Religious Liberty ≠ Legislated Morality

One of my struggles in recent days has been the intricate balance between religious liberty and legislating morality in our nation. I will say this – as a pastor of a conservative Southern Baptist church, I am probably suppose to fall into the status quo for the day and say “boo-hiss on liberals and Dems, and the like,” but I’ve never been much of a status quo guy.  Then again, Jesus wasn’t either and so I try to follow him closely on the issues.  So let me tackle a recent headline of interest that addresses the intricate balance – HHS Finalizes Rule Axing LGBTQ Non-discrimination Protections

Here are the facts from reported from NBCNews: HHS Axes Non-discrimination Protections

  • Current administration releases the Health and Human Services Grants Regulation 7 days before the transition of presidents.  
  • The regulation gives a final rule that allows adoption and foster care agencies, who do receive Federal funding through HHS grants, to use religious liberty as a means for refusing service. In this instance, service to those of the LGBTQ community in matters of foster care and adoption.
  • The expectation is that the incoming administration will overturn this rule, in accordance with the Obama-era regulations of 2016 in the HHS Grants Regulations

Here are the facts from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): HHS Final Rule to Align Grants Regulation with Nondiscrimination Statutes Including Those Protecting Religious Liberty

  • Requires grantees to comply only with applicable nondiscrimination provisions passed by Congress and signed into law, instead of also requiring compliance with non-statutory nondiscrimination provisions.
  • Provides that HHS complies with all applicable Supreme Court decisions in administering its grant programs, instead of extending two Supreme Court decisions to entities to which they may not be or are not applicable.
  • Removes the exclusion from allowable costs in grants of tax penalties due for failing to comply with the Individual Mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), except for tax penalties associated with failure to maintain minimum essential coverage prior to January 1, 2019. The Trump Administration has already eliminated the penalty associated with failing to comply with the ACA’s individual mandate on and after that date.
  • Reissues the other provisions of the 2016 regulation without substantive changes.
  • “In the final rule, HHS is revising two provisions of the 2016 regulation to require grantees to comply with applicable nondiscrimination provisions passed by Congress and signed into law, including legislation ensuring the protection of religious liberty, and to provide that HHS complies with all applicable Supreme Court decisions in administering its grant programs.”

Here are the facts of what I believe concerning the LGBTQ aspect of this, and I will jump on to the adoption and foster care side in the next post:

I believe that God’s design for marriage is between a man and a woman.

  • There is absolutely no way of getting around this due to the word of God and due to His character and consistency in that design.

I believe that sin is sin and sin is sin.

  • I believe that the same way that the Bible speaks against the manner in which many, unmarried and married alike, have devalued and diminished sex and God’s intention for it, the Bible also speaks that sex was not intended to be between those of the same gender. I cannot overlook that point in Bible, just in the same way that I cannot overlook lust, idolatry, pride, and any other sin that the Bible calls out. 
    • (something of note here: the Bible does not say that it is a sin to have same-sex attraction, that is the temptation.  It is sinful to act on it.  In the same manner that me desiring to have a lot of money is not sinful, but making that an idol in my life is.  This is a common misunderstanding among people who don’t read ALL of their bibles. I am sorry for their ignorance, we can continue on now)  

I believe that Jesus is a better way – grace and truth.

  • In John 8, the religious people bring a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus.  Jesus does then what he would do today, he looks out at the religious people and says “sin is sin, whoever has not sinned, you have the right by law to stone her, grab your stones and carry out the law” (my personal paraphrase of verse 7).

I believe that Jesus calls us to follow Him, in love.

  • In verse 11, after the crowd left and it was only Jesus and the woman, he gives her this command “Go now and sin no more.”  Many church folks end right there in John 8, because our bibles often section that out for us in story form, and it also stings religious folks a bit because they relate all too well to the ones in the story who brought the woman.  But they have missed the best part in verse 12.  Jesus turns and speaks again to the people that had once again gathered there and says “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  Jesus isn’t about saying “no-no” and leaving it be with shame and guilt filling the air…Jesus is concerned with moving us forward with Him and experiencing the “light of life,” being freed from our guilt and shame and following Him.

I encourage you to check out Part 2 tomorrow…but first let me share the best way in which I know to take this information and apply it.  In fact, the wording is already set for me in Romans 12:9-21:

Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. 10 Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Take the lead in honoring one another. 11 Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. 13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone… 21 Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.”

Hey Christian, Paul started this exhortation in Romans 12 with a call to “present our bodies as living sacrifices” in worship to God and also to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”

I will end with this statement that I have to communicate to myself from time to time:

“Immoral people need the love of Jesus more than they need legal parameters.”  Stop trying to legislate morality and start showing the love of Jesus.

DJ Carney

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