It is time for Christian organizations to be prepared to sever ties with the government – especially all sources of government funding.
Gordon College, a Christian college located near Boston, has for many years maintained a policy requiring students and faculty to refrain from sex outside of marriage. This policy is of course in accordance with sound Biblical principles and solidly embraced by most evangelical churches up until the last decade.
In 2013 President Obama issued an Executive Order prohibiting employment discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identity in the federal government and for federal contractors. Many colleges, hospitals and other non-profit organizations receive federal funds which make them “federal contractors.” Earlier this year (2014) Michael Lindsay, the president of Gordon College, signed a letter, along with several other religious organization, requesting an exemption from the executive order.
The negative consequences to Gordon College amounts to a war cry against the righteous. The cities of Salem and Lynn Massachusetts – cities located near the college — rushed to sever all ties to the school including contracts issued by the cities. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges began questioning the college’s accreditation and later gave the school one year to re-examine its policy. There is the very real possibility that Gordon and other Christian schools may lose their secular accreditation if they hold firm to Biblical standards.
Perhaps the day is rapidly approaching in which Christian schools may have to look more to Christian accreditation agencies and give up the more attractive and lucrative accreditation by regional accrediting bodies. It is becoming more difficult to be in the world and not part of the world, but choices must be made. The result will undoubtedly be smaller and more focused Christian colleges and universities.
Earlier this year (2014) a group of pastors in Houston Texas spoke out against a proposed ordinance involving gay and lesbian issues. Annise Parker, the mayor of Houston, responded by issuing a subpoena for copies of the minister’s sermons – supposedly to verify if their sermons violated any laws. The subpoenas were later withdrawn after nationwide protests from many other pastors and religious organizations.
The pastors are of course protected by the “Freedom of Speech Clause” of the First Amendment. However, IRS regulations prohibit non-profit religious organization who have requested tax emption from taking part in certain types of political activities. The key is the tax emption issue. Pastors can preach anything they wish as long as they don’t care about tax exemption. I can’t imagine any of the Biblical prophets from avoiding any issue because their tax emption status might be affected. I can understand that some churches may feel their finances might be impacted by the loss of tax exempt status, but we should be willing to say “thus saith the Lord” regardless of the tax implication. Let Caesar have his due.
In 2009 the American Psychological Association passed a resolution in which they state
Therefore be it resolved that the American Psychological Association affirms that same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality regardless of sexual orientation identity.
Be it further resolved that the American Psychological Association advises parents, guardians, young people, and their families to avoid sexual orientation change efforts that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and to seek psychotherapy, social support and educational services that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support, and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth.
With support from the APA resolution, the states of California and New Jersey have each passed laws restricting licensed counselors from conducting any type of sexual orientation change therapy for clients who are under the age of 18. Parents have no say in the issue, even if a parent requests the counseling for their child.
Pastors and other non-licensed counselors are not restricted by the law, but any licensed counselor may lose their license and face fines and other criminal penalties. Non-licensed counselors are free to provide Biblical counseling without a license as long as they do not advertise themselves to be a licensed counselor and they do not charge fees.
Here is the difficult part for many counselors. Most make their living from the fees charged, the majority of which are paid by insurance companies. Counselors cannot charge fees unless they are licensed. The best solution seems to be church-based counseling programs which provide counseling services free as a ministry of the church.
These cases shown are just examples of the increasing tension between government regulations and our faith based values. While it may be good stewardship to accept government funds as long as acceptance doesn’t interfere with our religious beliefs, the tension between faith and government funds is already pushing many religious organizations beyond the boundaries of Scripture.
Will we surrender our beliefs in order to make peace with Caesar, or will we pare down the organizational structures and focus on what is truly important?