Roughly one-third of U.S. states has legalized gay marriage and the federal government is helping to advance the homosexual agenda in numerous federal policies, but Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, is leading a congressional counter-offensive designed to protect churches and other religious institutions from being forced to perform same-sex ceremonies.
"What we want to do is make sure that religious institution, churches, synagogues and other entities are able to maintain their own religious freedom and enable them to define marriage in the manner that they deem fit without the threat of adverse action being taken against them by the federal government," said Lee, lead sponsor of the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act.
The vast majority of jurisdictions that have legalized same-sex marriage have included language in their laws to provide freedom of conscience for religious institutions and protect their right not to endorse activity or ceremonies contrary to their faith. Lee said more needs to be done.
"The federal government is also a significant entity in all this, and we know that there is a practice of federal officials sometimes taking adverse action against people that they disagree with either for political reasons or otherwise. We want to make sure that we create this carve-out to provide that protection," said Lee, who asserts Democrats should have no problem with this legislation since they claim to respect the rights of churches and synagogues to adhere to a traditional definition of marriage.
Lee admitted there aren't many reports of the government harassing churches right now, but suggested there is great concern that could come pretty soon.
"It's not necessarily pressure that they're feeling acutely right now. It's pressure that they know could be coming, especially as more states move in the direction of opening up their marriage laws. This is something people view as a preventative step toward addressing the kind of religious discrimination that could occur," he said.
The senator said there are a number of ways the legislation could protect religious institutions, but the primary goal of the bill is to protect the tax-exempt status of religious institutions.
"Losing the tax-exempt status is probably the No. 1 concern of churches as they look to what could happen here," Lee explained. "Presumably there could be other decisions as well. There could be decisions related to someone's ability to enter into a contractual agreement with the federal government. There are an almost infinite number of possibilities. My job is to try to prevent that, and I think that's something that the American people support."