Conservative Pastors Deliver Sharp Criticism Of Same-Sex Marriage

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Conservative pastors are vowing to mobilize in opposition to the Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage. Although the decision applies to government actions, not religious ceremonies, some of these pastors say they reject such a separation of church and state functions.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Well, as we've heard, some of the sharpest criticism of the same-sex marriage decision is coming from evangelical pastors. Many of them see the ruling as a threat to the moral foundation of the country, and they're organizing as a political movement to counter that. Here's NPR's Tom Gjelten.

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: Conservative Christians know that even before the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, public opinion had swung in favor of it. But they're still determined to fight it. Pastor Jim Garlow of Skyline Church in San Diego stood before his congregation yesterday with a copy of the court's marriage ruling in one hand and his bible in the other. It's time to decide, he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JIM GARLOW: You'll have to choose whether you get the accolades of others or whether you'll stand out of reverence and fear of Almighty God.

GJELTEN: And then Pastor Garlow held his Bible up and threw the court ruling on the ground.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GARLOW: This is who I stand with

(APPLAUSE)

GARLOW: This is who I stand with. This is who I stand with, not this.

GJELTEN: He then steps on the court papers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GARLOW: And I encourage us all to do the same in a time in which we live.

(APPLAUSE)

GJELTEN: Farther north, at the Calvary Chapel Church in Chino, Calif., pastor Jack Hibbs also focused on the Supreme Court decision in his sermon. The five justices who approved same-sex marriage, along with their supporters, had crucified God's word, he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JACK HIBBS: And they ripped from the pages of the Bible God's definition of marriage. They raised the flag, and they said, Christians, stay out of it; this is a political issue. And Christians in America, led by weak, pathetic hirelings in the pulpits, backed down and went into their little cloisters and hit out.

GJELTEN: Pastors Garlow and Hibbs are among dozens of evangelical pastors around the country who have signed on to something called the American Renewal Project. The idea is to train pastors to become politically active in the public arena to defend what they call biblical values. Some intend to run for office themselves. Others will stick to preaching. Jack Hibbs said he will no longer perform any marriages in his church rather than be pressured to marry same-sex couples. Speaking yesterday on discharge rather than be pressured to marry same-sex couples. Speaking yesterday on ABC's "This Week," Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee predicted that many pastors around the country will defy any popular or political movement to support gay marriage.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS WEEK")

MIKE HUCKABEE: I don't think a lot of pastors and Christian schools are going to have a choice. They either are going to follow God, their conscience and what they truly believe is what the Scripture teaches them, or they will follow civil law.

GJELTEN: In fact, the Supreme Court said ministers who do not approve of same-sex marriages can't be forced to perform them. The court decision applies only to government functions, not religious ceremonies. But many of those who are now criticizing the court decision don't recognize that distinction.

DAVID LANE: I don't think there's any such thing as a separation of church and state.

GJELTEN: David Lane is the founder of the American Renewal Project now bringing conservative pastors together into a political movement.

LANE: This was not established as a secular nation, and anybody that says that it is, they're not reading American history. This was established by Christians for the advancement of the Christian faith. My goal is to return - to restore a biblically based culture and a Judeo-Christian heritage.

GJELTEN: Lane made that comment at a political training session for pastors held earlier this month in South Carolina. Reached today, Lane predicted that Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage will, if anything, strengthened his renewal movement.

LANE: I think that this outrageous decision that was made last week just puts and engine on what we're doing because I think that Christians in America are going to return to the public square with our values. Somebody's values are going to reign supreme - our values or militant homosexual's values.

GJELTEN: Recent opinion surveys show that a clear majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage, but this conservative pastor's movement is nevertheless determined to fight that culture war. Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.