Christianity,  Politics

Will Christians be allowed to serve as judges in California?

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).


  • dr. james willingham

    You are quite right about the foreboding. In North Carolina we had a number of resignations of JPs and even one judge, so I understand, all because they could not abide by the ruling concerning the marriage of homosexuals. If proof of a conspiracy is wanting, you have it here. I read in the late 80s or early 90s that the aim of the homosexual community was to bring us all to worship the bodies of young men. Plus, among the participants in Gay parades one would see the NAMBLA signs (North American Man Boy Love Association) which advocated non-forceful sex between adults and children. And then there is the role playing done in some public schools in the North which we can guess is coming South, where children play the roles in same sex marriages. We also have the example of the desire to establish marriage between parents and child (I think you covered that) and sex with animals. The end result is the destruction of the American Family and the destruction of our government and our way of life, the plan that was made from the beginning in Germany, so I understand, in the 50s..

  • Dee See

    Going back to the Louie Giglio debacle, could it be that it is time for evangelical ministers, be it Rick Warren, Andy Stanley, Franklin Graham, et al, if Hillary Clinton is elected President in 2016, to “respectfully decline” from any part in the inauguration, but possibly suggest, “Have you tried the United Church of Christ (President Obama’s church in Chicago, in particular) or the Unitarian Universalist fellowship down the street? They’ll pretty much say whatever you want, Madam President.” (thus making the whole idea of a blessing from God a big “pshaw” to most people). And speaking of Brendan Eich, could it also be time for the very “one” who is the “‘only one’ who can save a particular company from immediate liquidation (yeah, I’m exaggerating, but that’s probably they would tell the person they wanted to hire),” if he or she is a believer, and knows the company’s stand on certain issues, to “respectfully decline” (better than telling them “no way in hell,” and then laughing in their face, I suppose), even if it really does mean that this company would pretty much vaporize in a month or two, due to whatever missteps led them down the road to self-destruction (possibly brought on by their so-called “global mindset” which caused them to want to get rid of people like Brendan Eich in the first place)? And then, it makes me wonder, that after a few years of this, would the nation be begging for the True Voice of Reason, coming from believers, because they have realized that they’ve shot themselves not in the foot, but right between the eyes? In short, could it be time for believers to allow those who oppose their beliefs and values to hang themselves, in hopes that they’ll see the error of their ways? Am I too naive in my thinking?

    My apologies for the long post.

    • James Stanton

      I think that it is a probably a myth that anyone is truly irreplaceable as the head of a corporation. It probably would make us feel good but the better thing to do in these situations is to turn the other cheek and take the high road. Perhaps evangelicals should draw a line at participating in the inauguration of any President with a platform that is fundamentally at odds with social conservatives. However, there’s always the opportunity for a courageous moment that can come out of an encounter such as the one between Eric Metaxas and President Obama.

      I think what you’re suggesting is basically a John Galt type retreat for Christians. This won’t work.

  • Gus Nelson

    Denny: When I left Virginia to come to Southern Seminary in 2011, I told friends of mine that in 10 years I would probably be in jail because of my convictions concerning gay marriage. They laughed and told me I was just being paranoid. The way things have been moving, 2021 doesn’t seem so unlikely after all.

  • buddyglass

    Two things:

    1. No way CA gets away with prohibiting Judges from belonging to, say, a Southern Baptist church. Or the Catholic Church. I can’t imagine them not being slapped down by the Court if they ever tried. Even a court stacked with 8 years worth of Hillary Clinton nominees.

    2. Churches generally don’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. They discriminate on the basis of sexual practice. Many/most gay rights advocates don’t acknowledge there’s any difference, but I suspect it would become an important distinction if CA tried to prohibit Christian judges. (Which it won’t.)

    • Gus Nelson

      buddyglass: I think you might be making a rather grand assumption that the people who are writing, interpreting, and executing the law in California actually concern themselves with minor matters like the First and Fourteenth Amendments. I agree with your point 2, and you are correct in noting that most gay advocates don’t acknowledge a difference but, more importantly, neither do many of their supporters. This is headed in a very bad direction for Christians – we have lost almost every battle and are very close to losing the war. If we do, there will be repercussions, which will include severe restrictions on speech and association. It’s already happening with the actions of various “Human Rights” commissions around the country which are seeing to it that any step in the commercial arena demands strict compliance with the pro- homosexual agenda. It’s not a big leap from making commercial speech and association comply with pro-homosexual views to making other speech and association comply as well.

  • Paul Reed

    Christians will be allowed to serve as judges, but Christians will have to become more accepting of homosexuality. As they already are very rapidly. Especially young Christians. If you think they aren’t, go to your church youth group or college group and ask them their opinions on gays.

    • Hans Zaepfel

      Your point on youth is well taken. The youth of today will grow up to be the judges and politicians of tomorrow. There will little tolerance for anyone who holds to traditional biblical values down the road. We won’t be able to speak our faith in public or even “indoctrinate” our children.

  • Chris Ryan

    Discrimination is America’s original sin. Is there a single good reason a judge should be allowed to belong to an organization which discriminates? I can’t think of one.

    • Bruce Lucas

      Does Article VI, paragraph 3, of the United States Constitution apply here?

      “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

      So, it will be interesting to see if judges are allowed to serve only if they belong to religious organizations that do accept homosexual marriage.

    • David Shane

      The judges themselves are discriminating on the basis of religion right here. Should they therefore disqualify themselves from office? This is just another example of intolerance in the name of tolerance, demands for conformity in the name of diversity.

    • Larry Geiger

      There are no organizations that do not discriminate. There wouldn’t be an organization if it didn’t discriminate. That’s the definition of organization: A group of members as opposed to those who are not members.

      Every judge belongs to organizations that discriminate. Is everyone a member of the bar association? The entire thing is foolishness.

  • Ryan Davidson

    This shouldn’t be too big of a surprise. The professional ethics codes in force in most states do not allow attorneys or judges to be members of organizations that expressly discriminate on the basis of race. It’s apparent that sexual orientation would not be far behind.

    Further, evangelical groups have largely fumbled the ball on dealing with questions of sexual orientation, just as they did on race. And, to be honest, I’ve often been fairly dismayed at the degree to which this issue evokes visceral responses from many of my fellow evangelicals. I’ve long had gay colleagues and friends, and have a hard time seeing how same-sex marriage poses any comparable social risk to things like overeating, divorce, and the like.

    I long attended a PCA church, but was not a member. The reason I elected not to join related directly to the PCA’s stated position on homosexuality, which, in my view, called upon me to take certain public stands that conflicted with my professional ethical obligations (as well as with my conscience). Namely, the PCA’s stated position calls for the banning of all sexually active gay people from any and all positions of public influence, and places an affirmative duty on Christians to work toward that end. I see no such mandate in Scripture.

    I suspect that an increasing number of churches to adopt the “third way” approach advocated by Ken Wilson. Nearly all evangelical attorneys I know hold views on this issue that are far more nuanced than the officially stated views of the churches they attend. Notwithstanding the theological merits or demerits of the third-way approach, I suspect that most of the larger evangelical multi-site mega-churches will go in this direction, if only for pragmatic reasons.

    • Christiane Smith

      Hi RYAN,
      is there any backup data on your statement, this:
      “Namely, the PCA’s stated position calls for the banning of all sexually active gay people from any and all positions of public influence, and places an affirmative duty on Christians to work toward that end.”

      I do know that the PCA broke away from its main Church in the 70’s in order to align itself with Southern conservatives. But I do not know that Southern conservatives want to practice the form of discrimination that you mention here, so perhaps it is specific to certain groups, and not all conservative people or conservative Christians.

      I would appreciate any data you have in support of your comment. And thank you for helping.

  • Curt Day

    Form the data provided here, there is little evidence that Christians will get what’s coming to them on a wides scale. There is evidence of a pendulum swing but very little suggesting how far that pendulum will go.

    If we were principled about this pendulum swing, then we would have been just as upset, if not more so, when the pendulum swung in our favor. That is if we were principled. For when the pendulum was at its farthest going “our” way, homosexuality itself was a crime. And yet we seem to have a disconnect for what that meant to homosexuals back then.

    In addition, the label ‘defenders of traditional marriage’ is rather ambiguous since some such defenders oppose allowing same-sex marriage in society while others believe in traditional marriage but support same-sex marriage in society.

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