Should this Methodist church be obliged to allow gay civil unions on its property?

Here’s a link to the NY Times article in question..

Any thoughts, group?

I’ll serve mine up first. Though I’m sort-of in favor of gay marriage rights (by which I mean I don’t think the government should be involved in solemnizing marriages whatsodamnever, but if we’re going to have government involvement, then it should be offered to all comers, regardless of sexual orienation), I have to call bullshit on the activists’ position. From what the article says, title to the property in question belongs to the church, not the state, regardless of the church allowing persons to lounge on its pews when services are not in session. My libertarian principles lead me to conclude that the it is an inappropriate imposition on the freedom on the church to require them to allow persons of whom they disapprove to use their facility for such a ceremony. Does anyone care to take the contrary position?

If the Church is being exempted from payment of taxation, then the state can enforce its anti-discrimination requirements upon it. I don’t think forcing churches to perform gay marriages or any marriages is a good thing - hell, if you want to be a member of a church that refuses to perform interracial marriages, knock yourself out. But if you don’t want state control, you should stop taking state benefits.

No, they should not be obliged.

However, if the Pavilion is still accessible by the public, the lesbian couple should sneak in there with an official of their choice and have a quick ceremony anyway, just for laughs.

In general, no. No church should be required to allow, on their property, any ceremony they disapprove of. However, this situation seems a bit more complicated.

The pavilion in question could reasonably be considered a place of public accommodation (or whatever the proper technical legal term is). If the church owned and ran a restaurant or hotel, they should not be allowed to discriminate in who they serve. Whether or not the pavilion should be considered such a place is a question that should be investigated. The church’s preemptive lawsuit to stop that investigation is out of line.

The church is 100% within their right to refuse to allow this wedding to take place on their property, and any attempt to force them to do so is both unethical, and incredibly poorly conceived. How long until this very case is being held up as an example of why we need federal laws outlawing SSM? It’s a dumb move that will be laughed out of court, and could do serious damage to the SSM movement on a national level.

Of course, the church is also being a gigantic, collective douche in not allowing the couple to be wed there, but that goes without saying.

The church stopped offering the facility for weddings to avoid just this sort of conflict. The property belongs to them, and they get to decide how to use it. While I understand the anger engendered by this idiotic bigotry, it is their right, and the complainers have no more legal grounds to force them than they do to force my fictional Aunt Tilly to host their wedding.

I think the church is jumping the gun on the suit, since the state hasn’t issued them an order but is currently only investigating the complaint. However, I’m not on the scene, so there are probably undercurrents and politics playing into it.

The governing body of the United Methodist Church does not recognize same-sex marriage, and in fact condemns it. So, a UMC church is refusing to allow a gay marriage on it’s property? Well, no shit! :smack:

Do I wish this was a slightly more progressive congregation, like we have in CA (well, at least a few of them)? Of course I do- as a Methodist I believe that my denomination is wrong to forbid same-sex unions. But as a matter of doctrine, they are squarely where the church says they should be, and should not be forced to do anything differently by the state.

Sorry, but go find another nice gazebo overlooking the water. There must be hundreds of them.

There’s not enough info in the article for me to tell, and I’m not familiar with NJ law anyway. It seems the land in question was granted to the Church by the state of NJ, and there might be terms in the grant allowing for public access in some fashion. Plus, there might be a public easement claim, since the Church has allowed the public regular use of its facilities.

As a general principle, though, I would say that if a Church regularly rented out its space to the public, then it should not be allowed to discriminate against the public on the basis of sexual orientation.

This particular line of thinking is based on what legal principle? Because this idea really seems to fly in the face of the 1st Amendment precluding laws that “prohibit the free exercise” of religion.


I think in this case, it turns on the issue that PC apeman described above: i.e., whether the pavilion in question is “a place of public accomodation” or not. IANAL, but if the public in general is allowed to use the facility freely, I’m not sure that the church has the right to ban a particular use of it by gay members of the public, even if the church owns the property.

What confuses me most about the OP’s article is the next-to-last two paragraphs:

Now let me get this straight: Apparently the Methodist church association in question owns all the property in the town in question. And the town in question is one of New Jersey’s “most gay friendly communities”.

AFAICT, that has to mean that church property in Ocean Grove is being used by gay people all the time. Businesses run on church property are welcoming gay customers. Hotels and B&Bs on church property are renting rooms to gay couples to fuck like crazed weasels in. Rental units on church property are being leased to gay couples to live together in.

So why is the church suddenly getting its knickers in such a twist about gay couples wanting to use its oceanfront pavilion to have same-sex wedding ceremonies in? If homosexuality is so contrary to the church’s principles, what the hell has it been doing all these years permitting the formation of a “gay-friendly community” on property that it owns? Am I missing something here? :confused: :confused: :confused:

I think you’re missing something patently obvious. The United Methodist Church does not object to the presence of homosexuals. Apparently the church-owned “Camp Meeting Association” also has no problems with their presence, they just simply seem to draw the line at having a same sex marriage in an area that they own which they define as a “church.” The area in question has pews, has regular sermons and bible meetings and et cetera.

Apparently it is not the position of the Camp Meeting Association that all lands they hold are “off limits” to gays, nor that they would even be off limits to same-sex marriage ceremonies–they just object to a space which is a specific place of worship of theirs being used to perform a ritual they oppose for religious reasons.

For example of this association owns stores, rental units and et cetera that are in common usage by the public, then I doubt they would care if some pagan group used the space. They would probably draw the line at a pagan group holding a pagan ritual within one of their places of worship. Reverse that situation though, most religious groups, even the very tolerant ones, probably wouldn’t be totally okay with the Methodists coming in and having religious rituals in their places of worship either.

From a political and public relations standpoint…

…raise your hand if you believe that a NJ court decision forcing the church to permit a same-sex marriage on its property would, nationwide, have generally salubrious effects for the cause of same-sex marriage.

If the property in question was a meeting hall which was normally rented on a commercial basis to the public, I would say that they should not be allowed to discriminate, as their rights and obligations would not be any different than in any other commercial transaction. Since it is actually a church (even though the Camp Meeting Association allows free access by the public during non-service times) and the Association no longer makes it available for non-church weddings, then No, they should not be obliged (and under both US and Canadain law I believe cannot be obliged) to allow an event unconnected with and disapproved by the church to be held there.

I strongly disagree with their stance on SSM, but it is their right to exercise their religious freedom in this case.

Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983). The Court upheld a decision removing the tax exempt status of Bob Jones University based on its racist admissions policies, finding them incompatible with the purposes of a charity. The court specifically held that religiously motivated racism, however sincere, is not protected from such removal.

Removing a Church’s tax exempt status because it is a church might be arguably an attack on free exercise, though I think a much more salient point is that granting a Church a tax exemption because it is a Church is a slap in the face to the Establishment Clause. Taxing a religion because it is a religion would certainly be a problem. But removing a tax break because the church discriminates isn’t as problematic.


I kind of agree with that, but at least they are being consistent:

What I find confusing is this:

So, the Church owns property with homes on it? Seems odd. At least they seem to be getting along with the gay community in most instances, though. Still, I don’t see why they don’t allow the ceremony to take place since it obviously wouldn’t involved a Church minister anyway.

More interesting is the grounds upon which that holding was based.

Unlike analysis under the Equal Protection Clause, the court’s holding here was based on the reason for Congress’ creation of the charitable tax exemption:

The analysis focuses solely on existing, well-settled public policy and the fact that racism is contrary to it:

While it’s far from a settled issue, I agree with villa that this argument is colorable, especially in light of New Jersey’s various legislative pronouncements that can be read, in aggregate, as a statement that New Jersey believes same-sex unions are worthy of protection and recognition. However, the IRS determination must be made with respect to a nationwide viewpoint, and I’m not as sanguine that a reviewing court would conclude that, as a nation, we have made the statement that same-sex unions are worthy of protection and recognition.

In any event, the saliant point would be just that: nationwide, can it be said that denial of access to same-sex couples violates our public policy? If it does, then the tax-exemption can be removed under the Bob Jones rationale.

Don’t get me wrong - I agree that the IRS wouldn’t make that determination as of yet. My point was that simply because bigotry is dressed up in clerical robes, it doesn’t necessarily protect it under Free Exercise grounds. I mean obviously it receives regular First Amendment protection, but if such actions would cause a secular organization to lose tax exempt status, it seems pretty settled law now that they would cause a religious one to do so.

That’s what doesn’t make sense to me. I mean, presumably the church association is opposed for religious reasons not just to gay wedding ceremonies but to gay sex and gay partnerships themselves, right?

After all, the only religious reason to object to a gay wedding ceremony is the fact that it symbolizes a gay couple’s claims to a socially valid marital/sexual partnership, which the religious group rejects. The actual activities of a gay wedding ceremony—two people getting together with their families and friends to dress up and make speeches—are not in themselves offensive to anti-gay religious sensibilities. It’s only what they symbolize that makes them so controversial.

So why the hell is the church association perfectly okay with, say, renting its house properties to gay couples to live the same-sex-partnership lives that the church is religiously opposed to, but unwilling to rent its oceanfront pavilion to gay couples to hold private gatherings that merely symbolize those lives?

Sounds rather whited-sepulcherish to me. Apparently the Methodist Camp Meeting Association is more afraid of being associated with mere symbolic celebrations of the “gay lifestyles” that they condemn than of voluntarily enabling gay couples to actually live out those condemned lifestyles on the property it owns.

(And no, without further evidence I don’t buy the argument that the oceanfront pavilion in question is actually a church. Sure, the church association holds summer worship services and Bible-study classes there, but it’s quite common for church groups to use non-consecrated buildings for such purposes. Usually, a building that is actually a church has undergone a religious consecration ceremony and is explicitly called a church, and so far I’ve seen no evidence that this is true in the case of Ocean Grove’s oceanfront pavilion.)

I think your problem is fundamentally misunderstanding religious groups. Rituals are very big within religion. The Methodist Church like most Churches has to be open to the presence of sinners. Many/most Christian denominations view all humans as perpetual sinners, saved only through the grace of God. What is it about the Methodist Church’s doctrine that makes you believe they actively oppose homosexuals having sexual relationships? They generally oppose all sorts of sin, but they aren’t in the active rejection of people who commit these sins. They certainly wouldn’t prohibit an unmarried heterosexual couple from renting a home they own simply because they are unmarried.

Obviously they oppose heterosexuals living together and having sex outside of marriage, but do you think your average Methodist Church refuses to admit heterosexual couples that are “living outside the bonds of marriage?” No, they don’t. Now, there certainly are some Protestant denominations that would probably not want such couples to even attend their weekly services, but in general the Methodists are probably firmly in the “moderate” camp when compared to other Protestant groups, so that isn’t something I would expect from them.

Basically I think you’re missing a key distinction. Does the Methodist Church view homosexual acts as sin? Of course. Do they actively oppose people engaging in homosexual acts? To the extent that they wouldn’t rent out property to homosexuals? To the extent that they advocate for the passage of anti-sodomy laws and et cetera? No, that’s not really been evident as something the Methodist Church does. The Methodist Church is apparently okay with fighting sin through “their message” not in actively fighting sin by trying to prevent sin. Some religious groups obviously try to fight sin by “preventing it”, by trying to criminalize homosexual acts, and et cetera. This doesn’t even mean the UMC is necessarily “less dedicated” to trying to stop sins than the groups that do these things, it could just mean that doctrinally the UMC thinks people have to be left to their own devices, and its job isn’t to try to interfere in society to try and deal with sinners that way but instead it views its job as trying to change the “hearts and minds” of people so that they won’t want to commit sins.

So I think the modern track record of the UMC is not that they are involved in actively working against people who commit what they view as sins. However, I think it is very obvious why they would draw the line at allowing the ritual in an area they view as a Church. Their religious doctrine views marriage as being a union between a man and a woman. Do they have a general “problem” with gays living together and having sex? Sure, they view it as a sin. But the UMC doesn’t project itself as social do-gooder busy bodies like many say, Southern Baptists do.

The UMC probably doesn’t actively oppose homosexual relationships because of its religious and even political outlook. So while the UMC may have a vague, general opposition to homosexual relationships, evidence points to them more or less taking a “live or let live” stance on them. They don’t approve of them, but they aren’t going to be moral crusaders trying to stamp out homosexuals wherever they show up. However, while they may be “live and let live” in that they will preach that such relationships are sin while not going so far as to outright refuse homosexuals presence, allowing a marriage ritual within one of their holy places is materially different. By letting gays congregate in their non-holy areas, they are theoretically just acting the part of “good neighbors” which is something very in line with the teachings of Christ. But if they allowing them to get married within one of their churches that is effectively saying “we approve of homosexual relationships.” They don’t approve of such relationships. They may be fine letting gays rent property, hang out on their beach front and et cetera, but going through what all Christian churches see as a very important, symbolic ritual is doing much more than just “peacefully coexisting” it is giving outright tacit approval.

But apparently they are not only willing to let transient gays “hang out” temporarily on their property and “peacefully coexist” with them. They are willing to make money off of actively enabling the homosexual relationships that they claim to disapprove of, by renting out the church’s residential properties for gay couples to live in.

I understand what you’re saying about religious rituals being important to religious groups. But surely the symbolic ritual, though it may be important, is not supposed to be more important than the actual relationship it symbolizes.

In this case, though, the church seems to be more afraid of enabling a mere ritual symbol of homosexual relationships than it is of enabling (and profiting from) the homosexual relationships themselves.

That’s what smells sort of funny to me. The thinking behind this stance seems at best a bit confused, and at worst downright hypocritical.

(N.B.: None of this is meant to imply an argument that the church association doesn’t have a legal right to refuse to let gays get married in its pavilion. IANAL and can’t pronounce on the legal issues involved. I just think they seem to be on somewhat shaky ground in terms of moral and logical consistency.)