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Not Seeing Eye to Eye: High Country Clergy on Both Sides of Amendment 1, Opinions Voiced at Tuesday Rally

Not all those present at the Amendment 1 rally on Tuesday night were in favor of the legislation, which has High Country clergy in opposition of one another. Photo by Ron Fitzwater

By Ron Fitzwater

Apr. 11, 2012. BOONE — As the battle over the North Carolina Marriage Amendment (Amendment 1) continues, the driving force behind approving the amendment to the State’s Constitution has for the most part been churches and Christian organizations. There are however, several churches and church leaders which have taken a stand against the amendment up to and including purchasing advertisements speaking out against Amendment 1.

On Tuesday night, pro-Amendment One, supporters gathered in the auditorium of the Watauga County High School to try and bolster the base and motivate them to get out into the community and drum up more support for the May 8th primary when the amendment will be on the ballot as a referendum.

In attendance were more than 40 people, most of who are for the amendment, but a smattering of opponents was present. For the most part, both sides were congenial but there were some cat calls to speakers and one mild confrontation when a man was asked to be quiet, but nothing violent ensued.

Speaking on behalf of the amendment were State Senator Dan Soucek, State Representative Jonathan Jordan, retired attorney and co-founder of the TEA Party organization “We the People of Ashe County” Ed McClearen, and Christian Action League of North Carolina executive director and legislative lobbyist, Reverend Mark Creech.

The message from the speakers was as much a civics lesson on what churches and church leaders can and can’t do in the political realm as it was a chance to inform and motivate their base.

After brief statements form Soucek and Jordan, explaining their parts in sponsorship of the amendment, McClearen gave parishioners the do’s and don’ts of political activism for religious organizations.

“I want to talk about what I call the Boogie Man of separation of church and state,” he said.

McClearen explained that unless a church is a 501(c)(3) organization and tax exempt, they can as group of individuals involve themselves in political activism. This includes pastors speaking from the pulpit on Amendment 1, to encourage their congregation members to vote for the legislation. This can also be done in a church with 501(c)(3) status if the pastor makes the statement that he or she is speaking as a private citizen. The same is true for the church as a whole. “As long as you invite representatives from all sides of an issue to speak, and provide them the platform to do so, you are in compliance with your status. You may also speak freely about any social issue. You have that right as a citizen. To my knowledge no pastor has been required to check their First Amendment rights at the door before ordination.” McClearen encouraged the pastors and their congregations to become active on this and other political issues to include inviting candidates to speak at their churches. “Just remember to invite the Democrat and Independent candidates as well as Republican and you are in compliance.” He said.

Creech was the next to speak and after leading a moment of prayer “to collect my thoughts,” he began his impassioned defense Amendment 1. Quoting from the Bible books of Genesis and Matthew, Creech stated that “according to God’s plan, woman was created to be man’s help-mete.” A help-mete (help mate) as defined by Webster’s Dictionary is “a helper, companion, specifically a wife or a husband.”

Creech said that marriage being between a man and a woman in the eyes of the church and is for the purpose of procreation, and that any same-sex arrangement is the partnership of “generic adults.”

While most of the pastors present at the rally were pro-Amendment 1, not all were. Reverend Marcia Cham, who attended with several young people in opposition of the amendment, said that she [speaking for herself as a citizen] takes a different view from the pro-Amendment 1 pastors, of what a help mate is as written in the Bible. “He [Creech] can look at the Bible one way, but that passage says ‘helpmate’ not sex partner. That’s probably the best passage that can be used for sexual orientation. The rest of the scripture, I can prove to you in a million ways, has nothing to do with being against homosexuality, it has to do with men using powerful sexual methods against the rest of the population, but has nothing to do with what we are trying to stand for which is loving monogamous relationships that should be allowed to stand alone in this state. Our other contention is that no matter what those guys say, about [Amendment 1] it will not hurt families and children in the state; that cannot be proven yet, so we could not possibly know that that will not be the case.”

Cham, a member of the High Country United Church of Christ added that, “single mom’s I run into are scared to death that this is going to hurt their children and the unmarried folks are just as fearful.”

The May 8 primary will see the referendum come before voters. For more information about the issue click to VoteForMarriageNC.com and www.protectncfamilies.org.