Contemporary Legal Challenges and Opportunities for Churches

“Contemporary Legal Challenges and Opportunities for Churches”
Moral Issues Seminar hosted by
Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and Pacific Justice Institute

Brad W. Dacus, President of Pacific Justice Institute, presented a half-day seminar at Golden Gate Seminary on August 19th, addressing several moral issues facing today’s churches. More than 50 San Francisco Bay Area pastors attended the seminar concerning recent California Supreme Court rulings and proposed legislation on the state’s ballot this November. 

This past spring, the court handed down a ruling that legalized same sex marriage in California. A counter to the ruling, The California Defense of Marriage Act, also known as Proposition 22, was passed by the voters in March of 2000 by a wide margin (61.2%). The law was codified as Section 308.5 of the Family Code and stated: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." 

Seminar attendees were provided with model church policies drafted especially to address the issues discussed. The Pacific Justice Institute recommended that the policies be added to church bylaws. 

“It is important that pastors take steps to protect the church’s theological integrity as it relates to marriage ceremonies and other related activities, such as use of church facilities and membership,” advised Kevin Snider, Chief Counsel for the Pacific Justice Institute and author of the model policies. 

Attorney Brad Dacus covered several topics during the presentation, including the “California Marriage Amendment,” “Same Sex Marriage,” “Disrupters” and “Church and Politics.”
In discussing “California Marriage Amendment” and “Same Sex Marriage,” Dacus examined the implications for the local church and what churches can and cannot do. He said churches that have a policy regarding the definition of marriage may legally refuse to perform same sex marriages. With such a policy, those applying to have a ceremony performed at the church must agree with the church’s position. 

“Disrupters” focused on the different types of disruptions – within the church service, Bible studies, meetings and other activities, as well as within the church community. From a legal point of view, Dacus addressed how to deal with disrupters and when a church should have activities restricted only to church members. 

“Church and Politics” focused on how the church can still participate in politics while continuing to take a non-partisan stance. While endorsing candidates from the pulpit is strictly prohibited, churches can participate in the political process through voter registration drives, and providing political forums for candidates to express their positions. 

Golden Gate Seminary President Jeff Iorg stated, “We are pleased to be able to assist San Francisco-area churches to protect and prepare for the changes that will come as a result of these new rulings.” 

The Pacific Justice Institute represents people, businesses and churches at no charge in the legal defense of both faith and family. Based in Sacramento, the organization coordinates and oversees a large number of cases throughout the United States. The Institute has handled more cases defending religious freedom and parental rights on the West Coast than any other similar ministry.