Friday, June 24, 2016

Orthodox Church Lays Groundwork For Legal Enforcement of Ban on Church Use For Same-Sex Marriages

The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America last week adopted a statement (full text) titled Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs Regarding Marriage.  It is apparently designed to allow parishes and monasteries to legally enforce restrictions on use of their facilities for same-sex or transgender marriage ceremonies without courts invoking the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine to refuse to do so.  The introduction to the statement says in part:
The purpose of that statement was to articulate the basic and fundamental beliefs of the Orthodox Church in America regarding marriage and to do so in terms which could be understood and applied by federal, state, and local governmental officials without the necessity of any probing inquiry or interpretation which might require them to transgress limitations imposed on them by the First Amendment.
The statement says in part that "Marriage can only be between two people whose birth sex is male and female." It then calls for each diocese, parish, institution and monastery to adopt a statement declaring:
The (Name of the Parish/Hall/Facility) is the property of the (Name of the Parish/Institution/Monastery), a non-profit church organization located in (Location). Due to sincerely held religious beliefs, documented in the Biblical, dogmatic and canonical documents of the Orthodox Church, we do not permit the (Name of the Parish/Hall/Facility) to be used for the following purposes: events, services or receptions related to non-Orthodox sacraments (including, but not limited to, baptisms, weddings or funerals); non-Orthodox worship services; and partisan political or social rallies.