By John Harding
“Clarity is reasonable.” That’s the tagline on ChurchClarity.com. And while it may seem reasonable and relatively harmless, there are reasons to be skeptical about its real objective. In reality, ChurchClarity.com is a smear campaign, and it provides a list of churches for our opponents like ACLU to target with lawsuits.
The crowdsourced website claims churches that don’t clearly articulate – and perhaps advertise – their stances and policies on same-sex marriage and women preachers “cause real harm.”
Here’s how it works. The organization behind ChurchClarity.com enlists volunteers to “expose” how churches answer two contentious questions:
So far, the website has published the stances of more than 2,800 churches on these questions.
In a culture that is increasingly hostile toward long-held Christian views about the distinction of the sexes and marriage, this list is highly problematic because it can be used to punish Christian churches.
For example, what if the Equality Act became federal law? ChurchClarity.com would help anti-religious liberty activists find churches in alleged violation of this unjust law and sue them.
This hypothetical isn’t far-fetched. The Equality Act passed the House earlier this year. And religious organizations are being targeted for their views about marriage and sexuality.
Take ADF client Bethel Ministries for example. This Christian school is currently in a lawsuit with the state of Maryland.
It all started when the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) began demanding that religious schools submit their student handbooks for review. MSDE subsequently disqualified Bethel from participating in a state voucher program that benefits low-income students after reading Bethel’s beliefs about marriage and sexuality. The state is now demanding Bethel pay back over $100,000 from the two years it participated in the program.
Creating lists of “offenders” isn’t new. It’s a tactic deployed by those who refuse to have meaningful dialogue. And those lists rarely remain as just lists.
Just think about the undue weight and influence the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “hate map” carries.
On September 19, the House Ways and Means Oversight Committee discussed the often discredited SPLC’s “hate group” list.
Committee Chairman Richard Neal said, “Our Tax Code is also no place for hate. Groups that propagate … hatred for the LGBTQ community, among others, do not deserve a government subsidy through tax exemption. Hate is not charitable, and it is not educational.” Of course, this means the Chairman believes organizations with a different view of marriage and sexuality than him do not deserve tax-exempt status. What could that mean for your church?
The SPLC list contains numerous quality conservative groups that no one – outside of activists who simply disagree with their positions on cultural issues – would describe as “hateful.”
And in America today, one label can end civil discourse. Even though the labels created by the SPLC have been discredited, they’re still a regular tool for those who would like to silence differing opinions.
Similarly, it seems the intended outcome for ChurchClarity.com is not to end hurt or suffering. Its goal is to harm churches that operate on biblical principles.
As our culture shifts, it’s worth questioning the motives of these organizations, especially those that threaten the tax-exempt statuses of churches and charities that defend marriage, religious liberty, and the sanctity of human life. If your church is seeking ways to be legally prepared and protected in the midst of this changing culture, be sure to contact ADF Church Alliance for help. State Convention of Baptists in Indiana has teamed up with to help you. ADF Church Alliance acts as a hub for churches to gain access to experienced First Amendment lawyers who are available to answer religious liberty questions, conduct document reviews and provide advice, and even represent your church in court if necessary and appropriate – it’s virtually all-inclusive for religious freedom issues.