A Baptist church in Louisiana has told an Alcoholics Anonymous group it can no longer meet there, as church officials fear that accommodating AA would mean it would have to host same-sex marriages.
David Venable, the pastor or Westwood Baptist Church in Keithville, and Tim Tipton, the church's minister of administration, claim that an out-of-state court decision would lead to the church being forced to accommodate same-sex weddings, reports Shreveport TV station KSLA. But the claim appears to be erroneous.
"As I am sure you are aware, God's church, his written word, and its values and principles have come under a constant and aggressive attack from the homosexual and lesbian community," the clergymen wrote in a letter sent to the AA group in mid-September. "Churches and Christian businesses alike, across our nation, are being forced, by our legal system, to accommodate these groups in the use of their buildings/facilities to perform marriage ceremonies, receptions, etc. The court's decision was based on the fact the churches and business were accepting and accommodating other public entities, and therefore must also accommodate the homosexual and lesbian community." The AA group had to cease meeting at the church at the beginning of October.
The ministers reportedly based their decision on an article in a Baptist news journal referring to a 2012 New Jersey court decision that a Methodist organization violated state antidiscrimination law by refusing to let a lesbian couple hold their civil union ceremony at a pavilion the Methodist group owned. But this is an apples-and-oranges comparison, as ThinkProgress notes.
"The apparent case in question ... was not an example of a church being forced to perform a gay wedding, but an instance in which a Methodist organization was held accountable for holding a certain kind of tax exempt status that required their property to be free for public use," reports ThinkProgress.
The political director of a regional LGBT group also pointed out that the New Jersey case is irrelevant to this situation and cited another flaw in the ministers' reasoning. "Even if we have legalized gay marriage throughout the country no church will be forced to marry gay people if they don't want to," Adrienne Critcher, political director for People Acting for Change and Equality, told KSLA.
Westwood Baptist Church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, which strongly opposes marriage equality and considers homosexuality a sin. There are numerous other Baptist denominations, some of which are LGBT-welcoming, but the Southern Baptist Convention is by far the largest Baptist group, and the largest U.S. Protestant denomination overall.
Watch the KSLA report below.
KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather