Last week our governor here in Florida, Rick Scott, signed into law a bill that is known as the Pastor Protection Act.. The bill is designed to shield pastors and other religious officials and organizations from legal action if they refuse to preside at a wedding ceremony. The bill grew directly out of opposition to the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
While on the surface this may appear to be a faith-based initiative, I would suggest it shows a lack of faith. Not so much a lack of faith in God as a lack of faith in the Constitutions of both Florida and the United States. Article I, Section 3, of the Florida Constitution states: "There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting nor penalizing the free exercise thereof." And the U. S> Constitution famously says in the First Amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof . . . ." As a pastor, my decision to marry or not marry any particular couple is rooted in my religious beliefs. My whole approach to marriage is theologically based. I am already free to choose whether or not to marry folks. And the right to make those religiously based decisions is already protected! The new act adds nothing to the law. It merely reflects the discontent and dismay felt by certain individuals over the prospect of same-sex marriage.
I have colleagues who suggest the easiest way to deal with the whole issue would be for us clergy types to get out of the legal marriage business altogether. Yes, continue to perform ceremonies blessing marriages, but when it comes to signing the legal document, let some court clerk handle it. I think the idea has real merit.
Meanwhile, though, when it comes to this additional protection, thanks, but no thanks. I've already got the right to pick and choose who'll I'll join together in holy matrimony. It's part of how I exercise my religion.