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Pastors, are you ready for a gay wedding in your sanctuary?


Dear Fellow Pastors,

I am writing to you today with an urgent message about the Gay Marriage Equality bill, SB 6239 (read bill), introduced on Friday, January 13, 2012, in Washington State. This is a deceptive and dangerous bill. It represents a radical shift in the definition of marriage and would be a serious threat to religious freedom.


The bill's introduction says it would not force clergy or churches to marry gays. However, it adds a section to state marriage law dealing with discrimination. There has never been a section on discrimination in the Washington Marriage Code. This is a pretty clear warning about the future. You don't add discrimination for the first time without an intention to use it. First they label it discrimination then they criminalize it. They say they are respecting clergy and churches but they place refusal to marry gays in the category of discrimination. Sexual rights are more important than the violation of a core tenet of our religious beliefs.


A bill which describes the conditions under which a church can be sued for discrimination against gays is not about marriage equality and it certainly does not protect religious freedom. The Gay Marriage Equality bill is a serious threat to religious freedom in Washington State. It takes aim at the heart of religious freedom. 


Churches and ministers who participate in the newly defined "discrimination" against gays would be subject to lawsuits and legal penalties. You will be bludgeoned into acceptance and submission. They want the church to accept and approve of gay marriage whether we like it or not.


The state has already granted gays every right that goes along with marriage. They have equality under the law. But that's apparently not enough for Governor Gregoire and the homosexual special interest groups. The Gay Marriage Equality bill will not be satisfied until virtually every church in Washington is forced to allow gays to hold their weddings in church sanctuaries under the threat of discrimination lawsuits. The laws against discrimination are so expansive that virtually every church in Washington could come under legal threat. Just fighting back legally could bankrupt most churches whether or not you were actually guilty of anything.


All the hype on this bill says it protects religious freedom. Nothing could be further from the truth. The bill says a church can refuse to marry gays without being subject to "a civil claim or cause of action unless ...


When someone says we are not going to have a problem "unless..." you already have a problem. More than that, when they add a section to the marriage laws covering "discrimination" they are telling you how this will eventually go down. They intend to come after churches and clergy using discrimination as their weapon.


They want us to tolerate them but they don't want to tolerate us. They want to use the power of the state and civil rights laws to force the church into accepting homosexuality. They give lip service to religious freedom while at the same time setting up the legal system to empower homosexual coercion of the church. This is not marriage equality. It is the setup for a knockdown. They already have equality but that is not what they actually want. They want to force the church to accept homosexuality.


Some churches might be able to decline to host gay weddings under some limited circumstances but would be forced to allow gay weddings in their sanctuary under most circumstances. 


What churches could be forced to allow gay weddings?  

  • Does the public ever use your facilities? If you ever allow non-members to use your sanctuary for a wedding you could NOT deny a gay couple from using your sanctuary. 
  • Do you have a pop machine or sell coffee? 
  • Do you sometimes have fundraisers where you sell cookies or popcorn for consumption at the church? 
  • Have you ever allowed your church to be used by another Christian organization for which they paid you a fee? 

All of those actions would open the door to a civil rights lawsuit and severe penalties if you failed to allow a gay couple to use your facility to have their wedding.


The laws covering discrimination create a wide net to include any place "... where food or beverages of any kind are sold for consumption on the premises," Discrimination also includes places with "schools of special instruction, or nursery schools, or day care centers or children's camps" Those provisions alone include thousands of Washington churches. The marriage laws of Washington have never referenced discrimination. 


So-called "Gay Marriage Equality" will change everything.


The church that I pastor would probably have at least twenty different avenues from which we could be attacked under this proposed Gay Marriage Equality law. Our refusal to have gay weddings is labeled as "discriminatory" under this law even though we would be theoretically exempted from prosecution from the government "unless..." 


However, the "discriminatory" label would deprive a church like ours of grants and gifts from organizations, which have a policy against "discrimination defined by law." One only has to remember United Way's hostile treatment of the Boy Scouts decision prohibiting gay scout leaders. That is the future of religious freedom as well.


The bill is very deceptive about its intentions. 


Several places it claims to protect religious freedom and to respect clergy and religious institutions. This is pure propaganda of the worst sort. 


It is democracy Soviet style: 

  • Say one thing and do another. 
  • Say you are protecting churches but label their actions as discriminatory and make them subject to the criminal laws on discrimination.
  • Say that no state agency or local government can penalize an organization if a minister refuses to marry a gay but threaten the church with a claim for damages or cause of action if they don't rent to gays for weddings or receptions.

The Gay Marriage Equality bill touts the narrow religious exemption to deceive the gullible while hiding the cause for legal actions under the wide net of the discrimination clause. The velvety call for equality hides the iron fist reserved for religious holdouts.


Pastors, if you are concerned about this bill, please consider taking the following three actions: 

  1. First, personally contact your legislators about this. Some legislators have said they have not heard from a conservative member of the clergy in a decade or more. Express your concern not just about the religious freedom risks, but about the underlying issue of redefining marriage as well. 
  2. Second, share this information with your congregation and make sure they understand why God wants His church to use our influence to encourage righteousness in legislation. 
  3. Third, give your church the legislative hotline number (1-800-562-6000) and urge them to call.

You can print contact cards to distribute for your congregation here:


If you are concerned about the legality of these actions, please look at the following legal guidelines:


You can also urge your congregation to email their legislators by sending them to the following website:



Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, concerns and/or have comments you'd like to share. 


Yours for the Kingdom,


Joe Fuiten


Dr. Joseph B. Fuiten is the senior pastor of Cedar Park Church in Bothell, Washington, and he is the former president of Washington Evangelicals for Responsible Government and the Positive Christian Agenda. Currently, Pastor Fuiten is a founding member of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, an associate organization of Focus on the Family.