Commenting on Friday's landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage a constitutional right, outspoken megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress said he believes the court's decision has further "emboldened" and "equipped" liberals to take legal action against Christians who resist same-sex marriage.
Jeffress, the 59-year-old pastor of the 11,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, composed a Friday op-ed for Fox News, where he stressed that the court's ruling will have many "legal, sociological, and spiritual consequences for years to come."
In a Friday interview with The Christian Post, Jeffress expanded on his argument and stated that religious colleges and universities won't be the only ones that are at risk of facing government sanctions — like loss of tax-exempt statuses — or lawsuits for refusing to compromise on marriage.
Jeffress stressed that churches that refuse to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies will likely be easy targets for lawsuits.
"Anybody can be sued for any reason at all. But what has happened as a result of today is, those who want to sue the Church have been emboldened as well as equipped by the Supreme Court to bring such a suit," Jeffress stressed. "I believe that today, an unintended consequence, but a very real consequence of this decision, is the Supreme Court has just declared open season on those who believe in traditional marriage and they granted liberals a hunting license to go after those who resist same-sex marriage."
Contrary to Jeffress' claim that churches could begin to face government sanctions if they refuse same-sex marriages, Alliance Defending Freedom senior legal counsel Erik Stanley told CP last week that pastors will likely not be required to officiate same-sex ceremonies and churches will not be required to host same-sex weddings because churches and para-churches "still have great constitutional protections."
Jeffress maintains, however, that if the government can remove the tax-exempt status of religious schools who "violate" a civil rights law by not allowing a married same-sex couple to stay in the same dorm room, why couldn't the government do the same for churches that refuse to honor same-sex marriages?
"Anyone who thinks that it is only religious colleges that are in danger, they are naive," Jeffress asserted. "I always hear the argument that 'nobody can hold a gun to your head, pastor, and make you perform a same-sex ceremony.' Well, of course not, but I believe that if gay marriage is a civil right, I think that the government will say they can not sponsor or support an institution that engages in a civil rights violation. I do believe, sooner rather than later, churches will face the loss of their tax-exempt status if they do not engage in same-sex ceremonies."
"Once you enshrine gay marriage as a civil right, which is what the court did today, then anyone who opposes gay marriage will be guilty of a civil rights violation," Jeffress added.
Labeling Friday's ruling as another step toward the complete marginalization of Christian conservatives, Jeffress compared America's growing intolerance toward biblical viewpoints to Nazi Germany's marginalization of Jews.
"I think today's decision is just one more step in the marginalization of conservative Christians. I made this argument and have been ridiculed for doing so, but I think it is very legitimate. The Nazis did not take the Jews to the crematoriums immediately," Jeffress explained. "The German people would not have put up with that. Instead, the Nazis begin to marginalize the Jewish people, make them objects of contempt and ridicule. Once they changed the public opinion about the Jewish people, then they engaged the [Holocaust]."
"Once secularists have made Christians objects of contempt, I think it will be very easy to revoke other rights that they have as American citizens," Jeffress continued.
By citing Matthew 19, Jeffress assured that Jesus, Himself, said that man is supposed to leave his parents to "cling to his wife" and become "one flesh." Jeffress advises that no matter the consequences, Evangelicals cannot afford to fold their biblical principals of marriage. He added that Evangelicals have a responsibility in this crucial time in history to continue to preach the biblical truth.
"First of all, Christians and churches need to refuse to bow before the government on this issue," he said. "I also think that we ought to see this is a great opportunity for the Church to share the truth of Jesus Christ.
"As this world becomes increasingly darker, I believe that the message of God will shine much more brighter. I believe, now that the court has made its decision on marriage, we have a responsibility, not just through our words but through our actions, to show that God's plan for marriage really is the best."
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, advised in a Washington Post op-ed that Christians need to stay calm, continue to honor the Lord's definition of marriage and cherish the opportunity they are presented to impact today's mission field.
"First of all, the church should not panic. The Supreme Court can do many things, but the Supreme Court cannot get Jesus back in that tomb," Moore wrote. "Some Christians will be tempted to anger, lashing out at the world around us with a narrative of decline. That temptation is wrong. God decided when we would be born, and when we would be born again. We have the Spirit and the Gospel. To think that we deserve to live in different times is to tell God that we deserve a better mission field than the one He has given us. Let's joyfully march to Zion."