A baptist church in Louisiana has barred Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) from holding meetings on their grounds, claiming that allowing the support group to gather would eventually require the congregation to start performing gay marriages.
In mid September, the Westwood Baptist Church in Keithville, Louisiana sent a letter to the leaders of a local AA group informing them that they could no longer meet at the church. According to KSLA News, church leaders explained that if they accommodated the AA group, which had been meeting at the church for more than 5 years, then they could also one day be forced to accommodate same-sex weddings.
“As I am sure you are aware, God’s church, his written word, and its values and principles have come under a constant and aggressive attack from the homosexual and lesbian community,” the letter read. “Church’s and businesses alike, across our nation, are being forced, by our legal system, to accommodate these groups in the use of their buildings/facilities to perform marriages ceremonies, receptions, etc. The court’s decision was based on the fact that the churches/businesses were accepting and accommodating other public entities and therefore must also accommodate the homosexual and lesbian community.”
The pastor said he was following the advice of an article published in the Louisiana Baptist Church Message, which reportedly argued that a 2012 New Jersey court decision — a ruling that granted a lesbian couple access to church-owned pavilion — meant that all American churches would be forced to hold gay weddings. The apparent case in question, however, was not an example of a church being forced to perform a gay wedding, but an instance in which a Methodist organization was held accountable for holding a certain kind of tax exempt status that required their property to be free for public use.
Various conservative groups have often claimed that the public’s slow embrace of marriage equality will eventually lead to chaplains and churches being forced to perform gay weddings. But gay rights groups and federal officials have repeatedly insisted that this is not the case, and that religious leaders and institutions will never be required to perform a marriage ceremony that violates their beliefs. In fact, some gay activists have openly supported measures to guarantee churches the right to decide who they marry: In 2013, James Dabakis (D), Utah’s only openly gay legislator, voiced support for an amendment to the state’s constitution protecting churches who do not wish to perform same-sex weddings, saying “No sane person I know of wants to coerce or force any religion to perform any ceremony that they are not comfortable with.”