Brett Marston challenges my defense of the Southern Baptists fears of the conseqences of SCOTUS recognizing a constitutional right to sodomy.

Jim might be thinking of the pressure on Bob Jones University and Goldsboro Christian Schools because of the former’s ban on interracial dating and the latter’s practice of admitting only whites — both based on their interpretations of the Bible — pressure that eventually led to the University losing its tax-exempt status.

That’s exactly what I was thinking, in fact.

Brett notes that there are some key differences, citing then-CJ Warren Burger’s opinion in Bob Jones v. US:

But there can no longer be any doubt that racial discrimination in education violates deeply and widely accepted views of elementary justice.

Brett feels that, since there is much less consensus on gay marriage than racial justice, concern is unfounded. He’s probably right. Of course, I’d point out that Bob Jones was 20 years ago–and five years before Bowers v. Hardwick, the case Lawrence specificially overturned. Further, I’d note that, even if the courts refused to side with homosexuals in their suits, that doesn’t protect churches from the burden of defending themselves in court. A preemptive strike against that isn’t totally irrational.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. bryan says:

    1. Bob Jones is not a Southern Baptist institution, never was, and is considerably farther right morally (and culturally) than the SBC.

    2. Race and sexual practice are very different in their relation to the SBC interpretation of the bible. The SBC interpretation of biblical references on a) marriage, and b) proper sexual practice *guarantees* that they will oppose anything the SCOTUS rules in this area.

    As for the rest of Marston’s comments, it is not really that much of a stretch to think of churches being denied tax exempt status for not *hiring* homosexuals, which is quite different from *ordaining* women as pastors. And given the nature of our litigious society, I can see someone deciding to take such a case to court. How would the Supreme Court rule in such a case? I *hope* I know how they would rule, but who knows. When does the court say that the interests of society for “diversity” override in some instances the separation of church and state guaranteed by the first amendment? They can do it for the 14th, why not the 1st?

    As for the seige mentality, can you blame them? Conservative Christians *are* losing ground in the culture (and I’m a conservative Christian, so I think I can make a balanced judgment here). Witness the use of the term “fundamentalist” by Marston (most true fundamentalists would shudder if you called the SBC by the term). Witness the abandonment of social conservatism by the Republican party (putting aside the largely symbolic partial birth abortion ban). Further, look at the liberalized theology of much of mainline American Christianity, the postmodern moral relativism that pervades popular culture, the labels people use to describe such people (homophobes, intolerant, bigots, simpletons and worse). As the secular sphere grows larger, the sphere for a life-encompassing religious experience grows smaller.

    It doesn’t take a PhD in psychology to figure out why such a seige mentality exists.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Bryan: Yep on BJU and the SBCs. I don’t think Brett or I meant to lump them in together. The SBC commentary on the DMA sparked Brett’s initial post and our subsequent discussion of the issue. BJU was just the most obvious case where the Court allowed punishment, despite the Free Exercise Clause, of a religious institution for acting in an unpopular fashion.

  3. Brett says:

    Why isn’t SBC “fundamentalist”? If I’m wrong here, please tell me why.

    It should also be noted that the litigation goes both ways. Last week, according to, an Assembly of God minister sued New Orleans because of its domestic partner benefits law. (The “seige mentality” that I discussed also goes both ways, but that’s another story.) And if you look at things like the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which passed Congress by an overwhelming margin and which requires localities to justify their land use regs when they burden religious institutions, it seems to me that the direction in the political culture, at least, has been swinging in favor of protecting religion.

    Plus, the only remedy for fear of the federal courts is to study them. There are doctrinal constraints even if there is a lot of wiggle room. The idea of “diversity” is pretty narrowly defined to the school admissions context, as far as I understand it.

    And the Bob Jones thing wasn’t a lawsuit brought by people who didn’t like their policy; it was BJU’s challenge of an IRS ruling.