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« on: October 31, 2004, 06:39:08 PM »

Pro-Family Clergy Urged to Help Turn Out Vote

by Jody Brown, Chad Groening, and Allie Martin
October 29, 2004

(AgapePress) - Voters in eleven states will have the chance on Tuesday to protect the traditional concept of marriage by amending their constitutions. One Southern Baptist leader says the "shepherds of the flocks" -- church pastors -- can play a major role in the outcome of those ballot measures by motivating their members to get out and vote.

On Sunday, pastors across the country should encourage their church members to vote according to Christian principles. That's the advice and counsel of Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. And for the SBC spokesman, that equates to support for proposed constitutional amendments defining marriage as one man and one woman.

In an interview with Associated Press, the president of the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission says pastors have an important role to play on the last Sunday before Election Day -- and it is the same role they always play, he says -- "to be the shepherd of the flock; to teach the flock what the Bible says, including what it says about being the salt of the earth and being the light of the world; and encouraging people to do that in every area of their lives, including their role as citizens."

Part of the role as encourager, he says, includes urging church members to participate actively in the election process. "That means that they should encourage them to be registered to vote; they should encourage them to be informed about the issues; and they should encourage them to vote -- and when they vote, to vote their values, their beliefs, and their convictions," Land says.

State Marriage Referendums
Christians will have an opportunity next Tuesday to do exactly that. Eleven states are considering constitutional amendments protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The institution of marriage has been under the onslaught of the homosexual community and its supporters across the country, particularly since the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage.

That move in the Bay State has sparked the drive for constitutional protection of marriage at both the federal and state levels. On Tuesday, voters in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah will find the measure on their ballots.

While he can only speak on behalf of what he has observed among Southern Baptists, Land says the issue of homosexual marriage has galvanized Christians. "I know Southern Baptists who have never written to their congressman before, never written to their senator before, no matter how many times we've asked them, who are calling and going by and making appointments at the district office to talk to their representatives about the same-sex marriage issue," he shares.

The governor of Mississippi has been crossing his state encouraging voters to support a state constitutional amendment protecting marriage. Republican Haley Barbour on Thursday urged voters in the Magnolia State to vote "Yes" on the amendment when they go to the polls.

"The reason I'm working on this is not only because it's so important, but because there hasn't been very much press about [the amendment] -- and we want people who are opposed to same-sex marriage to understand they should vote 'Yes,'" the governor stated. "Some people think 'I should vote no because I'm against same-sex marriage. People need to understand that if they oppose same-sex marriage, they should vote 'Yes' to ban same-sex marriage."

Passage of the amendment, Barbour says, will ensure that Mississippi will not have to recognize laws determined by liberal activist judges in states like Massachusetts.

Marriage Upheld in NY
Meanwhile, a New York state judge has upheld that state's marriage laws. In March, same-sex couples filed a lawsuit against the Orangetown town clerk and the State of New York Department of Health, demanding the state issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Florida-based Liberty Counsel filed a brief defending traditional marriage laws. Earlier this week, lower court Judge Alfred Weiner of the State Supreme Court upheld New York's marriage laws. Liberty Counsel president Mat Staver says the argument for traditional marriage was simple.

"We argued that there are legitimate reasons for the state to preserve marriage as one man and one woman; that the marriage laws are not discriminatory to the sense that they need to be struck down -- that in fact, males and females can enter into marriage, but obviously the laws prohibit same-sex marriage; and that children and procreation are obvious and long-standing reasons why marriage is a preferred status," the attorney explains.

Judge Weiner also stated that marriage is subject to control of the legislature, not the courts. Staver appreciated that statement from the judge. "In the day and age where we have a lot of courts acting like legislatures, it's great to see a court restraining itself and saying that this issue must be discussed in the legislative halls," he says, "not in the judicial arenas."

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