One issue that will face churches with the spread of same sex marriages is whether they can be forced to allow their facilities to be used for same sex wedding ceremonies. According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, the answer is No. A recent article on Speak Up, ADF’s Blog about Church law, discussed this issue:
One of the first questions we are usually asked by pastors whose states have redefined marriage and adopted same-sex “marriage” is whether they will be required to allow use of their church buildings for same-sex “wedding” ceremonies. This is not an unreasonable question considering that at least one city has considered forcing churches to allow use of their buildings for same-sex “weddings.” But the very simple answer to that question is an unequivocal “no.” Churches do not have to allow use of their facilities in ways that are inconsistent with their biblical beliefs.
Church buildings are private property and are used primarily for the exercise of religion. As such, the use of church buildings is cloaked with First Amendment protection both under the Free Exercise Clause and the Free Speech Clause. If the government attempts to force a church to use its private property in ways that are inconsistent with its religious beliefs, the government would violate the church’s First Amendment rights.
Put simply, a church has a right to only allow uses of its facilities that are consistent with its religious beliefs and to deny all other uses. No church should ever feel compelled to open its buildings for use in a same-sex “wedding” ceremony.
ADF has prepared a guide to help churches in preparing a facility use policy.
A link to download the policy can be found on the Speak Up website.
If your church has any questions about facility use policies, amending By-laws or any other questions, please feel free to contact us today.