- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Leaders of religious schools who believe in traditional marriage said Wednesday they must be shielded from government retaliation if gay marriage is nationalized.

Our views about human sexuality, marriage and religious liberty “are deeply rooted in biblical revelation and thousands of years of Judeo-Christian tradition,” Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., told a Capitol Hill press conference led by Sen. Mike Lee.

“We will not jettison these convictions for any tax benefit,” Mr. Oliver said.

However, there is growing concern that if gay marriage is legalized nationwide, government will punish religious schools and institutions that uphold only “natural” marriage, Mr. Oliver and other religious leaders said, listing federal tax-exempt status, Pell grants for students, federal broadcasting licenses, and school certifications and accreditations as potential targets.

Mr. Lee, a Utah Republican, said he is preparing a new marriage-and-religious-freedom bill to prevent the federal government from taking “adverse” actions against any person or institution that holds the religious belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

“We need to draw lines around the power of government … to protect the people” and make sure religious freedom isn’t trampled, Mr. Lee said.

He and religious leaders said the Obama administration raised alarms during the U.S. Supreme Court’s April 28 oral arguments on Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark case in which plaintiffs are asking the high court to legalize gay marriage in four states.

During oral arguments, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. asked Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. whether the federal government would revoke tax-exempt status to “a university or a college if it opposed same-sex marriage.”

Mr. Verrilli said he couldn’t answer without specific information, but said: “It’s certainly going to be an issue. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is — it is going to be an issue.”

That dialogue was “very chilling,” said Grace Gospel Church Pastor Keith Wiebe, president of the American Association of Christian Schools (AACS), which was founded in 1972 and has 100,000 students and teachers in member schools.

AACS schools are biblically based and teach that “natural marriage is between one man and one woman,” and “sexual relations are to be reserved for such a marriage,” Mr. Wiebe said. Mr. Verrilli’s words gave “no guarantee for religious liberty,” or hope that there would be exemptions for faith-based institutions, he said.

Religious broadcasters licensed by the Federal Communications Commission are also at risk, said National Religious Broadcasters President Jerry Johnson.

Religious liberty — which means the freedom to believe, to speak and to organize around those beliefs — is “explicitly” named in the Bill of Rights, while “sexual liberty” and “erotic liberty” are not, Mr. Johnson said at Wednesday’s press conference. “Religious liberty trumps all, here.”

Some 74 prominent leaders of religious schools cited these concerns in a letter sent Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. Most of the nation’s 29,000 religiously affiliated preschools, elementary and high schools, and 1,700 religiously affiliated colleges and universities adhere to traditional religious and moral values around marriage, they said.

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