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Religious Institutions Fear Same-Sex Marriage Could Affect Tax Exemptions


For more reaction, we turn to Rick Scarborough. He's the founder and president of Vision America. It's a conservative Christian group in Nacogdoches, Texas. He's also a former Southern Baptist pastor. He joins us from his home in Nacogdoches. Welcome to the program.

RICK SCARBOROUGH: Well, it's my pleasure, Audie.

CORNISH: So I want to get your initial response to the decision today.

SCARBOROUGH: Grief and disappointment - from my perspective, America's come to a brand new place in history. For the first time, we've taken what I believe, personally, to be a sinful lifestyle and elevated it to a civil right. I know that sooner or later, the full weight of the federal government - the Justice Department - will come down hard on those of us who believe the Bible is God's revelation. And it'll continue to preach that certain lifestyles are sinful lifestyles and do not deserve sanctioning by the state. I don't hate or hold animos toward homosexuals at all. To the contrary, I love them greatly and desire to preach the gospel, which I believe sets men and women free.

CORNISH: It sounds like your concern is that somehow religious freedom would be infringed if the government enforces anti-discrimination laws in favor of same-sex couples.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, it's not a fear. It's just the fact. I believe today, the Supreme Court used the 14th Amendment to literally deal a fatal blow to the First Amendment. This ruling cannot coexist with full freedom of religion in America. Two trains are about to collide going down the same track in opposite directions.

CORNISH: Does that mean to you that's where the next political fight will be? Have you essentially given up on trying to fight the court system on same-sex marriage itself?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I haven't given up. We're going to do everything we can during the primary season to find men and women of principle who will run to overturn this unlawful order by the court. But we going to fight it on all fronts. I have, along with about 80 other leading clerics, signed under a full-page ad saying that we would civilly disobey this Supreme Court ruling.

CORNISH: Can you detail what that would mean - that civil disobedience?

SCARBOROUGH: Yes, it means that we'll just keep doing what we've always done. We don't just conduct weddings, Audie. We have Christian schools, hospitals, soup kitchens, benevolence ministries. We reach out to AIDS victims. And what we have historically done is enforce moral standards on those that we employ in those ministries. So for instance, if one of the coaches in a Christian high school says to the principal, over the weekend, I married my same-sex partner, what we're urging those pastors to do is say, well, we - I love you, and I wish you well. And we'll be praying for you, but you can no longer work here. Well, under this new vision that the Supreme Court has dreamed up, that church will likely at least lose its tax-exempt status. But more likely, we'll suffer fines and perhaps jail time.

CORNISH: And obviously, this ruling is early still, and so we don't know yet where this will go. But I do want to ask you the question of public perception. You know, more than 70 percent of Americans live in states where same-sex couples can marry. Polls show that large numbers of people have embraced same-sex marriage. Do you expect to roll that back?

SCARBOROUGH: I would also observe with you that virtually every state that faced a constitutional amendment election, including California, voted against same-sex marriage.

CORNISH: But you can't deny that that hasn't changed over the last couple of years - that there has been a definitive shift in the numbers of people.

SCARBOROUGH: No question - but, I mean, who wants to talk to a pollster and be declared a bigot? I've had two of my assistants call me and ask me how to respond to the hate calls that we're getting nonstop right now because we've stood on a principled position - the same position we've always held and in fact the same position the present of the United States held in 2008.

CORNISH: We've heard a lot of conservative presidential candidates say today that while they disagree with the court's decision, that it's now law and that it must be followed. Do you think that the GOP - political parties need to do more to push against this or push for a new constitutional amendment?

SCARBOROUGH: I can't say what a political party should say. I'll say what I'm going to do is do all in my power to find candidates who understand that the Supreme Court is not God and that they're not the final word. They can be overturned. And what we need need is a birth of courage in this country.

CORNISH: Rick Scarborough - he's the founder and president of the conservative Christian group Vision America. He joined us from his home in Texas. Thank you speaking with us.

SCARBOROUGH: My pleasure. God bless you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.