. – WMC-TV 5 – Memphis

Church’s Intervention in Politics Should Spark IRS Action.  – Americans United for the Separation of Church and State on Bellvue Baptist

Read the letters from The Vanderbilt Office of Religious Life regarding campus Christian organizations at our FACT Report page