In the wake of the most recent SCOTUS lie against both law and nature, there have been calls from the left for stripping tax exempt status from all religious institutions, especially "bigoted" or "conservative" ones, including churches. This one is typical of the hostility and anti-religious bigotry of such pieces.
My own take is that such a move against churches per se will not be the very next move in the left's playbook. I think we can guess somewhat how that playbook will go before getting to churches by what is already happening.
I believe that Christian colleges and possibly bricks and mortar K-12 schools will be under attack quite soon. This attack will come first, as it already has come, from local anti-discrimination ordinances and accreditation board threats. Washington, D.C. is already attempting to outlaw all "discrimination" on the basis of "sexual orientation," including by K-12 Christian and other private schools. As I reported at length already here at W4, Gordon College has been bullied by its regional accreditation board into being more "accepting" of "LGBT" students and continuing to be monitored in its acceptance, though officially Gordon has not dropped its formal disapproval of homosexual acts.
Expect all such efforts to continue and increase.
The next step after that will be calls for the IRS to use the "Bob Jones option" to strip tax-exempt status from colleges (specifically) that refuse to hire sexually active homosexuals and that forbid students from engaging in homosexual acts. I note here that the Bob Jones SCOTUS precedent expressly excluded churches and was directed toward colleges, so colleges will be first, with K-12 schools possibly to follow, if any are left defying the left on this issue by the time state and local non-discrimination ordinances are done with them.
The next step (I predict) will be to attack more popular religiously supported social services such as gospel missions, soup kitchens, and other social outreaches--again, if any are still "discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity." These are politically dicey targets, because they are generally extremely well-liked at the local level. I predict that the first attacks on them will therefore come at the federal level and filter down from there, first in the less conservative local areas. For example, a local gospel mission that is presently popular in a liberal city might first lose its federal tax-exempt status for being "bigoted" and that might well embolden local officials to try to strip its local tax-exempt status (if it won't cave), saying that they are just following the lead of the federal government. (The piece by Oppenheimer that I linked in the first paragraph moves directly toward this. He expresses contempt for the idea that churches are needed to run charitable efforts in this country, with the one possible exception of hospitals.)
At some point the left will realize that, if possible, it would be even more ruinous to strip local tax-exempt status from colleges, churches, etc., than federal, because the former will allow the levying of property taxes on college campuses and church buildings. That would spell the end for all such institutions. That will be carried out in a patchwork manner across the country and will vary greatly by locality.
Meanwhile, trends that have already begun--the prosecution and fining of marriage venues, bakers, photographers, florists, and on and on--will of course continue apace. Individuals will have little recourse, and my prediction is that if a First Amendment case (using incorporation) is appealed to the SCOTUS level, it will be decided against religious liberty. Either the Hobby Lobby precedent will be overturned or it will be so narrowly construed as to be rendered irrelevant to Barronelle Stutzman.
A front that is opening up widely right now is the persecution of those in the helping professions. A doctor, Dr. Paul Church, was recently fired from a Boston hospital for saying, as a medical professional, that homosexual actions are medically inadvisable. I note here that U.S. employment law and categories like "harassment" and "hostile environment" were used to fire Dr. Church if he would not shut up. He was allegedly forbidden to have any communication with anyone in the hospital in which he expressed his negative medical opinions about homosexual practice. Whether this included his own patients or only other employees of the hospital, the reports I have read thus far do not specify.
Church's firing comes at the same time as a religious (Jewish) therapy organization has been successfully sued for fraud. It's important to realize that this is very significant because the judge ruled ahead of time that it was fraud per se for the organization to say that homosexuality is a curable mental disorder. The judge also disallowed expert witnesses who argued that it is indeed a mental disorder. The deck was therefore stacked before the case ever went to trial. While news reports have often focused on the weirdness of the therapy involved, that was not the grounds of the suit. Rather, the grounds of the suit was that the therapy organization told clients that homosexuality is a mental disorder and that it can be changed or cured. Thus, the jury (as I understand it) simply had to rule on whether or not JONAH told clients this. JONAH's lawyer has previously said that he will argue that JONAH has a first amendment right to tell clients this as a religious matter, but whether such a borderline Averroistic defense ("even if we can't say it's a curable mental disorder as a scientific matter, we can say that as a religious matter") will be allowed to fly is (to my mind) highly dubious.
This use of fraud claims, combined with various draconian state laws against any attempt to help homosexuals with unwanted desires, will, I predict, successfully shut down all formal therapy, including by Christian, Jewish, or other religious organizations, to help homosexuals, even if the actual therapy activities are not bizarre or otherwise morally objectionable.
Parents need to know this: If you take your child to a therapist, even a Christian therapist, for help with unwanted homosexual desires, the therapist may say that those desires will be with your child for life, but he may be saying this because of a combination of brain-washing from his profession and laws that tell him he must say this. This will not be a professional opinion gained from his own experience and knowledge alone.
I predict that the only people who will be free to provide biblical and morally traditional counseling in this area will be pastors and other Christian ministers acting for free and solely in that role.
In this connection, I note that a psychology professor, Mark Yarhouse, at an allegedly conservative Christian college has called for churches to cooperate with the gender confusion of church members who think they are the opposite gender. I am planning to write more about Yarhouse's silliness and make some obvious rejoinders in a separate post. I note it here only because Yarhouse's professional connections within the psychiatry and counseling professions are probably playing a significant role in the etiology of his foolishness.
At this point, it should be obvious to those who have been watching all of this that Christians need to decentralize in various ways. I have already advised that Christians get out of all professions that involve celebrating weddings, commitment ceremonies, engagement, etc. Christian counselors who intend to tell the truth about homosexuality need to find protection through ministerial exemptions and should probably be prepared to give up for-profit status and work only through churches. Doctors and other medical professionals should give sane medical advice about homosexual acts only to patients, not to fellow employees of their practice or hospital (unless they are patients), and see how long that is allowed. Christian colleges need to be prepared to resist the "Gordon option" (which is also the Wheaton option and the Calvin option) and Christian and other religious college boards of trust need to make it clear that they will not permit their colleges to have LGBT clubs or in any other way to cooperate with the homosexual or transgender agenda. They should make it clear that they are already onto all the deceptive talk about "being accepting" and are going to shut it down, even if this means loss of accreditation and other, stronger persecutions of the colleges.
It is difficult to know how to counsel churches. (Except, of course, to stand fast and resist.) I do not anticipate widespread stripping of tax-exempt status from churches soon, though it may come later. Meanwhile, if your church is doing good work, it wouldn't make sense to sell or tear down the building, disincorporate, and tell your pastor to become a tent-maker in anticipation of the persecution to come. That would be willfully destructive. The most that you can do along those lines is discuss what your church would do or could do in various scenarios. (E.g. What if federal tax-exempt status were revoked but not local? Could your church survive? Etc.) I can say, however, that this is not (not not) the time to be starting a building campaign and especially not a new K-12 Christian school.
Finally, a note from Northern Ireland and the UK, apropos of another issue but indirectly relevant: A church in Ireland is being criminally charged because it streamed a sermon on the Internet in which Islam was said to be of the devil. The Irish informant who sent me the information states that this is a first in Ireland. Evidently the pastor could say this in a sermon within the walls of his own church but not on the Internet. This is a direct imposition of dhimmi status on the church, of course.
In the UK, new "extremism disruption orders" will certainly be used to stifle churches that do not toe the PC line on issues ranging from Islam to homosexuality. While this law bills itself as being aimed at "extremist mosques," in my opinion it is more likely to be used against churches that criticize Islam than against extremist mosques, and its provisions are not narrowly tailored against sedition per se but rather are deliberately broad to encompass houses of worship that engage in "hate speech," create a "risk of public disorder" or try to "overthrow democracy."
Yes, yes, we have a First Amendment in the U.S. But that is being continually whittled away by employment law, fraud law, and public accommodations anti-discrimination law, as I have discussed above in this entry and as numerous events in the U.S. attest. (To make it concrete in just one case: If you try not to discriminate and hire an openly homosexual employee, and another employee admits at the water cooler that he doesn't think the homosexual is really married and that he opposes the homosexual lifestyle, you as the employer will be pressured if not outright coerced to fire the employee who spoke out or else face a "hostile work environment" lawsuit. To say that this sort of government-coerced employer harassment of employees for their free speech is consistent with either the free speech or free exercise clauses of the First Amendment is a joke.)
The majority opinion in Obergefell carefully said only that religious people have the right to "advocate" their position, not a right to the "free exercise" of their religion. I admit that a day may never come in the U.S. where a pastor is directly prosecuted for the Internet streaming of a sermon calling Islam satanic or saying that homosexual acts are perverted. That precise thing might never happen. But let us make no mistake: That is something our elites would love to do. The First Amendment, insofar as it survives at all, is an annoyance to them. They wish to privatize religion altogether and to impose leftist-driven dhimmi status upon "bigoted" Christians and other religious groups within the United States. It is only a question of precisely how far they can go with it.
I believe that they can go very far. To the extent that we can, we need to circle the wagons, and our first and foremost plan must be not to submit and subvert our consciences.