Yesterday, the California Supreme Court ruled that state judges could no longer hold membership in the Boy Scouts of America. Why? Because the Boy Scouts allow gay scouts but not gay Scout leaders. As far as the California Supreme Court is concerned, the Boy Scouts discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and that violates their code of ethics.
The religious liberty implications of our culture’s moral transformation on homosexuality continue apace. The big news out of California yesterday is something that we should all take note of. I don’t know how else to view it except as a foreboding sign of things to come.
Yesterday, the California Supreme Court ruled that state judges could no longer hold membership in the Boy Scouts of America. Why? Because the Boy Scouts allow gay scouts but not gay Scout leaders. As far as the California Supreme Court is concerned, the Boy Scouts discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and that violates their code of ethics. The Los Angeles Times reports,
California’s judicial code of ethics bars judges from holding “membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity or sexual orientation.”
Until this week, California had provided an exception covering nonprofit youth organizations, including the Boy Scouts, the only state in the nation to do so.
California is one of 47 states that bans judges from joining discriminatory groups, and one of 22 that includes a ban on groups that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
An ethics advisory committee to the California Supreme Court proposed the change again last year, saying it would “promote the integrity of the judiciary” and “enhance public confidence” in the judicial branch’s impartiality.
The big deal here is not so much what this means for the Boy Scouts but what this means for other organizations that the Court might deem to be discriminatory. Since the Boy Scouts will no longer be granted an exception, what other groups might lose their exceptional status as well? As if to anticipate this question, The Los Angeles Times article concludes with this ominous note:
The only remaining exception to the anti-discrimination rule is membership in a religious organization.
In other words, the Court knows that it has a standard that churches and other religious organizations violate. That is why they grant them an exception. But on what basis would they continue such an exception? If they really view churches as discriminatory without rational basis, there would be no reason for the exception to stand. That would effectively preclude Christians and other people of faith from serving as state judges in California.
We are witnessing a shift in our society—a shift which inevitably leads to Christians being treated as social pariahs at every level of our national life. And we can see what is unfolding before our very eyes. Louie Giglio’s Christian faith got him removed from the President’s inauguration. Brendan Eich’s Christian faith got him dismissed as CEO of Mozilla. Kelvin Cochran’s Christian faith got him fired from his position as Fire Chief of Atlanta. Who will be next? Christian state judges in California?
The evidence is mounting that the sexual revolutionaries will brook no dissent in the march of “gay rights.” They demand that everyone get on the “right side of history” or be crushed. Proponents of gay marriage are not interested in protecting the religious liberty of traditional marriage supporters. As Ross Douthat once pointed out:
Unless something dramatic changes in the drift of public opinion, the future of religious liberty on these issues is going to depend in part on the magnanimity of gay marriage supporters.
Yet there is very little evidence of “magnanimity” on the part of gay marriage supporters. On the contrary, there is evidence that many of them would like to see traditional marriage supporters get their comeuppance. What does all of this mean? It means that Christians and other traditional marriage supporters need to direct great energy to obtaining every religious liberty accommodation possible while there is still time. It may be that the moment is passing us by, and that makes the matter all the more urgent.
It also means for Christians that we need to be ready for a new reality. We need to be ready to love our neighbors and our enemies and to bear witness in a culture that is increasingly hostile toward us. Private citizens may someday face fines and other penalties for their convictions on marriage. Our churches may eventually lose tax exempt status. Any number of negative outcomes are possible in the approaching conflagration. Ours will likely be a costly love and a costly witness. But this is precisely the kind of discipleship that Jesus has called all of us to, and it will be worth it in the end (Matt. 16:25).
Denny Burk is Associate Professor of New Testament and Dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog and is used with permission.