We have written about Fayetteville’s proposed nondiscrimination ordinance and its unintended consequences–particularly where churches are concerned.
In particular, churches could face criminal prosecution if they:
- Refuse to hire a gay or transgender person to fill a “secular” staff position;
- Decline to let a same-sex couple use their property for a same-sex ceremony or reception.
A few of you have asked about the amendment adopted at last week’s meeting supposedly exempting churches from the ordinance. Here is how the amendment reads:
“Nothing contained in this chapter shall be deemed to require any religious or denominational institution or association to open its sanctuary or chapel to any individual or group for any ceremony including, but not limited to, weddings, funerals, confirmations, or baptisms.”
Here is the problem: The amendment only exempts the church sanctuary or chapel, and only for “ceremonies.”
A church could still be forced to open its sanctuary for non-ceremonial meetings–if the church lets other groups use its sanctuary for meetings.
The church could still be forced to open other parts of its property–such as the fellowship hall, classrooms, outdoor lawns or gardens, additional auditoriums, and so on–for ceremonies or receptions.
To put it another way, the ordinance does not exempt churches; it exempts one room from a church’s entire property: The sanctuary. That’s it. Every other piece of church property is fair game.
If the Fayetteville City Council intended to exempt churches, they could have done so. As it is, they only exempted the church sanctuary or chapel. That sends a very clear message: The ordinance is fully intended to affect churches.